A few years ago I looked after Crumble the dog.
At Crumble’s house.
Crumble is an outside dog.
He is impossibly naughty.
He’s very low on the EQ scale of self-management.
Feeling a little rebellious,
I started to wonder what Crumble would do if I let him inside.
I was kinda low on the self-management scale myself that day.
So I let him in. Against house rules.
I’d never seen anything like it.
He went wild. Racing from room to room.
It was thrilling because I’d crossed a boundary.
I couldn’t predict what he would do.
And then it went quiet.
I got scared. He was out of sight.
What if he’d ruined something precious?
I went on a hunt. And there he was.
Standing cheekily on the desk.
Looking pleased as punch on the Macbook.
Lucky this time.
But later he snuck in…let’s just say the remote control was never the same again.
The point is this.
They protect us.
But they’re also up for negotiation.
Physical boundaries are the easiest to understand:
“That’s my coffee cup!”
“What are you doing in my office?”
“I don’t care if it’s the Christmas party, these lips are not yours to kiss.”
If you don’t maintain your own boundaries you’ll find yourself spending too much time feeling resentful or confused.
If you do, you might feel guilty or uncomfortable but it’s your right. Don’t forget that. Because once your standards slip, it can be a slippery slope. As they say, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.
The boundaries it pays to pay attention to are the boundaries of your role.
Most of us have some kind of position description.
But there’s only so much you can specify.
The rest is negotiable.
It can work against you.
If you send your boss emails at 11pm, then you’ll be training him to not respect your out-of-work time. If it’s ok for you to send an email late, then he can too.
It’s your boundary to set.
It can also work for you.
And this is where we all need to focus.
Where can you extend the boundaries of your role?
In ways that will help you get ahead?
That will help your boss look good.
That will bring even more value to the business.
You need to poke at the edges to work out where you can and where you can’t.
Letting Crumble in the house turned out to be a ‘no you can’t’.
But you might be surprised at work.
If you look around you at who’s really successful in your organisation,
you’ll probably see that this is yet another thing that they’ve been able to do well. They find ways to extend the boundaries of their role, in ways that work for them.
Don’t let yourself down.
Aren’t you sick of it?
Start with the smallest step to negotiating your role…on your terms.