Boundaries: Do You Know Yours?

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Last year, we watched a house across the street be built, and now this year, another house is being built next to that one. As I watch the houses go up, I notice that once the framing is up, in comes the team to erect scaffolding . . .

While a roof, walls, and even insulation are obvious boundaries that houses hold, simplistically, they protect the inhabitants from the outside elements.

Scaffolding, however, reminds me of the boundaries we think of for ourselves. The scaffolding that’s gone up is for the safety of those putting up the next elements of the house. It provides a platform for work to happen – it’s sturdy, can be kept in place for as long as required, and can be adjusted for the situation.

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A house being built with scaffolding around it

Boundaries, especially professional ones, are all about a clear understanding of what is part of a role and what isn’t. I also believe that agreement and acceptance are included. A boundary might not be liked by another, but acceptance is key, and as such, agree not to breach that boundary.

Boundaries can be categorized as:

1. Physical

This is probably the most obvious, visible, and the one that got a lot of attention in the workplace in the context of harassment, unwanted attention, etc. Physical means personal space and anything related to the body.

2. Emotional

This relates to feelings such as being undervalued, not listened to, upset, and guilty. These feelings are valid, and they can be a boundary issue when they are dismissed or gaslighted in the workplace.

3. Financial

Stealing, skimming, reckless spending, and inequitable allocation are all ways financial boundaries could be crossed or violated.

[Crossed boundaries: I see these as a break of a boundary, most likely inadvertently or done without malice. A violated boundary is one in which the breach was done with the intent to hurt.]

4. Intellectual

Disagreeing, disrespecting, and condescending someone’s views, ideas, and suggestions can raise the issue of needing a boundary. Gaslighting can happen here, too.

5. Personal

Being friends on Facebook with your boss or friends with some colleagues, yet not others, may affect personal boundaries. Prying into one’s personal life is an obvious example while over-sharing personal details is another breach that is common.

5 Tips for Setting Professional Boundaries

1. Define

Think about your boundaries before trying to set and hold them. Without first knowing your boundaries, you may inadvertently wax and wane and send inconsistent messages about what you will and won’t tolerate.

2. Your Priorities

Reflect on your boundaries in the context of your work. Your boundaries should help you control and protect your priorities – the most important work you do.

3. Communicate

If people don’t know you have a boundary, they’ll ask or expect. Make it easy for them to respect your boundaries and share them. Ask others what their boundaries are so you make it a mutually beneficial and respectful exchange.

4. If . . . then . . .

Like the scaffolding around the house construction, it can be moved and adjusted to suit the needs of the workers and the house. Boundaries may need to be broken for the greater good. Don’t simply let that boundary go; make an agreement so others know it’s not a permanent shift. An if . . . then . . . agreement will help you serve the greater good and reinstate the boundary without feeling like you’ve lost something.

 5. Role Model

Take the time to learn the boundaries of others. This will give you insight into your own boundaries, and it will help you not cross someone else’s boundary. If you do cross a boundary, acknowledge and apologize so that you are demonstrating how you want to be treated when it happens to you.

Your boundaries, known and held, contribute to a strong level of self-leadership. Boundaries are evidence of self-respect, and as such, you’re successfully leading yourself. Brene Brown’s quote, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others,” acknowledges how boundaries can be a bit awkward, but if handled well, they can be relationship savers and productivity boosters for all involved.

What do you do to ensure your professional boundaries are not crossed?

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Sally Foley-Lewis

Sally Foley-Lewis inspires skills managers to be high-performing, purposeful, and productive. Obsessed with leadership and professional development that ensures people reach their potential. Sally’s presentations and programs positively impact your confidence, leadership, and results.


  • 2021 University of Southern Queensland – Outstanding Alumnus of the Year – Business and Enterprise
  • 2021 A.I. Influential Businesswoman – Winner – Most Inspirational Leadership Development Specialist (Australia)
  • 2021 ROAR Success Awards – Silver Leadership Award
  • 2020 Gold Stevie Award – Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services
  • 2020 Bronze Stevie Award – Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Consumer Services
  • 2020 Breakthrough Speaker of the Year by Professional Speakers Australia
  • 2019 finalist for Australian Learning Professional of the Year
  • 2019 Australian Champion Sole Trader winner – Australian Small Business Champion Awards
  • One of the 25 LinkedIn Top Voices for Australia for 2018 for her thought leadership.


She is a global professional speaker and has authored multiple books. The drive to support and skill managers comes from her own CEO and senior leadership experiences. Sally delivers presentations, keynote speeches, workshops, and coaching – live online and face-to-face – to skill managers and boost productivity and self-leadership.

Blending 20+ years of working with a diverse range of people and industries in Germany, the Middle East, Asia, and across Australia. Sally has extensive qualifications, a wicked sense of humor, and an ability to inspire and make people feel at ease. Sally’s your first choice for mastering skills, facilitating action, and achieving results.

Connect with Sally on LinkedIn, InstagramYouTube, and at

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