February 27, 2013

Boundaries in the Workplace

From when I first started training as a social worker, all the way to now, I've always had a pull towards the importance of boundaries in my work, whether I mean in helping people with them, or working on them myself. As a social worker, boundaries are hugely important in so many ways. We work with people whose lives are in shambles sometimes and we can't own that in any major way, or we're screwed. We're asked to do more than we can handle and if we give in a little, again, we're screwed. We have an obligation to have an awareness of our boundaries, as well as our boundary issues, IMO.

I can't say the amount of times this has been a focus on my therapy with someone else, but for myself, it's an ongoing issue. Sometimes the boundary issues are very clear. Someone is rude and annoying and you set the boundary that you want them to retrain from speaking to you like that. Simple (haha, really?). Others are not so easy. For example, when someone is rude, they're rarely rude to just one person, right? So say I set my boundaries with this person, but my friend and co-worker, Fred, doesn't. My day after day, my friend is annoyed and offended by this person and who do they talk to about their annoyance? Their friend (me), of course. That is just simply a more difficult boundary to set, in my experience.

However, it must be done. Sigh.



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6 comments:

spldbch said...

When you think about boundaries as a social worker, you don't immediately think about boundaries with co-workers. However, you make a good point; they need to be established.

Social Worker Job Guide said...

Hi, Anti-Social Worker!

This line stuck with me: "For example, when someone is rude, they're rarely rude to just one person, right? So say I set my boundaries with this person, but my friend and co-worker, Fred, doesn't." This is one of those cornerstones of the therapeutic relationship, in that the way the client reacts with the therapist is the way s/he reacts to the world. I think your friend Fred (and I'm sure he's a great social worker!) is doing his client a disservice by not calling out rude behavior. That's probably one of the reasons the client is in therapy in the first place!

So, I'm with you---boundaries are IMPORTANT.

Kara T. said...

As a Freshman year Social Work major, I am already becoming aware to the boundaries needed in this profession. I know that Social Work is the major for me because I have an incredible amount of passion towards it, however that does not mean it will be easy. I am a very compassionate individual and I will need to learn boundaries and how to not make my client's problems, my problems. Your line "We work with people whose lives are in shambles sometimes and we can't own that in any major way, or we're screwed" makes so much sense to me. Yes we are working with people who need help, but we need to be careful to not let their personal issues seep through into our personal lives. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that this is the most difficult part of the profession. Nevertheless, I can't wait for the future.

Jessica said...

I definitely am relating to this particular post. I work in a domestic violence shelter and a major problem we have is with residents "staff splitting" where they will align with one staff member and almost pit them against each other. For instance, one resident will tell me "Well, Jen let's me smoke outside after curfew" and it is up to me to maintain my boundary and the rules of our program, otherwise it will totally come back to slap me in the face when they come up to me at my next shift and push the boundary a little more or more residents come to expect the same. It is very difficult- and very frustrating- to work hard to maintain boundaries when other co-workers do not and in the end, it really serves to no one's benefit. Great post.

tmartinez said...

I am currently a college student and I am started to make a more precise career path and the social work field is something that I really attracts me, even though I know it will not be easy. Thank you for sharing, this brings new insight to the social work field.

Jane Wheeler said...

I think social work is one of those professions where an invisible boundary may be difficult to establish since it involves going deep into the roots of someone's problems. I think its about becoming more understanding of other human beings and their feelings. Anyways I also came across this article to motivate aspiring social workers: http://www.gradschools.com/search-programs/social-work-msw/social-worker-salary

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