Yours, Mine, and Ours: Facilitating Conversations about Boundaries in the Workplace

by Anna Bentley

In my role in the Office of Academic Support, I supervise the ASC Strategists and work with a team of pro staff to deliver weekly professional development meetings to our Academic Coaches, Strategists, and Outreach Specialists, who are student employees. When I talked to my colleagues and student employees about the areas in which they wanted to grow professionally, many of their ideas essentially involved developing skills to better communicate boundaries with students who use our services, their colleagues, and their supervisor.

I came across an awesome book, Unf*ck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships Through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs by Dr. Faith G. Harper and was immediately inspired to design professional development meetings around the concepts and strategies in this book. Having clear boundaries in the workplace can give everyone a better experience working together by clarifying our responsibilities and scope of our work, increasing self-awareness, helping prevent burnout, cultivating relationships and mutual respect, repairing relationships after rupture, and more.

I designed two meetings for our student staff. The first centered around defining boundaries where we discussed what boundaries are, the types of boundaries, how boundaries are defined, and an invitation to reflect on what we want instead of what we don’t want. The second meeting focused on communicating boundaries, including communication styles, how to express what we want, and communicating through conflict. In both meetings, there were opportunities for individual reflection, small group conversation, and group sharing so participants could learn from each other.

After all of our weekly meetings, we collect evaluation forms to get a sense of what our student employees thought of the topic and activities. When asked “What information and/or strategies from today’s meeting will you use in your role?”, half of the participants said they will use the BIFF method (brief, informative, friendly, and firm) and avoid the 3 A’s (advice, admonishments, apologies) when they are trying to communicate through conflict. Several participants also mentioned how they appreciated example language for communicating clear boundaries. In a separate post-term survey, most participants listed one or both of the meetings about boundaries as one of their top 3 meetings of the term.

If any of this sparks your interest, I’m sharing both agendas with you in case you want to check them out and adapt them for your own teams. Or maybe you are curious and want to look at the prompts for your own personal and professional development. All the concepts and many of the prompts are taken directly from the book I’ve linked above, which also has an accompanying workbook. I hope you enjoy! And if you have any feedback or want to chat more about this topic, I’d love to hear from you at

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