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Why You Need to Set Boundaries as a Business Owner

Setting boundaries in any area of your life is important, and a lesson that we learn early on in life (i.e. personal space in kindergarten and elementary school). Boundaries differ from manners in that boundaries are something that is different from person to person. Whereas manners tend to be relatively the same depending on where you grew up, your values and your morals. Taking off your shoes when you enter someone’s home or saying thank you after someone opens a door for you are considered manners. Boundaries would be something like having your employees not text or call you on weekends or not sharing a toothbrush with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend.

Boundaries are things that we implement into our lives based on our preferences and our relationships. If you ever notice, most of your boundaries aren’t the same or don’t apply to each and every person or relationship you have. You might be okay with giving your mother or cousin a hug, but maybe you aren’t as open to the idea of giving a stranger you met at a bar a hug.

When you decide to become a business owner, you get rather close with those employees or people who have shown their loyalty to you and the business, and who you can count on. The people who stay up late at night to finish a project or who always show up to work at the same time every day with your pour-over coffee from the expensive café across the street. Setting boundaries isn’t something that distances us from others, but it realigns our goals and our vision. Boundaries are a non-verbal way of communicating with people the relationship between you and them, and how to respect that relationship.

Say for instance, that you hire one of your best friends. Someone who spends weekends with you and your other group of friends, and who has seen you at your absolute worst on nights out or days off. Generally, the assumption is that that friend wouldn’t share any of that information at work with other employees, unless you as the boss, granted them permission to do so. If you’re in a meeting with potential clients and your friend suddenly brings up that time when you got drunk at a party and lost your wallet, that’s not going to leave a great first impression with those clients.

Setting boundaries is a way to avoid that conversation, but still have fun with your friend and enjoy working for the same business. It shows that you want them to work there, and you want to continue the relationship, but in order to do so, they need to hold up their end of the deal.

This can be especially challenging if you’re someone who is very open and spontaneous in your personal life, but at work, is very closed off and private. As a friend, you need to understand that your friend might need some time to adapt to these changes and grasp what’s okay and what isn’t. What you can do to ease that transition is make a rule book or guidelines to show them what everyone else in the company has to abide by, so they’re aware that they won’t be receiving any special treatment.

If your relationships with your employees are stressing you out and you don’t know how to implement new boundaries that weren’t there before, there are a few ways you can go about it.

  • If it’s one employee in particular that’s been testing the relationship, try talking to them in private, in a setting that equalizes the power. You can go to a coffee shop or to their office. Some place where they aren’t looking up at you and feeling attacked.

  • If it’s a group of employees, try holding a meeting where all employees (even those that aren’t causing an issue) are present. This way people aren’t feeling singled out, and you can implement the new boundaries in a way that is accepted and open for comment from everyone.

  • Avoid sending out mass emails, texts or anything that isn’t face-to-face. It’s important that if you’re having a problem with someone, you address it in person, or in a way where you can see their face and they can see yours. This way, it feels more personable and avoids any misunderstandings or miscommunication. It also allows them to express themselves and ask questions.

Boundaries are an important part of a successful business, and as your business grows, the boundaries will continue to change. You, as the business owner, need to realize what’s appropriate and what isn’t in order to maintain positive and functioning relationships with your employees, and still manage to be accessible and a trusted source of guidance.


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