Increase productivity and create a more positive employee engagement experience by setting boundaries. Boundaries are not bad — they’re best!
Increase Productivity by Doing This
Setting boundaries when it comes to communication within the workplace is essential to creating an environment that breeds productivity AND a positive culture. Increased productivity benefits are obvious and speak for themselves. A positive culture within an organization has less clearly visible results, but directly affects employee attitude and performance, as well as, high-performing employee recruitment and retention rates. To achieve these positive benefits, make sure you’re setting boundaries effectively. If not, your boundaries may backfire.
How many days have gone by where you come into the office (onsite or remote) with a list of what you need to accomplish, only to realize that by quitting time, there’s still much left undone on your list? There’s only so much time in the day for each of us to accomplish what’s needed. In order to increase productivity for yourself and your team, I’ve experienced that clear communication boundaries are critical.
Think about all the ways we communicate in the office and online. Here’s several:
-a stop in the hallway, etc.!
Communication boundaries help you plan your day by communicating with everyone else when/where/how to best communicate with you AND when/where/how they can expect you to communicate with them.
Effective boundaries are positive for those on all sides.
One example of an effective communication boundary would be setting an expectation on email response times. What could this look like?
Boundary Example: Emails received before lunchtime should be responded to before lunchtime. Emails sent after lunchtime and before the end of the day should be responded to before the recipient leaves work for the day. Emails received overnight and/or over the weekend should be responded to before lunchtime on the next working day. If you are unable to meet this expectation, you must set an autoresponder to communicate when the person should expect a response from you.
Creating a boundary in this way allows the sender to not feel like they have to constantly be checking their email which will allow them to focus more on the task at hand — uninterrupted — therefore increasing productivity. On the other hand, this boundary keeps senders from wondering, worrying, or whining about why someone has not responded to an email yet.
I’ll say it again, effective boundaries are positive for those on all sides.
Boundaries that Backfire
I’ve seen boundaries backfire too many times. Oftentimes this happens when a person sets a boundary with only their own best interest in mind. What could this look like?
Example: Let’s continue with the idea of setting boundaries around email.
Anna leads a team. Anna goes on vacation and sets an autoresponder that she is out of the office for the week and adds an emergency contact if needed. While on vacation, Anna’s team continues to email her as normal, as different needs/information come up, in order to manage their own productivity and effectiveness. The team knows Anna is on vacation and assumes she will check and respond to her email once she returns to work.
Anna continues checking her email while on vacation and feels the need to respond. Mid-vacation, Anna is frustrated by the emails she continues to receive and chooses to set a boundary — one that ends up backfiring on her. Anna sends a sharp email to the entire team stating they should not email her while she is on vacation. After reading the email, the entire team now has a very bad taste in their mouth for Anna. Tensions rise. Drama begins. Anna returns to work post-vacation with much more than just emails she must deal with.
Anna’s boundary backfired. Why?
First, Anna did not communicate with her team how she preferred to be, or not to be, contacted on vacation. She simply set an autoresponder that said the was OOO (out of office). So, her team continued their regular communication. Anna assumed the auto-responder was enough to communicate her expectation. Anna’s team assumed Anna’s auto-responder was set so she could stop checking email until she returned to work. Different expectations, not clearly communicated, most often leads to issues.
Secondly, effective boundaries must benefit both parties. Anna did not seem to consider why her team may be emailing her while she was on vacation — they were simply making sure they didn’t leave anything undone and were able to move on to the next task. Anna suddenly setting a boundary that no one was allowed to email her while she was OOO seemed selfish to her team.
People don’t want selfish leaders, they want selfless leaders. You can be a selfless leader and avoid backfiring boundaries when you make sure the boundary benefits people on all sides and is communicated early and fully.
Increase Productivity with Solid Boundaries
Boundaries are not bad, they’re best — but only when established correctly. By considering everyone’s needs and clearly, definitively, and consistently communicating the newly set boundary, you can lead yourself and your team to more positive results.
As a leader, what boundaries around communication can you begin discussing with your team so that everyone’s productivity and workplace experience is positively affected?
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