The trouble with good intentions is that not everyone shares yours. So as much as you intended to tackle all your to-do’s, sometimes it doesn’t happen because your client calls with a last-minute emergency or your colleague calls for no other reason than to chit-chat.
Common courtesy has you humoring these boundary pushers as you watch the clock ticking down on your day with your to-do list left undone. How do you say “No” to these boundary bullies so you can accomplish your project goals? Try these answers to the common boundary challenges.
Answers to Common Boundary Challenges
#1: The Coffee Chit-Chatter – We all have them in our lives – perhaps it’s your mother, perhaps it your colleague. The Coffee Chit-Chatters love to pour themselves a cup of coffee and call you to keep them company. Even worse, they love to invite you for coffee to chit-chat under the guise of getting together to talk business.
Be clear when you are ‘On Duty’ and unable to take social calls and either don’t answer (thank you Caller ID) or pick up and immediately excuse yourself from the call before the conversation starts. “I’d love to chat, but I’m right in the middle of something. Can I call you back?”
#2: Expert Advice Seeker – These boundary pushers not only waste your time, but expect you to share your expert advice for free. A tip-off that they are seeking free advice is when you hear the words, “I’d love to pick your brain.”
Draw the line between what you share and what you charge for and stand firm. If your Expert Advice Seeker wants a freebie, direct them to articles on your web site so they don’t waste your time. If they insist on talking with you, ask what you can help them with quickly and tell them that if they need more help, they can book a (paid) consultation or coaching session.
#3: Sandbox Rule Breaker – Sandbox Rule Breakers are those who insist on being the exception to whatever rules you put in place for your business. If you only meet via telephone or videoconferences, they insist on booking face-to-face meetings.
The key with these boundary pushers is to never make exceptions. As soon as you do, they insist on getting the special treatment all the time. If they argue with the rule, politely explain why you put that rule in place and leave it to them to decide if they want to play in your sandbox (by the rules) or not.
#4: Scope Creeper – These boundary pushers are tricky to deal with because they are paying you for your time. The best defense against Scope Creepers is a good offense, meaning clearly outline what is and isn’t included in the scope of work upfront.
When the project starts to creep beyond the agreed upon scope, let them know before doing any of the additional work and propose an adjusted budget. Even if you opt to do it as a customer service perk, it’s a good idea to make it clear that it is a separate service.
#5: Emergency Alarmist – Emergency Alarmists are the chronically disorganized, always working in panic mode clients who have more than their fair share of last-minute crisis situations. The trouble is they consider them YOUR problem.
Implement a ‘Rush Fee’ for emergency requests. If they want to push the 9-1-1 button, let them know that you charge an additional fee for rush projects. Let first-time offenders go with a warning, but still show the rebated rush charge on the invoice so they know for next time.
#6: 24/7 Work-aholic – These boundary pushers work day and night and expect that you will be there in-step with them whenever they get a flash of brilliance. Two simple words for dealing with them: office hours. Make your office hours clear and stick with them!
If they call, email, text, or otherwise electronically stalk you outside your designated office hours, ignore it and respond when you get back to your office. If you choose to respond during a midnight email catch-up, save your response as a draft and hit send the next day.
#7 Hotline Abuser – The Hotline Abuser is the friend, relative or client who uses your cell phone as their anytime personal hotline to you. The best way to prevent abuse is to not give the number out.
If you must give it out, be clear about its usage upfront by saying, “This number is only for family emergencies. Please only use it this one time.” If the hotline abuse continues, let them know that you only take business calls on your office line and your cell phone is for personal use.
When getting tough with your boundaries, it’s important to remember why you are implemented them in the first place: to protect your time. By enforcing the rules, you are protecting your ability to focus and be productive – the key to maintaining your forward momentum!