Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Tami Parker. Hey Tami. Thanks for being here.
Tami: Thank you for having me. I always have fun talking to you, Mary.
Mary: Oh, awesome. All right, Tami do you wanna introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about you and your business.
Tami: Yeah, I am Tami Parker. I’m the CEO of Unicycle Business Consulting. We do offsite human resources support for small businesses. Right now we support 29 businesses in northern Colorado and a few outta state. And we are full service HR department. If an HR department does it, we do it.
Mary: Awesome. Awesome. And let’s talk about boundaries. In your work in the HR realm, how do boundaries tend to come up?
Tami: You know, I think people are afraid of boundaries at work. Mm-hmm. I think that they feel like if I set a boundary, this could hurt my career, I could be fired. And because I support small businesses, I think it comes up more. In big businesses, there’s more real clarity. There’s more like every little task in a corporation is assigned to somebody in writing. And in small business, that’s not necessarily true. Role clarity is one of my little soap boxes of, you know, we need to provide clear expectations for the employee, but it supports the business owner as well. I also have business owners struggle with their own boundaries a lot. You know, I’m like, why are you doing that? I ask that question a lot, but I do think employees and certainly employees in small business might worry more about setting work-life boundaries for themselves. And what does that look like, you know?
Mary: Yeah. So Tami and I had the opportunity to give a talk together about work life boundaries and how to write a contract for yourself so that you could be the best boss for yourself. And that was super fun. And we talked about, we talked about things like what are your working hours and when do you not work and what are your job responsibilities and what are not your responsibilities, and what role do you have in your company? And what things do you assign out? And it was super fun and I was surprised and I still am surprised when I work with clients that sometimes they don’t have clear answers to those questions.
Tami: Right. Yeah. And there’s also energetic boundaries. I like to think I’m very good at boundaries, and that doesn’t mean that I’m perfect at boundaries, right? But one of my boundaries that I think about is how much I’ll allow somebody to upset me. And I think that would be helpful in lots of small businesses, like, and, and I have to do it with clients, right. If somebody’s, you know, hair is on fire, I wanna be there to support them, but I don’t have to let it ruin my weekend. And I can still be supportive and still get them over the hump, but you know, it really is best for me and my business and the other clients if I don’t let it take that emotional hold on me. So that’s just one of many. Right? And, and I coach a lot of employees in small businesses. Like, why are you letting this upset you so much? I appreciate how engaged you are, but don’t let this ruin your weekend too. You know, so,
Mary: yes. Yeah. Yes, yes. One of the tools that I offer folks that I coach who are being impacted by the struggle of the coworker is kind of that container, right? So let’s set a container around that. And I had someone ask me last week, so if she is really upset and she’s in struggle, you know, I wanna be compassionate and I have work to do. And so how can I, how can I do both? Like I can’t sit and listen all day to her complain or cry or, you know, but I do wanna show up for her. So how do we do that? And we kind of landed on setting a time container around that, right? Mm-hmm. That she was like, okay, so I’ve got 10 minutes before my next meeting, and I, I’ve noticed that you’re feeling off today. Can we just check in for the next 10 minutes? And I wanna be here for you, right? And having that container at the beginning of this is how much time I’m able to talk to you about this and I really do care. And you know, how you’re feeling is important to me, and I’m here with you. I’m gonna sit with you for the next 10 minutes kind of thing, right? And not that that’s always exactly the right solution, but in that case it was. So the idea of boundaries at work, I hear some things about like, well, I can’t set a boundary because it’s my boss.
Tami: Yes, we can.
Mary: Tell me more about that. Can we set boundaries with our boss?
