Tell me if I’m wrong- you’re slouched over reading this, tired of looking at screens and exhausted from going above and beyond at work. Today’s the day, you think, to FINALLY start setting boundaries at work.

No more taking on more tasks than you can handle to show you’re a team player.

The end of feeling guilty for saying no to overtime.

No more texting your friends at the last minute to cancel because you sat down on the couch after work and can’t get up.

Today is the day you set healthy boundaries at work and put YOU first.

However, if this is your first time starting to say no at work, there are a few pitfalls you need to avoid!

In this blog post, I’ll cover the 7 deadly sins of setting boundaries at work (and what to do instead).

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Setting Boundaries At Work Mistake #1 : Over-apologizing

Think about the last time you said no to somebody at work.

Did you apologize a lot?

Did you spend the next few days feeling sorry for them because you didn’t do exactly what they wanted?

Over-apologizing is the first deadly sin of workplace boundaries.

Instead of saying sorry for prioritizing yourself, try using some of these phrases instead:

  • “Thank you for understanding, I can help next time”
  • “You have made my life so much easier this week by understanding!”
  • “I’m making sure I don’t burn out this week, I can help with X but not Y”
  • “I wish I could be more helpful, please feel free to message me if you still need more help next week” (if you actually can help next week!)

Using phrases like this instead of just over-apologizing will help the other person understand that you are not just being difficult and maybe even improve your workplace relationships.

typing on laptop setting boundaries at work
Photo by Anna Shvets on

Setting boundaries at work mistake #2 Over-explaining

Picture this:

Someone asks you to work this weekend and you say

“Aw yeah I mean I guess, have you asked Jenna? I was kind of planning on doing something but I guess I could if no one else can, yeah OK sure, I’ll put my hand up”.

Now imagine someone asking you where you don’t over-explain:

“No sorry!”

And then you both move on with your day.

Over-explaining is a classic people pleaser behaviour where you try not to hurt peoples’ feelings.

In general, unless they ask for more information, most people just want an answer: yes or no. Just respond with your answer (minus the explanation for your answer) and offer more only if prompted. You’ll save both parties a lot of energy.

Remember: Don’t use more words than you need to, (and get friendly with a full stop).

#3 Not changing your mind

Something I head clients say all the time is

“Lucy, I already said yes, I don’t want to do it, I don’t know what to do!”

Well, you just told me that you “don’t want to do it”. What that tells me is that you DO know what to do, you are just scared to say what you are thinking.

In theory, you wouldn’t say yes to things you don’t want to do.

but if you HAVE already agreed to something and then decide that you DON”t want it, you need to be brave enough to change your mind.

Will people get annoyed?

Are there going to be consequences?

I mean yeah, potentially.

But the negative consequences of consistently choosing to ignore your needs are much higher.

Get comfortable with changing your mind (even if it makes other people unhappy at first) and then learn how to say no the first time.

young annoyed female worker on laptop setting boundaries at work
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

#4 Trying to control others

When you start setting boundaries, you will probably start to notice toxic, controlling behaviour from people around you.

Unfortunately, you can’t change them!

For example, if you have a boss that always expects you to stay late or tells you to do things without asking for your input, it is tempting to point out all the things they are doing that annoy you.

However, you can only focus on yourself and the way you respond to situations.

I had a client in this exact situation. Her boss would always ask them to work at the last minute, and she never felt appreciated for it.

She had been working there for years, and knew that management would never change.

Rather than quit, get angry, or point out all the things they were doing wrong, she simply told them in very clear terms that if they wanted her to work an extra shift, they had to ask her at least 3 days in advance.

Instead of trying to change the managers, she set the standard for how she expected to be treated!

#5 Complaining

More specifically, complaining without actually doing anything about your current situation.

There is a big difference between talking something out to come up with a solution and whinging without any intention of being brave and standing up for yourself.

Settign boundaries at work is the easiest way to increase your energy and drastically improve your quality of life.

The average adult will spend one third of their life at work. Are you going to complain that it is shitty and people push you around, or are you going to stand up for yourself and your mental health?

#6 Ignoring signs of burnout

Being tired is just part of being a working adult right? Who even has energy these days?

Here’s the truth: ignoring signs of burnout is a sure fire way to get ACTUAL burnout.

If that happens, you will probably have to take time off work, stop going to social events, and end up forcing yourself to come first.

It is MUCH easier to identify the beginning signs of burn out and make time for self-care before that actually happens.

For people pleasers that are not good at setting boundaries at work, some of the common signs of burnout are:

  • Feeling exhausted even when you get enough sleep
  • No longer enjoying your work (or things outside of work)
  • Cynicism or resenting your job
  • Feeling like you are no longer good at your job
woman sleeping on laptop because of burnout
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

#7 Letting people make you feel guilty

Here is the truth I need you to remember: the only people who will get mad when you set boundaries are the people who benefit form you having none.

So when you start saying no, giving yourself longer deadlines, and not coming into work on the weekends to be a “team player”, some people will try to make you feel guilty.

However, YOU are the only one that has to deal with the consequences of your decisions.

In the overall, long-term view of your life, you cannot base your decisions on something as temporary as a job. You need to come first, always. And you can’t let anybody make you feel guilty for prioritising your own mental health by setting boundaries at work.

Which of these deadly mistakes do you need to change when you are setting boundaries at work?

If you know that being tired all the time isn’t normal, if you know that you don’t have to put up with shitty jobs because “that’s just life” then it’s time to join the free 30 Day Work Life Balance Challenge!