Check Your Boundaries
As a dental leader, maintaining professional boundaries is crucial for your success. I’m not talking about abiding by a code of ethics - that’s a given. I’m referring to the more ambiguous lines of authority that get crossed, the “fuzzy” boundaries that can derail your team and your practice. In essence, it’s the way you communicate - verbally and nonverbally - with your employees.
The definition of a boundary is the ability to know where you end and where another person begins. When we talk about needing space, setting limits, determining acceptable behavior, or creating a sense of autonomy, we are really talking about boundaries. Boundaries protect us. They help promote healthy relationships. They minimize conflict. Boundaries in the workplace are designed to create a healthy and productive environment.
Boundaries allow for appropriate connections between you and your employees. Being “friendly” is not the same as being “friends.” Yet our lifestyles have become so casual that people have lapsed in their ability to maintain constructive professional boundaries. Remember - mixing business with your personal life can cause serious problems.
There is a general misconception that having good boundaries will distance you from others. Certainly there needs to be some flexibility with your boundaries, so consider a continuum of professional behavior. At the left end of the scale is under-involvement, which looks like a lack of engagement, disinterest, and even neglect. Contrast that with the right end of the continuum that is represented by over-involvement, which includes socializing outside work, “friending” your employees on Facebook, and the like.
Aside from obvious ethical principles, there is no clear-cut rule about boundaries because there are many variables. Your leadership style, your employees' personalities, your practice culture, all factor into how you interact with one another. But one general principle does apply - your team needs a leader first and a friend second. Here are some common areas in your work life to review to ensure that you are maintaining constructive boundaries, for your sake and the sake of your team.
Playing the “Hero” Role
Bending Practice Policies
Too Much Self-Disclosure
Lack of Clear Job Responsibilities
Not Respecting Physical Boundaries
There’s an old proverb that says: Good fences make good neighbors. Mind your “fences” and carefully balance the tricky tight rope of workplace boundaries.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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