I love listening to podcasts, especially when I am doing mundane household chores – it makes the time fly by.
The last podcast I listened to really blew my mind. It was author Terri Cole speaking about boundaries (she has a new book out called Boundary Boss, which I am going to buy).
You’re aware of boundaries and that you need to have them for a healthy and successful life brimming with well-being (of course you are, you are brilliant); this is not news.
However, the part that blew my mind, the part that is “news”, is the importance of exercising your boundaries, even when the answer is likely “no” (I'm not talking about non-negotiable boundaries here, those that support your safety, but about the ones that showcase your negotiable needs).
Let me explain.
I have needs and wants that aren’t necessarily compatible with those of others, we all do. In life and work there is a lot of compromise you need to navigate. This is where boundaries get really tricky, and by tricky, I mean they can easily become eroded.
Eroded boundaries mean you do not use your voice. Eroded boundaries mean you do not make your needs/wants clearly known to others.
According to Cole, knowing your needs is important, but that isn’t sufficient to have good boundaries. You need to make the request, have the difficult conversation, to put your healthy boundaries into play. Only then do they support you in a meaningful way.
This is the boundary issue that is costing your career real dollars. I’ll give you an example.
You feel you should be considered for a salary increase at work. However, your organization has indicated there would be no increases this year for economic reasons.
In light of this, it would be very easy to abandon your plans to ask for a salary review, BUT that would be an eroded boundary.
Boundaries you hold need to be referenced even when you know you may not get the result you desire.
It works like this, if you feel you are worthy of a salary review, asking for one (regardless of the outcome) is the way to hold your boundary, as long as you are also able to accept the other party may not be able to action this request.
The critical step here is to have the conversation, even knowing you may not get the raise. Why is this important? In asking, you are signalling that you have a sense of self-worth and whether you get that raise or not, your manager is now in a much better position to know, and in time support, your career and work needs.
When done thoughtfully, rather than annoying your boss, this critical act helps them to better support you. This is true if you are asking for a salary review, a professional development activity, help with workload or wanting more challenging assignments.
It’s the same “boundary muscle” you need to exercise in all those examples.
I can also tell you (as a former HR professional), even when organizations say they have a salary freeze on, unless your organization is truly going bankrupt, there are always a few key players who get a salary review (and it’s most often the people who ask for it).
Of course, you would not go marching into your bosses’ space and demand a raise. A health boundary means you ask your boss for the opportunity to discuss your work performance and share all the great examples of how your work contributes to your teams’, or organizations’, success. In light of that, and even though there is a salary freeze on, you’d like to be considered for a salary review now, so in the future (when the salary freeze comes off) you can be considered for an increase.
Even if you and your boss disagree on a change to your salary today, you’ll get much needed insight and feedback putting you in a better position to be considered for review next time (if you go in with an open mind and you trust your boss).
This is how a boundary supports your career and ensures you don’t leave money on the table at work.
These boundary conversations at work are absolutely necessary to support your long-term career happiness and overall well-being (i.e. your dream career). It’s not about getting the raise; it’s about advocating for one. If you do that consistently for all your reasonable needs at work, you may not always get what you want, but you just might find you get what you need.