How-to set boundaries with someone at work

Inner-Strength Training Tip #9: Give yourself permission to be assertive without the guilt.

Welcome back for another segment of “What is wrong today at work. And how can we fix it?”

Work is the perfect place for us to grow because we constantly put in situations with different personalities and egos.

And it’s our job to get through it calm, cool, and collected.

The situation:

Instead of setting the scene, today I’m going to tell you a situation where I felt like I had to be assertive to restore balance to a situation.

One time when I started a new job I worked with a girl. I thought everything was good. I’ll do my job and you do yours, right? Wrong.

Every time I worked with this person it became a competition. I didn’t want to compete. But, it’s like I don’t want to get left behind. There’s a way around this way of thinking as I soon discovered. 

Every time I would try to talk to a customer, she would intervene. She would dominate me and the conversation. It was so frustrating!

At that point, I didn’t know what to do.

I wanted to maintain an air of professionalism and didn’t want to have a micro-aggression in front of the customers.

Hey, teamwork anyone?

So, for at least I week I watched. Every new customer, every new question I was asked, was intercepted by her and answered.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

How much could I take? Staying silent in these situations give people permission to push boundaries.

To see how far they can push you. And then one day, you reach your limit.

And that’s what happened to me.

The situation was festering and I couldn’t hold back the fact that I was displeased with it.

Side note: I remember one time when I was in a mentoring program at work.

My mentor said to never approach a situation when you’re angry.

It’s something that stuck with me. And I always think of it before annoying situations.

How-to fix this situation:

I knew the night before work, that I would talk to this person.

So, when I saw them at the local coffee shop a couple of minutes before work, I saw the perfect opportunity.

Here’s exactly what I said, “Hey, I wanted to talk to you. This job is really elementary for me, so when I’m working with customers I don’t need any help. I got it.”

I should mention that even though I directly confronted this person. And they were a little grumpy over it. I did see improvement in the situation.

However, I’ve had to readdress it again at different times as it flares up.

Switching over to you…

Symptoms:

Resentment, loss of control, lower levels of self-esteem, fear (that you’ll be stuck in this position for the entire time you work with that person), frustration (that stems from your needs not being met and inability to express yourself), bringing the day home with you after it ends, loss of trust, loss of enjoyment at work, constantly on guard.

Signs that someone is pushing boundaries:

  • A pattern of intervening in a group interaction where you’re taking the lead (like speaking with a customer, boss, manager, co-worker, whoever)
  • A pattern of undermining you (whether it’s calling you sweetheart as a way to gain power, or appearing that they know more information than you in certain instances)
  • You feel a sense of resentment and frustration after working with them every time. Because you are forced to stay constricted and are not able to express your full talents. As they keep muting you. (And you’re sure the resentment that you feel isn’t because of jealousy that you feel toward them! Inner-self honesty needed prior to confirming this sign)
  • Talking louder or talking over you when you are both speaking within an earshot of each other
  • Creating close relationships with every team member around you. So, it appears that they have the “in.” This is done in case they need favors from these individuals (such as emotional/ego/social protection at a later time.)
  • Mirroring you (we often mirror traits and copy people we admire or phrases that we think sound good)
  • Treating every circumstance as a competition (who can rush to complete this task first?)

The moral of the story:

There’s no reason that you have to stay silent in this case. Respectfully take the person aside (maybe for coffee?) and confront the issue in an assertive but integrous way.

Be careful not to put negativity out there. But don’t feel guilt at asserting yourself. Once done, you’ll reap the return on your investment.

And if the person is receptive, you can see the situation resolve itself.

There may be a need for fine-tuning and reminders in the future!

Have you been in a situation like this? How did you handle it? Share your wisdom with me and the other girls reading!