Tami: Absolutely we can set a boundary with our boss. And it’s the same as as setting a boundary with a family member, frankly. It, it’s really just the same. I coach people pretty regularly on how to say no to your boss. And, you know, what can that look like? You know, first be intentional about the conversation. Don’t just go wing it. Again, just like my friend Mary Brown would say, what are you willing to do and what are you not willing to do and why? And often coaching to the why, whether you’re coaching an employee about why we do a procedure, or whether you’re coaching your boss, you’re coaching up, I’ve actually given a class on coaching up before. Explain the why. This is how this impacts me, and I, I need to stop doing this thing outside of hours, whatever the thing is. But boss, I really care about the business. I really wanna, you know, support you. How can we find a way for me to support you that’s not after 6:00 PM, or whatever, you know, what can I do during the day so that nothing has to happen at 6:00 PM.
And then my next question would be, what are the must haves and what are the nice to haves about that situation? Cuz everything’s not a must have, boss. And if you say to the boss, okay, you know, you’ve got this big project on me, you’ve given me two days to get it done, and my kid has a recital tonight. I cannot work late tonight. So boss, one, I need to let you know I’m dropping a bunch of obligations for the next two days so I can meet your deadline. Is that okay with you? And then if it’s not, then who else is gonna take those on? Boss, you gotta prioritize. Do I do this big project in two days or do I do my regular commitments for two days because my daughter has a recital and I will not be working late today. So boss, I need you to prioritize with me. Help me set my course. What’s the must have, what’s the nice to have? And on both the project and the, my regular job, right? Now if it’s our regular job and it’s all must have because I don’t know, we’re a bookkeeper and blah, blah, blah, then we can talk about organization, style and creating a plan for our day and being efficient if it’s all of our regular duties. But if you’re regular duties are regularly working outside of hours, then after we try and do an organization piece, like, let’s set a calendar. Let’s calendar this project time. Let’s do this, right? What you can do that’s under your control, and if you’ve done everything that you can think of to organize yourself better, then we need to talk to the boss. Cause no job should be expecting you to work 50, 60 hours a week, all of that stuff. You’ll burn out. They’ll lose you. And that’s bad for the business.
Mary: Right. Right. And that kind of brings up my favorite reason why we need boundaries in business, so we don’t burn out. Yes. So we don’t burn out. I mean, the cost of turnover. The cost of turnover. It’s so expensive and I think if we have clear boundaries, if we have clear this is my role, this is what’s expected of me. And we have communication, we are having regular clarifying communication about that.
Tami: Yes, please.
Mary: If we’re talking about, like if we’re talking, Hey, I thought this and I felt this way, and let’s make a request, or let’s have a plan to move forward. Conversations like clear and kind conversations. We would save so much money, time, energy.
Tami: So one of my favorite phrases is clarity is kind. And that goes for talking to your boss as well. You know, plan what you wanna say. Be clear about what the obstacles are or you know, sometimes bosses don’t know how long it takes to do that task or the physicality that ends up being needed to get that done. So, you know, I do recommend if an employee’s going in to have a clarity conversation with their boss and set a boundary that they come with a solution as well. Now that’s easier to say than do some days, right? But a boss won’t know what to do if you go, so what should I do about that? I mean, the bosses, you’ve had time to think about it, the bosses just had 10 seconds to think about this, right? So if you come with a solution, of what you would like that to look like or, here’s what I’m thinking, but I wanna run it by you boss, that’s a different conversation than walking in and going, I just can’t do this. Right?
Mary: Yes. And my suggestion would be actually that we have a boundary conversation that includes, Hey, this thing that’s happening is not okay for me. This is why, and ask like, this is what I would like to see differently and that might be a solution, but this is what I’d like to have happen differently. And I think the suggestion for solution needs to be something that I can and will and I’m willing to do differently.
Mary: Right? So I’m not okay with working past 6:00 PM and so the solution is you give me less work.
Tami: The solution is we never balance the books in the business. I’m your bookkeeper.
Mary: Right? Like the solution is, or I can’t accomplish the work in the amount of time that I have, so the solution is give me less work, right? I mean, it needs to be something that I can and will do as the person making the request.
