Archive for October, 2014

October 8, 2014

Boundaries and Work

Gaining Control of Your Work Life by Developing Effective Boundary Skills

Sherrie was on her way home from a busy day at the office when her boss, Jeff Moreland, flagged her down. “Glad I caught up with you, Sherrie!” he said.

Jeff was a successful figure at MacAllister Enterprises. Trouble was, he often used other people to make things happen. Sherrie could sense the song was tuning up again: “Listen, I’m in a time crunch,” he said, handing her a large stack of papers. “This is the data on the final recommendations for the Kimbrough account. All it needs is a little writing and editing. And it’s due tomorrow. But I’m sure it’ll be no problem for you.”

Sherrie panicked. Jeff’s editing needs were legendary. Hefting the papers in her hands, she saw a minimum of five hours work ahead of her this evening. I had this data to him three weeks ago! She thought to herself. Where does this man get off having me save his face for his deadline?

Quickly she composed herself. “Sure, Jeff, it’s no problem at all. Glad I can help. What time do you need it?”

“Nine o’clock will be fine. And…..thanks, Sherrie. I always think of you first when I’m in an emergency. You are so dependable.” Jeff strolled away. Dependable, faithful, reliable! Sherrie fumed. I’m always being told that from people who want something from me. Sounds like the description of a good mule. Suddenly the guilt hit again. There I go, getting angry again. Lord, help me bloom where I’m planted. But secretly she found herself wishing she could be transplanted to another flowerpot.

Does this sound familiar? People raised in families where God’s ways of boundaries are not practiced, have work experiences similar to that of Sherrie. They find themselves transported into adult life where these spiritual principles that have never been explained to them govern their relationships with bosses and co-workers. They get burned out quickly on their jobs, carry around a sense of resentment towards others, and wind up feeling hopelessly trapped in the daily demands — never knowing these prisoners of their own ignorance.

God’s world is set up with laws and principles. Spiritual realities are as real as gravity, and if you do not know them you will discover their effects. Just because we have not been taught boundaries in relationships and in work does not mean they will not rule us. We need to know the principles God has woven into life and operate according to them. Part of God’s plan for humanity, starting even before the Fall, included work. He planned for people to do two things: They would subdue and they would rule (Gen. 1:28). They would bring the earth under their domain, and they would manage it. That sounds a lot like work!

Our difficulties with work came later, after the Fall. The tendency toward disownership, not taking responsibility for what is our-like Adam and Eve’s blaming, is a key to the work problem. God told Adam of another difficulty, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” (Gen.3:17). The Fall also divided love from work. After the Fall, Adam was not motivated to work out of perfect love, but he had to work as part of the fallen world’s curse and the love-motivated “want to” became a law-motivated “should”. All of this adds up to the human race being unable to take responsibility and work effectively by owning its behaviors, talents and choices. No wonder we have work problems.

Christians have a warped way of looking at work. Unless someone is working in the ministry, they see work as a secular endeavor. The Bible pictures all of us-not just full-time ministers-as having gifts and talents that we can contribute in service to humanity. “Wherever we work, whatever we do, we are to do unto the Lord” (Col.3:23). Work is spiritual activity. In our work, we are made in the image of God, who is Himself a worker, a manager, a creator, a healer. To be Christian is to be a co-laborer with God in the community of humanity. Work has eternal value; it is the place to develop our character in preparation for the work that we will do forever.

Let’s look at how applying boundaries can help resolve many work-related problems, as well as how they can help you be happier and more fulfilled at the work you do.

A lack of boundaries creates problems in the workplace. In consulting for corporations, I have seen lack of boundaries as the major problem in many management squabbles. If people took responsibility for their won work and set clear limits, most of the problems which I get consulted would not exist.

Getting Saddled with Another Person’s Responsibilities

Jack had been asking Susie to “pick this up for me while you’re out,” or “please bring this box of materials to the office.” Slowly, Jack was shifting his responsibilities onto Susie. “It’s important to stop doing Jack’s work for him” Lynda told Susie. “Just do your own work and don’t worry about him.” Susie worried about making Jack angry and being blamed for not helping him. Linda said, “Let him be angry. His anger can’t hurt you as much as his poor work habits can.” So Susie began to set limits on Jack. She told him, “I will not have time to bring the materials for you this week.” When Jack ran out of time to do things himself, Susie said, “I’m sorry that you have not done that before now, and I understand that you are in a bind. Maybe next time you will plan better. That’s not my job.”

When the customers were angry with the service, the boss quickly tracked down the problem to the person who was responsible-Jack-and told him to shape up or find another job. Soon, Susie began to like work again, and Jack began to get more responsible. All because she learned to set boundaries and stuck to them.

