A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who is considering a career change. It seems to be a common topic these days, as I have become the “go to person” for these conversations after packing it all up and opting for a life abroad. In fact, I was recently asked to write a piece about why people leave their positions and how to redefine life at any age.
As I was doing my research, I stumbled across an article that addressed this very subject. It talked a lot about debilitating bosses: micromanagers, reactionaries, bullies, etc. and flagged that as one of the primary reasons people leave their positions, sometimes even well-established careers. A bad boss.
After reading the article, I sat and thought about the reality of that and how sad it is. So many of us get stuck in the dialogue of having a bad boss, as opposed to what we can do to fix the situation. There is no amount of effort you can exhaust that will change another person, in this case a boss. You either find a way to work around those circumstances or empower yourself to change them.
Years ago, when someone asked me how I juggle it all – career, family, life – I laughed and said, “start the day with coffee, end the day with wine.” While that is true and very evident in everything I do (hell, I made a website dedicated to the concept), it goes far beyond that.
Setting healthy boundaries is at the top of that list.
I have had some amazing bosses and mentors through the years, people I trust and respect. But, I have also been on the other side of that. If you have been in any industry long enough, it is bound to happen – different leadership styles and working relationships. Horror stories from the trenches.
I remember the time someone I worked for started calling and texting me in the middle of the night. It wasn’t an emergency and my answer wouldn’t change if I waited until the next morning, so I decided to turn my phone off and wait until then to respond.
Around the same time, I had a friend who was dealing with someone very similar at her work. She responded. After doing so, she found herself up for most of the evening, taking time away from her family to do work that could have easily been done the next day and was barked orders every step along the way, well into the middle of the night.
We have all had moments of emergencies at our jobs. For me, there have been times when I have needed to take a call from a producer in the middle of the night because of breaking news and a client was getting bumped from a segment scheduled for the next morning or someone said something they weren’t supposed to and I ended up having to do crisis management. But, with experience, we all come to know what is and is not an emergency and someone simply demanding an answer to make themselves feel better or to project their power over someone else is not one of those cases.
For my friend, this was a defining moment for her. She left her position several months later. It was the thing she needed to set in motion a completely different trajectory for her life and career.
In both cases, we set boundaries for ourselves to establish what we would and would not allow in our professional lives. For her, she knew this was exactly what she needed to empower herself to make a bold decision and change her circumstances. For me, it was simply drawing a line in the sand that would set the tone for mine.
Boundaries, both in our professional and our personal lives, are an absolute necessity for happiness. But, where people tend to be misguided in terms of setting them is that they aren’t for the other person, they are for you.
It is your responsibility to establish what is and is not okay.
I could have answered the call and explained that it wasn’t an emergency and that it could be handled in the morning. But, I knew that would not go over well. It would simply ignite flames on a fire for a battle I wasn’t prepared to, nor did I want to fight. The only thing I could control in the situation was my response to it.
Not responding was my response.
By not answering the phone, it was the beginning of me establishing the boundary that calling me in the middle of the night was not okay.
It continued to happen several more times. I responded exactly as I did the first time. I didn’t. Soon, the calls and texts stopped. That boundary had been established. And, not because I demanded how my boss needed to treat me or tried to dictate their actions, but because I changed my own.
My friend changed the course of her entire career after that night, something she had talked about doing for some time, but it took navigating through dealing with a bad boss to push her to that conclusion. She broke free from feeling stuck.
Do you ever feel stuck? I am certain we have all felt it at one point or another in our lives. For reasons ranging from financial responsibilities to comfort and stability, you find yourself putting up with unacceptable behaviors simply because you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you are feeling this way, it’s time to go “unstuck” yourself. Seriously!
And the best way to set that in motion – boundaries.
This week, take the time to sit down and make a list of the things in your life that are weighing on you and write down next to each, your reaction to those things. How are you reacting to the behaviors of others? Bad bosses, coworkers, friends, your partner? Are you allowing yourself to get stuck in those behaviors that are unhealthy for you, in situations that are lacking boundaries? If so, turn the focus back to you. What can you do to change your behavior in the situation?
Don’t allow yourself to remain stuck on the reactions of others, be empowered by your own.
Cheers to a new week and being empowered to redefine your circumstances and rewrite the story of your life.