Courage to set boundaries

In February 2014, my boss asked me to take over a programming task of a colleague who would leave our team for the duration of half a year. I had been warned before by the colleague that my boss would ask me.

And my colleague also let me know that the coding was partly object-oriented . That would make the maintenance of the coding much harder because it would be more difficult to understand. Whereas old-fashioned procedural computer programming can be read like a how-to-bake-a-cake recipe, object-oriented coding is more generic and cannot be understood that easily.

There was a bit of a backstory to this request of my boss to take over the coding of my colleague. The first thing was that I was disappointed about how my engagement at work had not been appreciated the way I hoped it would be appreciated. I wrote about it here.

The second thing was that in 2012 my boss had said he could recommend me for a promotion when I would take care of a certain task in 2013. But even though I did the task, there was no mention that I would be promoted in early 2014.

So, when my boss approached me in Feburary 2014 with the request to take over the rather challenging coding of a colleague, I declined. I said it would be too difficult for me to handle because it was partly object-oriented and we had only one day for the handover of a large amount of coding which is too little time, in my opinion.

My boss would not give up easily. He tried to convince me  to agree to do the maintenance of the coding. I should be more flexible. And there would be chances for me. And I should be engaged in development.

But I still refused.

In the end, he warned me that once I was promoted, he would more often demand such tasks of me. And if I would refuse them, then I would be graded as “does not fulfill expectations”.

That was when I lost my calm.

“This promotion is not gonna happen anyway,” I blurted out. “It is just a carrot, forever dangling in front of my nose in order to keep me motivated.”

Now he was upset. He said that this was an allegation and not true. He surely was planning to recommend me for a promotion – at some point in time in the future.

“I have learned to give up the hope that a promotion will ever happen,” I said. “And I will take over only such tasks that will not put me under undue stress. Taking over the maintenance of the colleague’s coding would be too stressful for me. Therefore, I will not do it.”

Finally, he gave in and let me off the hook. He said he would find someone else who would do the task.

***

That encounter was important because I stood up for myself and spoke up courageously and did not let myself be exploited anymore.

I want to note that setting boundaries was not something that has changed for me with awakening. I think I was never the typical people pleaser. I had quite a few situations in my life where I needed to set boundaries even at the cost of upsetting others.  But, still, I bring this story up here, first, because I would like to share how the events at work unfolded. And second, because I want to let you know that having my courage tested was part of the integration part of my spiritual journey.

In the spiritual teachings there is often the talk of ‘no resistance’. But what does that mean? Should we do everything someone asks of us?

I think it does not mean to become a doormat to other people’s wishes. But it is more about having no resistance to one’s inner guidance. It is not about following the boss at work but the boss inside (higher self).

I had come to know how important it is to be in inner peace. And now I had a clear direction, i.e. to remain in inner peace. And doing a task which likely would be very stressful (and felt nearly impossible for me to tackle) just for the sake of pleasing my boss or getting a promotion – this would distract me from the inner peace. And therefore, I rejected it.

About a month after this conversation with my boss, I read a German newspaper article that was like a thumbs up from the universe. A young woman had worked in an internship at a supermarket in Germany for several months. But even though she was doing all the work of a normal employee, she did not get paid at all.

Every month she was told that she needed to work for just one more month without pay – and then they would offer her a position as an apprentice.  The poor woman followed the carrot in front of her nose for eight months always hoping to become an apprentice.

Until she finally woke up and said “Enough!” and filed a lawsuit against the supermarket. She won the case.

I felt like this story was a metaphor for how I had handled work for a long time and that it was time now to say “Enough!”.

***

This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey (table of contents).

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4 thoughts on “Courage to set boundaries

  1. Thanks Karin for sharing this. I also am good most of the time at setting boundaries and saying no. This is why I have had issues at many workplaces. The management usually prefers people with no backbone who will do whatever they are told and keep their mouths shut. Maybe it is more important for me ( and others) to be true to oneself and not try to be someone else to “get ahead”.

    Something to chew on , spiritually. <3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. Good to hear you are used to setting boundaries. I agree that the side effects may be that people get upset, and this can be challenging in the workplace (in the US probably more than here in Germany), and also in the family or other close relationships.
      Yet it is important to be true to oneself.
      Hugs,
      Karin

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You nailed it when you said, “it is more about having no resistance to one’s inner guidance.” That really hit home for me. I’ve been a doormat far too much in my life, until a few healing sessions changed me dramatically. I love that you stuck to your guns!

    Liked by 1 person

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