If you are being saddled with another person’s responsibilities and feel resentful, you need to take responsibility for your feelings, and realize that your unhappiness is not your co- workers fault, but your own. In this as in any other boundary conflict, you first must take responsibility for yourself.

Working Too Much Overtime

Poor planning on your boss’ part does not constitute an emergency on your part. Bosses need clear limits, but many employees are afraid to set them because they need the job or they fear disapproval. If a boss is never force to look at their lack of boundaries, they may loose good employees to exhaustion or burnout.

If you are working more overtime than you want to, you are in bondage to your job. You are a slave, not an employee under contract. Clear and responsible job contracts tell all parties involved what is expected of them, and they can be enforced. Jobs should have clear descriptions of duties and qualifications.

Make a list of the tasks you need to complete in the next month. Make an appointment to see your boss to discuss your job overload.

Together you should review the list of tasks you need to complete. Have your boss prioritize the tasks for you. If your boss wants all the tasks done, and you cannot complete these tasks in the time you are willing to give, your boss may need to hire temporary help.

You may also wish to review you job description with you boss if you think you are doing things that fall outside your domain. If you boss still has unreasonable expectations of you, you may wish to discuss your problem with the appropriate person in your personnel department.

Setting Limits on Yourself

You need to realize how much time and energy you have, and manage your work accordingly. Know what you can do and when you can do it, and say no to everything else. Learn to know your limits and enforce them. Say to your team or your boss, “If I am going to do A today, then I will not be able to do B until Wednesday. Is that okay or do we need to rethink which one I need to be working on?”

Effective workers do two things: they strive to do excellent work, and they spend their time on the most important things. Many people do excellent work but allow themselves to get sidetracked by unimportant things. You may feel like you are doing a great job, but you boss is upset because the essential goals are being met. Realize your limits, and make sure you do not allow work to control your life. Having limits will force you to prioritize. If you think your time is limitless, you may say yes to everything, and the important things will go unfinished.

Take a lesson from Jethro, Mosses’ father-in-law. He saw Moses’ lack of boundaries and asked him why he was working so hard (Exodus 18:14-27). “Because the people need me,” Moses said. Jethro replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Moses had allowed good work to go too far.

Conflicts with Authority

If you are having trouble getting along with bosses, you may be having transference feelings. Transference is when you experience feelings in a current relationship that really originate from unresolved hurt in the past, such as authority relationships with parents or teachers. The boss-employee relationship can trigger authority conflicts you might have.

Suppose your supervisor tells you that he wants something done differently. Immediately you feel put down. You think, He never believes I do anything right. I’ll show him! You may begin to act out all the old patterns you did with parents. You become a child on the job.

To have boundaries is to take responsibility for your transference. If you find yourself having strong reactions to someone, take some time to look inside and see if the feelings are familiar. Do they remind you of someone from the past? Are you looking at them through your own distortions, through your own unfinished business? Until you face your won feelings, you can’t even see who others really are in order to know how to deal with them.

Expecting Too Much of Work

The workplace should be a supportive and safe atmosphere that helps the employee learn, improve and get the job done. Problems arise when someone wants the job to provide what their parents did not provide for them: Primary nurturing, relationship, self-esteem, and approval. Work is not set up for this. The job expects adult functioning, If you expect the job to provide for unmet childhood needs, these differing expectations will inevitably collide.

The employer will ask form you without giving because they are going to pay you for your work. They are not obligated to provide all the emotional support you need. You need to make sure you are meeting you needs for support and emotional repair outside of work, then you will be able to work in the adult world without getting your needs mixed up with what the company needs from you. Protect your hurting places from the workplace, which may wound unintentionally.

Finding Your Life’s Work

Our identity comes from our boundaries. Boundaries define what is me and what is not me. Our work is part of our identity because it taps into our particular giftedness and is a place to exercise those gifts in the community. Many people are unable to find a true work identity. They stumble from job to bob, never really finding anything that is them. This usually happens with people who have not separated from the expectations of family and friends.

Others’ expectations can be very strong influences. You must make sure that your boundaries are strong enough that you do no t let others define you. Own you won gifts, talent, wants, desires, and dreams. Work with God to find out who you really are and what kind o f work you are made for. You should have realistic expectations of yourself based on who you really are, you won true self with your own particular giftedness. Stand up to others’ expectations of you saying, “This is me, and that is not me.” Finding your life’s work involves taking risks. First you need to firmly establish your identity, separating yourself from those you are attached to and following you desires. You must take ownership of how you feel, how you think, and what you want. You must assess your talents and limitations. And then you must begin to step out as God leads you.

God wants you to discover and use your gifts to His glory. He only asks that you include Him in the process (Ps. 37:4-5, Eccl. 11:9). As you develop your talents, look at your work as a partnership between you and God. Commit your way to the Lord and you will find your identity. Ask Him to help.