5 Ways Successful Women Draw Boundaries When Everyone's Quitting (and They’re Picking Up the Slack)

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 15, 2024 at 4:8PM UTC

A recent Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 workers around the world found that 41% of the global workforce has been considering leaving their current employer this year, and 46% are planning to make a “major pivot” in their careers.

The Great Resignation, describing the phenomenon of workers worldwide leaving their jobs in droves, is clearly here. Some are burnt out from changes in their workload during the pandemic. Others have found that their priorities are changing, and they’re seeking new roles.

Whatever the reason, with so many employees quitting, the burden is often falling on their (former) coworkers to pick up the slack. 

If you’re finding that you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities, it’s time to draw boundaries at work. Here’s how to do it.

1. Say “no.”

A huge part of establishing boundaries — at work and otherwise — is knowing how and when to say no. Without including that crucial word in your vocabulary, you’ll probably find yourself succumbing to pressures and constantly dealing with competing priorities.

Having trouble saying no? Practice in lower-stakes environments. Learn how to turn down invitations from close friends and family — people you trust to stay by you — when you feel overwhelmed, for example.

2. Ask for help.

There’s no shame in asking for help from people who are in an excellent position to give it to you. Take your boss. They are positioned to help you with your workload — or take some responsibility off of your plate if you’re completely overwhelmed. 

Remember, too, that while you shouldn’t exploit this relationship, your manager is probably looking for any way to keep you if your coworkers are leaving in droves, so they will more than likely be eager to support you. And if your responsibilities have increased substantially, this could be the optimal time to ask for a raise.

3. Set “off” times for self-care.

Even if you have a million things to do, you still need to make time for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll feel irritable and exhausted. In addition to setting time limits for yourself at work, give yourself soothing activities to look forward to — a massage, regular meditation sessions, a great book, a glass of wine, a nice meal, a pedicure or whatever gives you a moment of pleasure.

Maybe even get away for the weekend if you can, or enjoy a nice staycation at home. The point is, you should have a list of self-care and other soothing activities readily available, and make time for them, so you have something to anticipate during the long work hours.

4. Communicate your boundaries.

Make sure clearly vocalize the boundaries you put in place. For instance, if you’ve established off times, like on Saturdays and nights after 7 pm, let your colleagues know so that they only contact you then in absolute emergencies. Explain, too, what you mean by “emergency.”

If you have direct reports, put structures in place to help them respect your boundaries, such as giving them names of other managers to contact if need be.

Unless you clearly define and communicate your boundaries, you may well end up frustrated because others are unknowingly failing to respect them.

5. Don’t sacrifice your work ethic.

As tempting as it may be to just avoid your responsibilities when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take care not to sacrifice your work ethic. Sure, it probably feels unfair that you’re being forced to pick up the slack, and it may seem like a thankless job, but if you’re choosing to stay, you still need to put in the same amount of effort as you did previously. 

Remember: you have your professional reputation and career at stake, and you don’t want to burn bridges. Even if you have one foot out the door, it’s important to keep contributing and committing to the job you have now.

About the Career Expert:

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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