They call them boundaries for a reason

Ashley Gordon

On an average day you log on to your Facebook to track what’s new in the lives of your friends and what events are taking place in your local area. You notice a friend request and as you open the link to see who has found you, a picture of the person you’d least like to see in this platform appears: your boss.

Even if you have nothing to hide, there are uneasy feelings when it comes to crossing the boundary into a social relationship with a boss or coworker.

The workplace model has changed significantly in America, making the line between social and working relationships with coworkers blurred.

In an excerpt from, ‘In Praise of Boundaries: A Conversation with Miss Manners,’ Diane Coutu argues that business environments have become so casual that workers have lost sense of which behavior is acceptable in the workplace.

‘Everyone is on a first name basis, and the boss’s door is always open,’ Coutu writes. ‘An army of consultants and HR officers make it their business to transform the workplace into a less forbidding setting, often using informal off-sites or games to break down social barriers between colleagues.’

While I must admit to enjoying the laid back setting of my current working environment, I also find myself constantly redrawing the line of respect I believe should be adhered to while in the office.

My thoughts are that we may have laughed Tuesday, had lunch together on Wednesday but we are no longer laughing, the lunch is over and it’s time to get back to work and back to a level of’ respect for each other’s workspace and job duties.

But I realize there haven’t been any concrete rules put in place to govern office etiquette so I took it upon myself to put a few in writing.
The first office rule is what’s mine is not yours. So often, a coworker can feel so comfortable with another person in the office that they charge their cubicle or working space at any given time. Regardless of whether a person is okay with someone entering their space without asking, it doesn’t hurt to extend that common courtesy. It will make the person feel their space is being respected.

The second office rule is your boss is the boss. My boss is young and hip and I’ve had some of the most fun and interesting conversations with him. But it is important for me to recognize that his word is law and as much as we may joke around, the joking would quickly disappear if the work wasn’t getting done.

Now, I have a laundry list of rules I deem important to promoting appropriate working relationships and boundaries in the office environment. However, as I started to write down this list of do’s and don’ts I realized how very audacious it was of me to believe I have all the answers.

For instance, I don’t know what I would do if my boss added me as a friend on Facebook.’ The confident portion of me thinks I would be comfortable explaining to my boss that I would like to keep my social and work life separate, but my cowardly self would erase all the comments my friends made in bad taste and press the button of acceptance.

But there is one more rule I think is helpful in creating harmony in any workplace. Honesty is the best policy. As clich’eacute; as it may be, being honest with your boss and coworkers when you feel they’ve crossed the working relationship boundary is the easiest way to squash an issue. It may not lead a person to be the most popular, but their work environment will be respected as they continue to receive a paycheck.

Mark Twain couldn’t have been more correct when he said, ‘Honesty is the best policy ‘- when there is money in it.’