Case Study

Setting clear boundaries

Case Study

Setting clear boundaries

by Ivana Bozicevic

Slowing down and setting boundaries makes us more successful in the long run

Coaching helps us remove barriers we put in front of ourselves

Almost all of my clients have jobs that require them to be reachable most of their waking hours. Or, even if it is not a requirement, they feel more in control and on top of their game when, through their emails and phone calls, they know what is going on.

Their loyalty, hard work and dedication is admirable. It is also overwhelming, demanding and stressful. In the last year, more and more coaching sponsors and human resources representatives are asking to include in the coaching goals a topic of setting clear boundaries and achieving work-life balance. They noticed a rise in burn-out related absenteeism, and a loss of motivation and passion for their work.

My client, Annika, works as a chief financial officer for a company covering a large in Europe. One of her coaching goals last year was to set clear boundaries on how many extra hours she will work every day. Her evenings, sometimes nights and her weekends were spent mostly in front of the computer, catching up on emails, projects and goals she just couldn’t do in the office because, in her role, she would often get asked for support, help and input by her team, her peers and the Board. She is extremely productive and focused, yet, it seemed there was always another assignment waiting for her undivided attention.

She realised her private life was suffering, she didn’t have time for running (which she very much enjoyed) and would eat when she would find time. Lack of sleep became the norm. Annika also believed that if she said ‘no’ to certain requirements she would be considered not dedicated enough. She wanted to be praised and respected.
She had moral support from her boss and human resources to set clear boundaries, however, the reality of the job was that workload was always high. In our coaching sessions, Annika would often express that she knew she had to change otherwise she would reach her breaking point. I still remember her saying: ‘Whatever I do, I cannot switch off the phone and emails. They need me to be accessible.’

We approached things slowly and gently as the rest of Annika’s life seemed fast and demanding. Rather than trying to find the ways to switch off work, we took small steps towards her deciding what she wants to do for herself in her spare time, when she had some. Running, reading and spending time in the nature and with friends were her favourites. She would prioritise those, as much as she would prioritise important meetings and presentations.

We had been focusing on other coaching goals when a few months later, Annika told me: ‘I didn’t look at my e-mails at all during the whole weekend. And nothing went wrong.’ We both laughed when I reminded her that just 4-5 months before, she believed that was impossible.

She is still a high performer, dedicated to her role and achieving great results. She is also much happier, healthier and calmer person overall. Clear win-win.