As the saying goes, you can’t be all things to all people. As a people pleaser, this is something that I have had to come to terms with in my career. While working as an Assistant, I wanted to help people as much as possible and got pulled in all directions. It soon became apparent that I really couldn’t do everything if I wanted to leave the office at a decent time or concentrate on a big project without getting interrupted. I would imagine that a lot of you are nodding while reading this. Assistants do tend to want to please everyone and will forego their boundaries to help out their Executive’s and colleagues (and sometimes boundaries are stretched by overbearing Executive’s and colleagues). I have written about boundaries before, and you can see two articles here on setting boundaries and saying no more often.
Today, I want to look at what happens when you set boundaries. What are the consequences and what can you hope to achieve when you stick with your limits and say no more often.
Setting boundaries as an Assistant
Every Assistant I have talked to on this subject says the same thing. When you set boundaries, and you have clear communication on your expectations, you become a better Assistant. This is because everyone knows where they stand. The boundaries could be around the type of work that you do or the hours that you work. Whatever they happen to be, once you have set the boundaires you can then start to communicate your expectations. If you are strong and you stick to your boundaries, people will understand what they can and can’t ask you what to do. This makes expectation setting much more straightforward and communication much clearer.
Unless you set your boundaries other people will set them for you.
Once you have your boundaries in place, you can start to prioritise your workload and your personal life. If you have your well-being in mind and prioritise that over everything, again, you will be a better Assistant for it. It isn’t a wrong career choice to prioritise your well-being, even if you work in a very fast paced environment. Make sure you check in with yourself regularly and note if anything is slipping that is important to you and then give yourself a nudge back in the right direction.
Communication is the fundamental skill that makes Assistants great and setting boundaries helps you communicate clearly and concisely. The reason is that you have defined your limits and expectations, and you can communicate what you want and how you expect to be treated. Ultimately you will appear more transparent and gain more respect because you are projecting how you want people to talk to you and work with you. It is compelling stuff.
So you’ve set some boundaries. What happens now? You’ve got to own them! You have to live your life by them. The more you believe in your boundaries, the more people will respect and trust you (and if they don’t, it makes you see what kind of individuals you want to work with).
Saying no more often leads to so much more. Think about it if you say no to all of those requests that people should really be doing themselves. What can you do with that time? Make your Executive more successful, take on a new project, go home on time, get to the gym, chill out in front of Netflix. Whatever it happens to be. You deserve to live your life, making choices for yourself and your career, rather than have them made for you.