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Good Fences Create Good Work

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By Dr. Daneen Skube
From Tribune Content Agency

Question: I’m in a job where managers, co-workers, and customers constantly demand more than I can give. I try to meet everyone’s expectations, but feel burnt out and resentful. I’m worried that setting boundaries will get me fired. How can I deal with unreasonable and unrealistic expectations without jeopardizing my job?

Answer: You deal with unrealistic expectations by negotiating with everyone on task trade-offs. People tend to go from requests to demands if you keep over functioning. You’ll need to train people to treat you differently or burned out and resentful will be your new normal.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet and educator, sagely noted, “He that respects himself is safe from others.” Knowing our organic limits and communicating what we can and cannot do is respecting yourself. Confrontations, blaming, or venting that people want too much is not respecting yourself or being effective.

When we burn out responding to demands and finally throw a fit, all we do is scare people. We fail to train anyone in more realistic expectations. If we are realistic about our limits, we find disappointing people more comfortable. If we over promise, we guarantee not delivering and disappointing people later.

None of us enjoy that look on people’s faces when we tell them “no.” Learning phrases like, “If there was anyone I would like to fly for, it would be you!” You can also try, “I have to make trade-offs between doing x or doing y, so which one do you prefer.” The bottom line is you are letting people make choices between which things you can realistically do.

To start creating fences write down everything people are asking you to do. Now use different colored highlighters to figure out which of these tasks are trade-offs and which tasks you can do in a normal day. If in doubt, underestimate what you can do and under promise.

When, predictably, people give you the sad face when they hear you cannot fly, paraphrase them. Try this: “I see you’re disappointed that I can get three of these items done and you get to pick which three.” None of us can never disappoint people. Embrace that all of us are, occasionally, inadequate to the wishes of others.

Be careful you do not explain or defend yourself when people give you their best disappointed face. First off, explaining yourself does not result in anyone being less disappointed. Second of all, no one cares about your explanation once they hear the word,“no,” as they stop listening.

If you want to avoid explaining and defending yourself, you’ll need to embrace discomfort with your inadequacy. Try looking in a mirror, taking deep, slow breaths and saying, “I’m occasionally such a disappointment,” with serenity. Any emotion we can allow (like inadequacy) will no longer control your behavior.

When you accept others will find you to be a disappointment sometimes, you’ll also not need to blame or shame them for their demands. Being able to state, “I can see you want x, and I’m not able to provide x,” with serenity calms everybody down!

At first, you’ll disappoint lots of people frequently. Over time, people learn where the fences (boundaries) are and will be more reasonable in their requests. You get to trade being burned out and resentful for being energized and powerful…and all it will cost you is a little guilt at first.

Question: I have a friend at work that I’ve bent over backwards to help. However, she never has my back. Is there a way to get her to return my loyalty?

Answer: No, as I frequently quip with clients, “Quit shopping at Auto Supply stores for apples.” People who have no gratitude are the wrong store for buying loyalty!

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything”, Hay House, 2006. You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.)

©2022 Interpersonal Edge. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.



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