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Shifting gears in March from diversity to handling harassment, our Monday Moments are progressing through the 2019 Top Ten Leadership Tips. The third area of focus leaders are likely to face this year is boundary crossing, including harassment and our third tip was to handle such issues with common sense. Years ago, I heard the phrase “if common sense were common everyone would have some” and it made me giggle, but also sounded accurate. Yet, if common sense became part of the boundary setting process at the office, would boundaries be crossed less often? Would people be offended less frequently? Maybe, but it might depend on a few factors. Respect of boundaries, whether you’re the leader or team member, man or woman, boss or new hire, depends on how clear they are, how clear you’ve made them to all team members, and what consequences are in place for violation. Exploring those three, let’s dive in to today’s Monday Moment.
1. Clarify Your Values Initially
Many times, we don’t realize we have a boundary until someone steps over or on it. However, once you realize certain actions violate your values and cross your boundaries, the goal is to stop allowing that to happen in the future. Take the time to consider what you value as a leader. Think of what you value as a person. People who don’t share those same values are likely to cross your boundaries, even inadvertently, and some will attempt to cross anyone’s boundaries who’s likely to let them. At work, boundaries such as these could include nearly anything. How often someone is able to just walk right in to the boss’s office and start talking could be a boundary a manager would have interest in setting. Those who leave dirty dishes in the breakroom, knowing someone else will clean them, are likely violating someone’s boundaries. And of course, those who watch the mandatory sexual harassment video and laugh all the way through and make offensive comments on purpose afterward, are boundary crossers for most. Who and what they do that crosses your boundaries will depend on what you value and how clear you are about those values. If you don’t know what works and doesn’t work for you, boundary crossing incidents will be tricky to manage and confusing to determine. Step one in managing it when it happens: be clear about what value or boundary or element of importance to you, has been violated. Fussing at a fellow employee and saying they’ve annoyed you or bugged you, again, won’t result in awareness of what behavior not to repeat.
2. Bring It Up Quickly
Here is where I find common sense to be of even more value. If there is a violation of your boundaries at work or even an act of harassment, what reward is so valuable that you would feel compelled to never address it? Common sense says to speak up appropriately about those actions or words that cause you to feel violated. If you don’t see an action or a change or consequence that meets with your satisfaction than perhaps this is not your ideal work environment and it would be good to begin looking for new employment. Value yourself, no matter your role or position, and your own boundaries to adhere to them and state a violation of them, professionally. Sexual harassment is a violation of a boundary. If inadvertent, truly, chances are there was a simply misunderstanding. Mentioning this instance and being clear about what you value should stop future accidental incidents. Keeping it to yourself for fear of retribution or loss of job or loss of reputation is an internal conflict. Values you truly believe in and boundaries you truly believe are needed for your well-being are only difficult to back up or mention if you simply wish they were as important as you believe they should be. For example, a female executive makes sexual comments to a male employee and he is offended and feels generally icky, but never says anything to her about it. He might be hesitant to speak up about the violation because while he values his freedom to not be harassed by this woman, he may feel he SHOULD value being masculine and avoiding the risk of looking weak for reporting harassment by a woman. The same scenario in the reverse has an entirely different set of values that come into play, as well. Step two in managing boundary crossings is to bring up what you can now see, having done step one, is a clear violation of what you believe to be important and are willing to protect or stand up for.
3. Address it Appropriately
There are likely days we could take to talk through what appropriate means for your workplace culture. What is appropriate will also have a different meaning if you are the leader, or the boss, or the C-suite member. Appropriate will likely have a different meaning if you are vendor or a front-line team member, and may even change if you are sharing the violation details with a male or female and are one or the other. In other words, appropriate is different in differing offices and circumstances, however, common elements of how to address a boundary crossing or violation or harassment incident include professionalism, facts, timely reporting, and at times, persistence. You deserve to be heard and what becomes important is the decision of how you share the information of a minor or major boundary crossing, in a way and style that others will hear you. Address the issue. Step three in managing boundary crossing is to address the issue appropriately. Consider telling only those who need to know. Consider removing yourself from that working relationship is the action does not change or efforts are not demonstrated that show a change in progress. Consider yourself to be worth more than ignoring the issue or just letting it go.
Boundaries can be tricky. Both setting them and sticking to them have delicate areas and when in leadership, there are your boundaries to catalog and the boundaries of those you lead to keep track of. Often the basics are clear for all, such as don’t continue to come on to her when she says “stop”, but certainly those basics even are inappropriately crossed. Whether your experience at the office has been minimal or major in your boundary violation, you owe it to yourself to lead yourself through it and these three steps will help you make important progress.
Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?
Each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic. This week your challenge is to spend time clarifying your values.
- Record your top ten beliefs about what matters. What we value are known as our values.
- Choose two people you would tell if a harassment situation arises or boundary is crossed. Having a plan about who you would notify in the event something happened, makes it easier to address at the time of the incident.
You’re on your way and you’re ready to become that better leader by Monday.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.