“What do good supervisors do to set boundaries that minimize mistakes?” That’s the question I left you with after Episode #3.
We unwittingly set the stage for our supervisory mistakes. Setting boundaries helps us minimize them and avoid a chain of calamities.
Boundaries are essential for supervisors and employees, so they can work together at top effectiveness.
On the surface, you might think that setting behavioral boundaries is simply a control tactic, the way supervisors keep their thunderous employee hoards at bay or imprison workers in the darkness of dreary, nose-to-the-grindstone tasks. Not so, at least not in a healthy workplace.
Actually, boundaries, when well used, build mutual respect between supervisor and employees that help everyone avoid making senseless mistakes.
We go to work to exchange effort for reward. It’s the same for both supervisors and employees. We do our best work when we believe that we’re respected for who we are, what we bring, and how we execute the requirements of our job. We determine whether or not we’re being respected by the way we’re treated, individually and in comparison to others.
Respect begets respect, that’s an easy principle to live by.
We earn respect in many ways as supervisors. Most often it’s about the way we treat people: our courtesy, acknowledgement, fairness, and courage to name a few. The platform for building respect, however, is in setting boundaries.
Set unifying boundaries.
Boundaries are limits supervisors set around acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, so employees know what’s within or out of bounds. This makes it clear whether or not it’s acceptable to:
- Refuse an assignment or ignore required processes and practices
- Be late or absent from work without notifying the supervisor ahead of time
- Disrupt the workplace with distracting behavior
- Barge into the supervisor’s office to complain, make demands, or interrupt
- Demonstrate insubordinate, rude, or uncooperative behavior
- Engage with others in ways not appropriate to the company culture or society
The potential list of work place boundaries is unlimited and no supervisor can or should try to figure them all out in advance. You’ll know when you’ve failed to set a necessary boundary when an employee crosses it , you’re caught off guard, and/or there’s been a negative impact on your work group. Some work groups, because of their make up, operate on few articulated boundaries; others need many.
They key is to be honest with yourself about behaviors you absolutely won’ t tolerate as the supervisor. Start by thinking about supervisors you liked and visualize what they did and didn’t accept from their employees. Then reflect on things you’ve seen and heard coworkers do that you know were off base. Then put together your list.
The preparing is always easier than the doing. Always remember that boundaries aren’t just about what makes life easier for you, the supervisor. They’re set to make the workplace a positive, safe, and relatively stress free place for your employees and you.
Your boundaries are there to insure inclusiveness, no bullying, fairness across the board, consistency in enforcing company policies, and a climate of mutual respect. When you have good principles-based boundaries, you have the foundation for teamwork, collaboration, and initiative that builds a sense of value and self-worth in each of your employees.
Boundaries ensure mutual respect among supervisor and coworkers, so everyone can succeed. There need to be standards around quality of work, goal achievement, courtesy and fair treatment, respect for differences, and ways of speaking to each other.
The boundary-setting mistakes supervisors make often mirror Goldilocks sitting at the three bear’s breakfast table, deciding which porridge bowl to eat–too hot, too cold, and just right. Getting the boundaries set right is the next step.
So what are the boundary mistakes that supervisors make and how do you fix them? We’ll tackle that in Episode # 5.