The Work for the New Flexibility: Boundaries

Let’s talk boundaries. Understandably, a lot of people have made big moves the past year — changing locations, jobs, or even friends. Another way to approach change is by looking inward and starting with you. Getting to the heart of why you do the things you do.

The flexible work community is reflecting too and the big pandemic takeaway is: boundaries are the new flexibility.

If you’ve been considering job sharing, you’re probably a go-getter who’s put your all into your career and personal life. But if you’re finding yourself spending energy without genuinely enjoying your career or family, it’s time for a reset.

We’ve talked external boundaries (with our families and coworkers) to make suddenly working from home *with* kids work but it’s imperative to focus on the boundary-work BEFORE that — the internal work of boundary setting — to set the stage for your job share.

How to Slay Boundaries During Sudden Remote Working

So often, people think about job sharing barriers as external — a rejection from a boss or difficulty finding a job share partner. The truth is, we are the biggest holdup from job sharing. At Work Muse, our goal is to not let anything stand in the way of your job share, including you. That’s why doing this internal work is integral to creating your rewarding job share.

8 Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Asking to Job Share

A friend sent me this Good Life Project podcast episode featuring Boundary Boss author Terri Cole. SO good I listened twice. Here are my top takeaways.


Takeaway 1: identify what needs fixing in your life

Those drawn to job sharing are often high-performing individuals, why doing this work matters all the more. As Cole divulges, success on the outside looks like success to others period, regardless of the cost — often to ourselves and our mental health. Many times, high achievers haven’t set the boundaries in their lives to put on their oxygen masks on first.

She asks us to look internally to what needs fixing in our lives and poses the question, “What would you face, feel, or experience if you don’t stay stuck?”

Do the work: Take ten minutes to put pen to paper to identify what needs fixing in your life. Then, answer these questions for each: what you would face, how you would feel, and what that experience of fixing this one thing might mean to you?

Takeaway 2: How you treat yourself is the bar for how others treat you

Really think about this: the way you treat yourself is the bar for how others treat you. The only way you can be authentic in your “yes” is to believe in it yourself so others know it’s true. So if something exists in your memory — a hurt or pain that you are holding onto — you need to let it go.

Years ago, when interviewing for a position to go back into the radio industry knowing the possibility to job share existed, I boldly said to my soon-to-be boss, “I want to know how the culture is here because if it’s not a supportive, positive place, I’ll likely leave.”

I looked him in the eye with sincerity and took it a step further, “I have something that’s important to me. In my personal and professional life, I won’t tolerate anyone raising their voices or yelling at me. If that ever happens, I probably will just turn and leave and won’t come back.” I had no way of knowing at the time that this boss did have a tendency to get excitable and raise his voice. It was a habit really, but the few times he started to lift his voice with me, I could visibly see him tone it down and he immediately would apologize. It worked!

Takeaway 3: Make sure your side of the street is clean

Keep your side of the street clean. This means setting healthy boundaries around those things that shape who you are. This can be your family of origin, culture, and even your childhood experiences and romantic past. Only then can you ensure you can talk true, be seen, and live free.

Be aware, hyper positivity is dysfunctional emotional borders. As much as we may be inclined to be a Pollyanna, doing so is a form of control. Responses like, “Look on the bright side,” are unhelpful. Don’t center the experiences of others on you. “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling, but I’m here for you,” is a better response.

Takeaway 4: Be proactive and clear with your boundaries

Don’t make others guess what your boundaries are. Be upfront. State them clearly. Bravely be vulnerable and tell the truth. As in the example with my former boss, my boundary was clear and I didn’t make him guess at it.

If you create a proactive boundary plan, it will become your new normal and you’ll reap the benefits. Terri uses the example of how to answer an inappropriate question like, “How much are they paying you?” with the humorous response, “Trust me, not half what I’m worth.” She has actual scripts in her book people can use to make it simple.

Do the work: Create a set of simple go-to responses to questions that push your boundaries.

In less time than you think, your responses will become intuitive and adaptive. They’ll allow you to keep your boundaries while deterring others from disrespecting them.

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