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Setting Boundaries at Work Without Quiet Quitting

setting boundaries at work

Is all this talk about quiet quitting inspiring you to set your own boundaries at work? And does that prospect fill you with guilt? You’re not alone. Many employees overwork, but to what end? A Boston University study found that managers couldn’t distinguish between employees who worked 80-hour weeks and those who just pretended to. Another study found that people who worked 70 hours a week hardly accomplished more than those who worked 56 hours per week. Study after study links overworking with mental and physical health problems that can devastate productivity, too.

We recently wrote about the topic from employers’ perspectives. Our point for employers: Quiet quitting, in general, can be damaging. But when it’s framed by reducing overworking—when it becomes more about employee engagement and allowing workers to set boundaries at work—it can be beneficial for all.

“The most interesting part about [quiet quitting for me] is nothing’s changed,” 41-year-old Clayton Farris explains in a TikTok video, one of the thousands now shared on the platform. “I still work just as hard. I still get just as much accomplished. I just don’t stress and internally rip myself to shreds.”

“Those are the quiet quitters you can work with. They simply crave work-life balance and a reduction of work-induced anxiety, which can be a positive thing for everyone,” says The HT Group Founder and CEO Mark Turpin. “The flip side is quiet quitting that involves apathy towards a job WHILE you’re clocked in. That’s a much bigger problem to fix.”

So how do you work towards setting these boundaries at work? You could start by asking yourself the following question:


Am I getting the job done? “Employers provide position descriptions to employees so that all parties agree upon work requirements. Completing the tasks directly stated in the position description is, in fact, doing the job,” addiction recovery and mental health expert Constance Scharff Ph.D. points out. If your quiet quitting is getting in the way of you doing the job that was assigned to you or adhering to workplace rules and regulations, game over. That’s not setting boundaries at work; that’s possible grounds for dismissal.

Am I adding to my workload intelligently and compassionately? Now, will extra tasks come up? Of course, they will. If your coworker needs help carrying heavy boxes to their office, you’d help, right? Or if an extra project drops onto your department’s lap and you’re asked to help, you’d consider it. “Courtesy, team spirit, respect, and kindness can all be part of boundary setting in the workplace,” Scharff adds. She recommends determining what you want from your job and choosing how to go above and beyond in ways that don’t sacrifice those desires.

Am I honest with myself about my own demoralizing habits? “We often feel as though we cannot be of service to others without in some way sacrificing ourselves, our spare time, our health, our relationships. More importantly, we tend to see these sacrifices as admirable. This can create problems,” workplace mental health advocate Glenn Nicholson says. Can you relate? You and your employer share responsibility for the absence of boundaries at work. Who is at fault if you give an inch and they take a mile? Start by looking in the mirror: Are you near burnout but realize that, over the years, you have willingly forgone vacation time, routinely worked extra hours, and put yourself last? Can you take steps to correct that behavior?

Am I open with my employer? Once you’re honest with yourself, it’s time to be honest with others. How are your manager check-ins? What manager check-ins, you ask? There’s your problem. Speaking to your supervisor about what isn’t working and what your personal goals are can make all the difference, Jim Harter, Chief Scientist for Gallup’s workplace management practice, tells TIME. Try having those meaningful conversations often to set up a system of accountability, he adds. Melissa Dexter, the chief people officer of Uprise Health, agrees, adding that you need to be clear about the boundaries at work that you need. “If you’re a valuable employee, leaders want to keep you on their team and should be open to listening to your feedback on what you need to keep balance in your life,” she adds.

Is the writing on the wall? What if you’ve had those conversations and nothing has changed? Or, worse yet, your efforts were met with negativity or shaming? Maybe you’ve been heard, but there’s still too much work to be done at too little compensation to change your situation. It’s possible that the job just isn’t the right fit. But before moving on, take the steps above and consider some of the other tips we’ve shared in the past on quitting a new job or advocating for yourself. Many employers have expanded their mental health and well-being benefits lately—as well as how they handle worker burnout. They perhaps just haven’t done a great job communicating it.

So, don’t think of improving your situation as quiet quitting. Setting boundaries at work can be a more mutually beneficial way to frame taking back your control in—and hopefully your passion and love for—your job.