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Setting boundaries at work


New member
How do you set your boundaries at work without sounding negative and like you won’t help out? My organization recently went through a downsizing and I ended up being tasked the work of 3 full time employees. Since that happened, my time is extremely precious. So whenever I’m asked to help out or assigned a new task on top of all those, I have been trying to push back explaining that I already have my time committed by my current tasks. I worry that it sounds like I’m trying to dodge work.


New member
I think that there will always be a nice way to do anything you want. A smile and being excused for having some important/delayed tasks that you can’t help them out right now. If you have a chance later to take a task or something just ask and they would know that when you politely disagree to take a task that’s because you are having too much to do and if you didn’t, you would have helped them :).


I feel you! I was in the same position. I cannot do anything more than just smile and politely explain: "sorry, I have so much work to do right now", maybe I would even tell them what tasks exactly I need to do, so they believe that I'm not dodging work.
Boundaries are extremely important. At my previous work sometimes I worked outside of working hours (for free). People get used to it very fast and take it for granted. Then I just changed my attitude and stopped doing it. I didn't answer my phone when I was already at home and answered the messages the next morning only when I was at work. Of course some didn't like it but they couldn't do anything about it, they accepted it.


New member
This hits home for me, too. I work from home and so does my wonderful husband. So I guess you could say we have a relatively small organization, as well. It feels as though he is comes into my office every few min to discuss his work. In an effort not to be rude, I will stop and listen. This puts me behind schedule and ultimately makes me behind schedule.

I finally snapped one day and made a little sign for my desk that says, "Come back later." It's a cute little sign but it does the job. He eventually asked me to make one for his office, too. TO which I replied, "Oh, so I've been annoying you, too?" He laughed and said, "I just think it's a good idea."

Accidents do happen from time to time and we ignore the sign. But most times, it works great. I get to finish my work and then hear whatever silly thing he needed to tell me. LOL.


New member
I once worked in an office where I was increasingly assigned task after task. First my direct supervisor retired, and I was assigned 75% of her work load. Another employee quit and I was assigned 50% of her workload. So, I was doing the work of 3 people, training and supervising my department in the increasing absence of my manager and new direct supervisor (when they were in meetings with upper management). A third-party company was hired to help our department and I was tasked to train them too. And then, I had to clean up their messes. It got to the point that working through lunches and breaks wasn't enough, and management expected overtime during weekends. That was a red flag and no-go for me as I had a one-way 1 hour 15 minute commute. I knew going in on the weekend was detrimental to my mental health, which wasn't very good as it stood.

Set Boundary #1 (no weekend work) - I refused weekend work, except for ONE time in which I was given a laptop to work from home...during a major holiday (RE July 4th). I told them "I had made plans", which I did not explain other than they were personal and I could not cancel. No one had any right to know what I had planned outside of work. No one has the right to know what you plan outside of work. It didn't matter that all I was doing was unwinding after the week. I deserved to unwind after the week! I honestly think they were shocked that I didn't care about the money, and I was "unbribe-able". My primary concern was quality, and they were concerned with quantity.

Set Boundary # 2 (refusing work/new projects) - I realised that I was letting them abuse my expertise and experience and kindness. I could do quick and accurate work and they knew it. I started asking management which task they felt was most important when they wanted to assign me a different new task. I laid the responsibility of choice on THEIR lap. I would say something to the effect of: "Okay, I'm doing (tasks A, B, C, D, E and F right now and provided some deadlines), and you want me to do tasks X, Y, Z. Which task do you want me to complete first and which is of highest priority to you?" It only took doing that three times for them to get the picture that I could NOT take on additional work. This was me finally getting to my breaking point and being the extremely passive-aggressive dragon that I am on the inside that I don't let show. I am always professional, quiet and patient to everyone. On the inside I'm an anxious wreck. Something had to give. It got my point across effectively. I never actually said "no" to any new project! And, that fact makes me chuckle to this day.

I don't have that job anymore. My department was outsourced, so I was laid off.

I learned a valuable work skill: the diplomatic way to say "no", without actually denying to do work.


I've had this problem as well and when I continu9to take on other task and set mine to the back burner for things they deemed more important I was told I didn't have good time management skills. I was like wyd. I have 60 hours worth of task for a 40 hour a week position and then u want me to cover breaks and other shit for 4 to 5 hours a day. How sway how. So I stepped down from my position full time to part time after having my baby cause I refused to be over worked and underappreciated like I'm the problem. Company is going under soon anyway