Has Your Boss Overstepped Your Work-Life Boundaries? Use These 4 Phrases To Reset Them

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Alice Graves21
Career Transition Coach
April 16, 2024 at 11:48AM UTC

Over the last two years, the line between “work” and “life” has become increasingly blurred. With so many people working from home, it has become much harder to create clear boundaries between our work and our life outside of work.  

Yet having time to switch off and re-charge is extremely important — especially when it comes to mental health and work performance.  

I’ve always been a huge advocate for work-life balance and having worked in recruitment for 10 years, it was a good thing I was! Every Manager, Director and VP I have ever worked with thought that their need was the biggest priority. I have a lot of experience in pushing back and protecting my boundaries. 

But before you can push back and can effectively communicate your boundaries, there are a few things you need to know first:

The “What”

You need to know what work-life balance means to you. It will be different for everyone. So rather than focus on what your friends and colleagues think, ask yourself “what are my boundaries?”. Take the time to really understand what work-life balance means to you. 

The “Why”

You need to know why this is important to you. If you don’t know the ‘why’ behind your boundaries it will be hard to protect them. Yes, there are practical reasons, but there will also be something much deeper. Find that deeper why. 

Communication is such a critical part of this process; it’s good to take the time to understand what communication style your boss has and adapt your style where needed to make sure your message lands effectively.

It can feel uncomfortable at first trying to communicate your boundaries, especially if your boss has already been overstepping the line for some time. So use these four phrases as a segue into an open conversation with your boss about your work-life boundaries. 

Phrases to Use When Your Boss Has Overstepped Your Work-Life Boundaries

1. “I understand in the past it has been an expectation that I was available outside of working hours; however some things have changed and I would like to discuss this with you.”

If your boss is constantly messaging you outside of working hours and you have in the past responded, you need to have an open conversation to explain why you will no longer be available outside of office hours. Remember, if you have always done this in the past, you need to re-educate your boss. Whatever your reason is, share it, and remember, you’ve been doing them a favor by working outside of office hours. You do not need to apologize for no longer wanting to do this. Position yourself in a place of equality rather than apology. 

2. “My workload is currently very heavy. Please could you help me understand what I should re-prioritize so I can get this new task completed?”

Workloads are often very high and with the great resignation it seems they are on the rise as people shoulder the workload of colleagues who left their team. For many people, the only way to complete the high workloads is to work outside of office hours. However, this is not healthy and cannot be maintained long-term. If you find your boss is constantly giving you more work than you can handle during office hours, use the above phrase to highlight this. Before you have the conversation do your research, be clear on what you can and can’t get done and then ask for their help in proiritization. 

3. “Our values and culture focus on work-life balance and I am concerned that I am not aligned with our values in this regard. Please could we discuss this.”

I love using this one! Company values are a great place to start when having a conversation. They take away any feelings of a personal attack, as you are not talking about an individual's behavior, you are focusing purely on the values of the company.

If your boss is constantly overstepping your work-life boundaries and your company advocates for a healthy work environment, use this phrase to have an open conversation about the misalignment between the company values and how you are working. 

You can state that one of the reasons you wanted to work for the company was because of their strong values — and you want to work together to make sure you are both respecting and living those values. 

4. “I understand that in your position it’s important to be online during your vacation, but for my mental health I need to fully disconnect. I hope your decision to work during your time off doesn’t mean I can’t disconnect during mine.”

Often bosses will stay online during their holidays, and that’s fine. However, they forget that just because they do it, doesn’t mean that we want to. It’s important to remind your boss of this to make sure you get the boundaries you want – and need.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Alice helps women get unstuck in their careers. She works with them to rebuild their confidence and reconnect with who they are. Helping them find further fulfillment after successful careers. Click here to book a call with Alice to find out more and click here to join her newsletter for your weekly dose of motivation and practical tips.  

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice on setting boundaries at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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