Shana wrote to ask me how to tell her boss not to call her regularly at night and on weekends. She said he can never find things and hounds her with questions that aren’t urgent. She’s tired of feeling like she’s working during her off hours but doesn’t want to hurt her otherwise good relationship with her boss. And it’s upsetting her kids. She wants to know “How can I stop him from emailing and calling me after hours?”
Many of us, especially if we’re people pleasers, are scared to set boundaries at work. You may want to seem like a team player and a cooperative colleague. So you go along with what’s asked of you, even if you think it’s unfair and it makes you angry. Women especially are taught to be agreeable and may be hesitant to rock the boat. But that’s the DoorMat mentality! I relate as I went along with anything people wanted in my DoorMat days. I’d be unhappy and resentful but did what was asked of me. Now I’ve learned thatsetting and sticking to boundareis at appropriate times is not only my right, but it makes me empowered.
People actually have more respect for those who stand up for themselves. It feels good to set limitations on what people should expect from you. Often the people who you see as taking advantage aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re just asking for what you’ve always agreed to and might not know it bothers you if you don’t speak up. Often we get angry at being treated in ways that our response says is okay and people don’t know better. It’s up to you to show people what’s appropriate in your eyes, and what isn’t.
One option is don’t answer the phone. Nicely explain to your boss that you need downtime during your time off so you don’t want to check emails or even answer your phone. Gently say that you’ll be happy to help him first thing Monday when you get in since none of what ‘s asked of you is urgent. Try to be up front about wanting your time off to be free of work stuff, unless it’s s real emergency. Drop the upsetting your kids card. That’s a very legitimate issue that few would argue with. Your boss needs to be taught what the boundaries are since you’ve had none until now.
Keep a smile on your face and nicely say something like, “I’m sure that you understand why my free time is very important for my mental health. When I have this time I function better during work hours. I’d appreciate your respecting that I’d like to keep work issues to my work hours.” Occasionally take a call but get off the phone fast. Don’t answer emails during off hours. Your boss will slowly get used to the new boundaries if you set them nicely but with a firm intent.
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