Creating and maintaining boundaries in the workplace requires good communication.

How to Deal With Colleagues With Boundary Problems

by Josee D'Amore

The workplace is often wrought with relationship challenges. Chances are high you have faced some workplace issues related to boundaries. Boundary issues can include a co-worker standing too close to you, sharing personal information about you with others in the workplace, talking over you, squeezing you out of projects or showing up in your office space too often. Creating and maintaining boundaries in the workplace requires inner strength, good communication skills and follow through.


Asserting yourself in the moment your boundaries have been crossed is the most effective way of creating boundaries. Keep your communication simple and direct to minimize any misunderstandings. You may say, "I don't like it when you stand so close. Would you mind taking a step back, please?" In this type of communication you are letting the other person know what specific behavior you don't like and giving them a direct instruction of how to correct it. Be sure your tone is even and calm.


If a co-worker crosses a boundary after you've asked them not to do so, remind them you don't like and how they can correct it. It is advisable to also remind them you had mentioned this once before and need them to implement the request. You can even calmly state should the behavior continue, you will need to bring it to the attention of their boss, but you hope you won't have to do so. This puts the ball in their court and communicates you are serious. It is advisable to document these encounters with dates in case you need to take the next step.


Report your co-worker if the behavior continues. If your boss is different from their boss, you may want to go to your boss first and follow any instructions you are given. Be sure to bring your documentation with you. Keep your tone calm and direct so the issue stays about the unwanted behavior and not about you. Be sure your language is factual and not blaming or accusatory. By relating the facts alone, your boss is able to focus on the behavior without having to sift through emotional language.

Follow Up

Follow up with your boss in about three days. Express gratitude for addressing the issue with the co-worker and give an update on whether the behavior has stopped or not. Following up keeps the issue on the mind of your boss. If the behavior has not stopped, request to know what the next step is and a timetable for when it will be taken. If after two times of the boss intervening with no result, you many need to consider going to Human Resources or an outside resource such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

About the Author

Josee D'Amore is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, where she is the founder/owner of Gems of Hope Counseling. She specializes in relational wellness including friendships, siblings, spouse/significant others, children, parenting, abuse/trauma, grief/loss and care-giver support. She is the author of "The Soul's Fight: Wrestling with Forgiveness".

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