Corporate Slave Much? How To Draw Boundaries With Your Boss
The corporate world is a sub-culture of its own, with its spoken and unspoken rules, expectations, and decorum, that seem alien to the outsiders. To an outsider, the corporate life may seem like a cesspool of long, gruelling hours, personal biases, and often less than justified pay. On the inside, these still hold true for some, perhaps many, but the said cesspool is balanced out by stability, a reliable paycheque, and in some cases, perks that come along with the job. That said, nearly everybody working in a corporate setup will agree that work politics ride high, and that it's often a challenge to draw healthy boundaries with colleagues and bosses.
In the particular case of higher-ups - your bosses and other management that are above you in the hierarchy - one is expected to please in ways more than one. For the sake of this article, let's exclude sexual harassment for that is a whole different ballgame, and one that requires drastic measures, including legal steps. What I'm talking about here is being asked to work overtime, socialise outside of the work hours, and form somewhat of a friendship. It happens. It's happened to me, and to many others I know.
Some bosses come with the disclaimer written in print so fine that you need microscopic vision for it, that if you're not their personal ally, you're not good enough for them, professionally. This is about drawing boundaries with those bosses. Those who give you the stink eye when you pack up to leave, those who expect you to work weekends and never take holidays, those who bring their personal woes to you during lunch hour, and - wait, for it - those who hold a grudge against you if you don't spend lunch hour with them!
Here's how to draw boundaries with the bosses who want to be more than just bosses:
Learn to ignore office politics
This is crucial because for this boss, office politics is personal politics. Heard of nepotism? It's not restricted to Bollywood, my dear. You'll be surprised at how often employees who are personally favoured, are also professionally favoured, regardless of their aptitude. If you want to draw healthy boundaries - meaning, not spend your weekends either chatting or socialising with your boss, or working for them - you have to learn to grow a thick skin against favouritism. You might lose out on "opportunities," but ask yourself this - What's more important to you? A bigger paycheque, or a semblance of work-life balance?
Learn to focus on your work
And on your work, ONLY! You are at your job, to do your job. Yes, the actual work is not the only thing that is factored in your annual review, but then again, you have to look at the day-to-day as much as the "prize" that you may or may not get. On a day-to-day, learn to focus on your work, and not on how much time you spend casually chatting with your boss everyday. If your performance is adequate, that WILL have its value. If what you deserve doesn't come to you, you can fight for it, if your work is at par. So, focus on what you're there to do - that is, work.
Learn to say NO to tasks that are not in your KRA
What's going to happen if you refuse to stay back after hours? You won't be asked to stay back after hours. What's going to happen if you don't work weekends? You won't be included in meetings that happen during the weekends. Or, that extra piece of work that you didn't sign up for! We tend to look at these as exclusions, rather than our boundaries being respected. Do you really want to work long hours, or on weekends? Making one feel bad about asking to honour the contract that is mutually signed is a tactic corporates use to make their employees feel inadequate and unworthy. Don't fall for the trap. Respectfully, calmly, gently but firmly, let your boss know that you are well aware of your KRAs, and that you need to focus on them without any distractions, and in your own way.
Don't encourage communication outside of the work hours
Of course, if your boss calls you once in a blue moon, it might be something important, and it's best to answer. But, if calls and texts, especially on seemingly friendly, casual topics, become a regular affair, you have to find a way to discourage it. Unless you also desire a personal relationship or a friendship with your boss, pandering to their expectation of having one with you will only suck you into a dynamic you don't want. One can, yes, become friends with a boss or a colleague, but these are rare, and should, ideally, be organic. If those calls to say hi, or invitations to "hang out" seem forced to you, learn to turn them down gracefully.
Remember that you are more than your job
Bring the focus away from your clingy boss, or high-pressure job, and back to yourself. Invest in your hobbies. EXERCISE! Learn to cook yourself a healthy meal. Stay connected with, and close to, friends and family. Travel. Watch movies. Listen to music that stirs your soul. Don't let the demands of your boss, or your job pigeonhole you into this misleading and dreadful stereotype of a "corporate slave." You are more than that!
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