Creating a Productive Workplace

A great workplace has an inviting environment that goes beyond the desks, paint and windows. It has boundaries that foster a productive climate where people are valued for their attributes, roles suit individuals’ signature strengths and people’s potential is cultivated. The established boundaries eliminate distractions and confusion regarding what needs to be done, by when, how and by whom. The results are great work, done in a timely manner, consistently.  Plus, people find solutions to office problems instead of just complaining and they might bring cookies on Friday because they enjoy working together. They become a dynamic team.

An effective leader understands that professional boundaries are an extension of personal boundaries within a formal setting where there are shared goals to be accomplished. The goals are the source of both individual and team motivation.  Without appropriate boundaries employees and supervisors may confuse workplace relationships with personal relationships. Certainly workplace relationships can develop into personal relationships over time. But most of the time interaction with supervisors, colleagues clients and customers stops at the end of the work day. Setting professional boundaries is much easier when a relationship is viewed as formal rather than casual.

An effective leader also understands that failing to define boundaries, having no boundaries, or inappropriately rigid boundaries can have an adverse impact on their business and employees.  Some boundaries, however, need to be firm, for example, lying, stealing, or verbally or physically abusing others is never allowed. When professional boundaries and priorities have been clearly defined, it’s very likely that a group can function effectively, even in the absence of its leader. If everyone on your team understands what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, then team members will feel grounded in their roles.

Professional boundaries can be defined by a job description that clearly outlines specific duties responsibilities and reporting relationships. However, many times job descriptions define responsibilities in broad general terms. Professional boundaries become clearly defined when you answer these questions:

  • Who gives you your assignments?
  • To whom do you report?
  • Who gives you feedback?
  • Who sets your work priorities?
  • How are your company and client personal information kept secure?
  • Do you know how to treat all staff members fairly without positive or negative feelings influencing your decisions?

The responsibility to set a solid foundation falls upon the leader however every team member plays a role in creating a smooth functioning organization. Each team member is responsible to be willing to speak up to a colleague or supervisor and clearly define their issue and help find a resolution that works for everyone.

Professional boundaries are best set by carefully negotiating them in an open discussion about responsibilities, goals, and priorities prior to launching a new project or beginning a starting a new job. Here are three core skill areas to help you get started:

1. Know your limits: what you can do well within the allotted timeframe.
Do not exaggerate your ability by overselling it. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time improves your credibility, missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product hurts your reputation.

2. Tactfully and openly communicate about goals and limitations.
Do not undersell or misrepresent your ability. This prevents you from demonstrating your professional skills and could affect your career advancement. Highlight what you can and will do. Ask for help when it’s needed to ensure good quality work. Actively engage in problem solving and don’t complain about the problem.  Ask for feedback when it is not forthcoming.

3. Be available to discuss differences and reach agreements.
Honestly reflect back your understanding of the other person’s needs, interests, and concerns. Attempt to negotiate win-win solutions.

This article originally appeared BOOM Jackson.

Deirdre Danahar © 2012, All rights reserved.


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