Tami: Yes. Now I wanna be clear in that you don’t have to solve every problem in this business to start that conversation. But I would like for you to have some ideas of how to manage it differently and get permission if that’s okay. You know, Hey, this is what I’m thinking. Does that sound okay to you? And it can be taking something off a list. But maybe it’s not, don’t get me wrong, the work has to be done. So who does it if it’s not you? Right. And is it a must have or a nice to have? A must haves cannot… we have to do our taxes at the end of the year, so our books have to be reconciled, you know? So it can’t be a, something that’s fundamental to your job. Right? Yeah. But you’d be surprised what small business owners will say yes to if you just ask and that you, if you come at it with clarity and you know, not when you’re pissed off. Not when you’re furious. Come home, wipe that energy off you, make a plan for a conversation. Ask for a meeting. That kind of thing.
Mary: Awesome. I love that. So in the employer employee relationship, we’ve talked a little bit about some boundary conversations there. What about amongst a team? Boundaries as a team in a business setting, what kind of boundary issues do you see come up there?
Tami: So many. So one of my regular soapbox things, like I could talk all day about the, is the concept of internal customer care. And what that is about is we all know great customer service when we receive it as a customer, like in a restaurant or at a retail place, or I don’t know, buying a car. You know, we have experiences where we want to be treated a certain way because we’re the customer. What if in a team environment, we treated each other that way? So, even just the intention of everybody that I work with is my internal customer because my job impacts their job. And if I do my job well and I focus on what I can concentrate on and control myself first, that’s gonna make my life, my work life easier. And if I do my job well and on in a timely manner, because somebody’s deadlines might impact another person’s deadlines, right? I’m serving them well as if they’re a customer. So I love to foster the feeling of internal customer care in a team and especially in small business and in small teams, everybody’s lives collide so much. And you know, a bad team atmosphere just drains you. It makes it a hard place to work and everything.
So every job in a business contributes to the bottom line, the success of the business, the customer’s experience, the external customer’s experience. But the idea of customer care is something we all understand and we know when we receive it. So, could I consider my coworkers my customer? And my boss, my customer, right? I am being paid financially to do these tasks. So he is my customer. If I were a waiter in a restaurant, that’s really clear. It’s the same in any job. And so, and by the way, you are his customer too. If your manager doesn’t do a good job, it sure as heck, you know, impacts your daily life. And he has customer expectations for you as well when we talk about that concept in a business. Customer care goes both ways. Yeah. So I love to talk about this concept and you know, especially in small teams, if somebody has something in their personal life happen where they’re going to not be as committed for weeks for I don’t know, a medical diagnosis or it can be my car broke down and I’m a single mom and I can’t afford a new transmission and I gotta figure that out today. What is good internal customer care in that environment? One it’s a boss who’s understanding who would rather give this person a day or two off, or talk with them about their needs and what do they need that we can do internally to retain them. And not spend another three to $5,000 replacing them over a transmission. And does that mean that that person’s coworkers, do they need to go, oh, they’ve got this meeting and that meeting, and I’ll take that meeting with the client and can we cancel this other internal meeting to make this so that Tammy doesn’t miss this big important meeting or you know, can she connect on Zoom and just listen? Because she really will need this information. We can’t cancel this meeting. You know, what does that look like as far as a team supporting that person today? Because I assure you that person will support you back, when it’s you.
Mary: Yeah. Yes. And sometimes we see resentment build in teams if there is not a choice in supporting someone who’s in struggle and if there’s an ongoing need to support someone who’s in struggle, right? So that’s where I see people will come to me and say, You know, this team member, you know, I just feel like they’re not pulling their weight. They’re always in crisis. I don’t have a choice. I have to do their work for them. And it makes more work for me and nobody’s asking me. Right? And so that makes sense that like if we feel like our agency is taken away by somebody else’s struggle then and we’re just doing it because we have to from a place of obligation and it feels terrible.
Tami: Absolutely. Right. And resentment gets big, right?
