The Importance of Creating Boundaries in the Workplace

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  • 0:03 Workplace Boundaries
  • 0:39 Workplace Relationships
  • 2:30 Workplace Communication
  • 3:31 Importance of Boundaries
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Creating boundaries can help ensure a positive workplace environment for everyone. In this lesson, we'll review the importance of creating workplace boundaries as they apply to relationships, communication, and employee exploitation.

Workplace Boundaries

Whether you are new to a company or position, or have been employed for some time, the basics of appropriate workplace conduct should never be far from mind. By creating and maintaining appropriate boundaries in the workplace, you can contribute to a positive office environment; ensure respectful, productive work relationships with colleagues and supervisors; and help to prevent any potentially exploitative situations. Keep in mind that when we talk about boundaries, we do not mean appearing unapproachable or uncaring. Instead, we are simply talking about conducting yourself in a way that is appropriate for the workplace.

Workplace Relationships

Most of us spend a substantial part of our lives at work, so building positive relationships in the workplace is vital to our professional success and overall well-being. It is natural to find connections and identify with others in the workplace as you build new relationships with colleagues. The key is to ensure that the relationships you develop stay appropriate. If you define and set your boundaries early rather than later when obtaining a new position, they're more likely to be respected.

There are two types of relationships that tend to develop within the workplace: friendships and romantic relationships.


Let's take a look at the friendship between Sarah and Amy. They met at work two years ago and became fast friends. They have lunch together daily, and often socialize outside of the office. One day they have a disagreement while shopping at the mall, and Amy stops talking to Sarah altogether. One week later, the office environment has become noticeably tense and uncomfortable for Amy, Sarah, and the other members of their team.

Had Amy and Sarah set appropriate workplace boundaries when they first met and agreed to discuss and resolve any type of personal conflict, they could have minimized their disagreement's impact on both their office environment and fellow team members.

Romantic Relationships

Romantic and sexual relationships between colleagues are a different story. Today, many organizations have policies about workplace romances in place that prohibit these types of relationships - particularly between supervisors and subordinates. It's important to set your own personal boundaries when it comes to engaging in romantic or sexual relationships at work in order to comply with company policy. Before you even consider becoming involved in a romantic or sexual relationship at work, keep in mind that you'll still have to see this person every day if the relationship ends. Engaging in romantic and sexual relationships at work can also make you a target of gossip or sexual harassment, both of which can negatively impact job performance and satisfaction.

Workplace Communication

Communication is another topic for which appropriate boundaries need to be set in the workplace. It's important to remember that not all topics are appropriate for discussion in the workplace. Most people don't want to hear about my co-worker's personal escapade with the guy at the gym, or detailed information about an invasive surgical procedure someone's mother elected to receive.

Clearly communicating that you don't find topics such as these appropriate for the workplace will send a message to the speaker that you have no interest in hearing this information. On the other hand, if you listen to this information and say nothing, the speaker will likely assume that you don't mind or even want to listen to it and will probably feel free to share some anecdotes with you again in the future.

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