What is a ‘boundary’? A boundary is as a property line with the obvious sign, “No Trespassing.” My land ends here and yours starts from there. One may wish boundaries in relationships were that clear.

Boundaries are very subtle and invisible. So they are confusing. Also, the definition of it varies depending on the person who interprets it. They are very contextual as well. If the situation is not recorded simultaneously, the interpretation could be different between a participant engaged in the context and a third person who listens to the participant’s descriptions only. Although they seem very complex for a lot of us to explain at times, they surely exist as distinctive areas at work and they certainly function in work relationships by setting the limits of one another’s behaviors, speech acts, and body language.

Violation and invasion occur when participants in the context do not share agreed terms in setting their boundaries. Usually, those agreed terms are stipulated in the code of conduct. Even then, all specific situations are not included in it so only the participants can start a conversation to set up the boundaries and to agree in each working relationship. That is how it works in reality according to my personal experiences. And there isn’t a course teaching how to do it in Toronto yet.

Boundary setting is one of the most crucial skills at work one should be equipped with at North American workplaces yet many ESL instructors cross those boundaries and create tension in relationships at work. And they WASTE their energy paying too much attention to that tension. It is the counter effect of the ‘close attention’ at work that one can use to be more productive to help themselves and others. Examples of boundary invasion and the suggested steps to establish them in a working relationship will be discussed further.


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