Mary: Yeah. And the resentment just grows. Mm-hmm. But if we are treating each other like a team, like we’re human beings that have human thoughts and feelings and needs, and we’re contributing to our work together in this way. And we’re valuable and I want this person on my team, they bring something valuable to our team. And I have an opportunity to make a choice about how I wanna show up. And how I treat this person and what kind of team member do I wanna be and what kind of team do I wanna be a part of? What am I willing to participate in? What am I not willing to participate in? When I can do it from a place of kindness of service, the way that I wanna be. Then I say, do it. If you can do it with kindness in your heart, if you can do it for a reason that resonates with you, because you care about the work you’re doing, because you care about the project you wanna complete because you care about this person on your team, then show up and do it. But if you can’t, if you can’t do it with kindness, if you’re only doing it from obligation, if you’re only doing it with resentment, then it’s gonna bite you eventually.
Tami: Yeah, absolutely. So I have two thoughts on what you just said. First, in a team environment, I would hope that the leaders would be good leaders and recognize that we can’t all just keep picking up the slack. Right? But I also want us to recognize as individuals that we really still have autonomy and agency. We have choices to make in every moment. And so when we slog along and we feel like we don’t have a choice and somebody’s work keeps getting put on us, we are kind of low on accountability in the fact that I actually do have agency here. I’ve chosen to go along for a long time, and I can choose to stop. I can go, this is not good for me, and have a recognition that way. Right? But your boss is not literally standing over you moving your fingers on the keyboard every minute of every day, right? So one, I would encourage an employee to own that agency. And to go talk to the boss and say, this person’s, you know, I realize they’re going through it. They’ve been out for six weeks straight for whatever reason. I cannot keep up with all the tasks I’m doing that is there in their role and the tasks that are in mine. We need to find some clarity on what I own until they get back. And what is my priorities? Again, nice to have them must haves. So we do have the agency, we just have to own it. And that’s hard and uncomfortable. And sometimes we’ve been that good person who’s just s slugged along for so long. And we feel like we can’t change that, but we really can.
The other thing is our mindset and mindsets we own, but they’re hard sometimes. They’re hard to change, right? So I often really just in a lot of situations, think about who do I want to be today and that takes that mindset off that other person’s life, whatever they got going on, it takes it off my boss. You said, you know, if you can do it, do it to be able to team in atmosphere, good internal customer care. This is gonna sound arrogant, but frankly I care more about what I think about myself than what other people think about me. And I get to choose who am I today. And today I, if I’m gonna be that person who does somebody else’s job or I don’t know, cleans up, vomit in the break room. Right? It’s about who I am in that moment. And, and my own view of my own work ethic. So those two things can sound contradictory. Yeah. Right?
Also something that I view that I want to be as a person is somebody who has boundaries. So when I set a tough boundary, I’m generally pretty okay with it because it’s who I am today. And I like to think that I, I have always provided excellent internal customer care and that’s honestly what got me promotions and all that in corporate America. Because I was one of those go-to people who would go, okay, what do we gotta do today? And we do it. So there’s both sides of that coin, but we need both really.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m thinking of a recent conversation that speaks to this and so my son, who is 18 he’s got a job and one night he like stayed out late working the closing shift. And then he was up again the next morning and I said, what’s going on? How come you’re kind of working those, you know those back to back shifts? And he said, well I have to because we’re short staffed, you know? And we’ve heard that. Everybody’s heard that, right?
Tami: Everybody’s heard that. Yeah.
Mary: Various places we’ve been in, we’ve worked in places that are short staffed and absolutely what it’s like to feel like we have to because they’re short staffed. And I said to him, do you wanna work those extra hours? And he was like, yeah, I kind of do. And I said, and I said, well then maybe you don’t have to, maybe you want to work that extra shift because, There’s an opportunity for you. Right? Right. And that’s the little bit of a shift in a mindset. Right? Where it’s like, oh, I have to, cuz we’re short staffed, you know? Right. But really what was going on for him was they were in the hiring process, which meant they had not yet hired someone and he got to pick up that extra shift. And he’s saving up to buy a vehicle. And so he wants the extra shift. He’s willing to, you know, close one night and then open the next morning because yeah, I mean, and it feels good to him. That’s when we don’t get resentment when we realize that we have agency.
Tami: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I see it a lot too with jobs in retail and food and places that have availability as well. Often people close down their availability a little here and a little there, and pretty soon they’re not making the hours, they’re not making the money that they need to make. And I’ve had, I can’t even tell you how many conversations around, well, I pulled your availability. You’re available three half days a week, and you know, and your boss is giving you the schedule in those three days. But did you realize you’re not available on any weekends anymore at all? And so, you know, often we need to look at our past, did we get ourselves in that situation sometimes? And in my experience, people often are available more than they think, than they want to be. Mm-hmm. Right? Yeah. So, yeah
Mary: Yeah. So there’s a little bit of a myth out there that maybe business owners may not want their teams or their employees to have boundaries. Can you help us dispel that myth a little bit?
Tami: They don’t get to decide if we have them or not. I kinda don’t care if they want. There are… I mean we, first of all, when we take a job, we chose right? No, nobody came into our home and put handcuffs on us and drug us to the office. We choose where we work. And we choose how we communicate with our boss, with our business owner, whoever that is, and we choose what we are willing to do and what we’re not willing to do. First of all, there are legal boundaries out there that are set at a federal and state level. So please feel free to check those out. You can go to my website and shoot me a question if you have questions about that. I do get random employee questions. You know, like, hey, ask an HR agent. I get those from strangers and I happily answer them.
Mary: What are some typical ones?
Tami: They’re typically around overtime. Salary versus hourly pay. A lot around sick time. And P T O and those kinds of things. . And, you know, like I get three weeks of vacation a year, but I can’t take more than five days of it at a time. Is that legal? That is legal. However, it’s not great. I’m an employer and I can talk you through how to have that conversation. Yeah, yeah. Nobody that works with me regularly does that because it’s, it’s just not good practice right? Now colorado has new laws going into effect. The F A M L I bill will require starting next January. That all employers in Colorado with five or more employees, that you have extended medical leave available to every employee in Colorado. So that’s gonna be a big deal. . So there are legal ones that you need to know about your Department of Labor and your employment posters in your workplace should be able to tell you all about those. So those are a lot that I get. Please know that some people think if they get called in on their day off, they have to go. You don’t, if you weren’t scheduled to work that day, you don’t have to say yes when they call you in legally and they can’t fire you for it.
Mary: Okay, so what are some reasons why an employer or business owner would want their team members and their employees to have boundaries?
Tami: Clarity goes both ways and is beneficial, right? As a business owner, if you have somebody who’s covering for somebody else and doing their job and working extra hours, and there’s some task that’s not in your wheelhouse, that you don’t do well, that you’re worried you’re doing wrong. The business owner should wanna know that, right? They should want somebody to come in and go, okay, Tammy’s out for the next six weeks cause she broke her femur, whatever. Who’s gonna take these duties? Are we hiring a temp? What are we gonna not do of her job? Because we all have 40 hour a week jobs. It’s better for that business and that business owner that we actually create a plan. And not all of them are going to have the time to create a plan or even know that they should. But if you walked in and said, boss, We have Tammy’s duties for the next six weeks. Who’s picking up the slack? It actually supports that business better and frankly, it supports that business owner or that boss, because unfortunately most business owners view their time as free. They’ll expect to stay and do a bunch of it too, and that’s not good for
Mary: anybody. Mm-hmm. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Awesome.
Tami: And a again, just clarity if your boundaries are clear and you’ve informed your boss and you stick to them, they know what to expect from you.
Mary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love it. Awesome.
Well, Tami tell us where we can reach you. If folks who are listening want to reach out to you, if they have HR questions or they’re looking for some HR support, how can they find you?
Tami: My website is www.unicycle.consulting. That’s the end of it. There’s no.com or anything at the end. And my email, if you wanna send me an HR question is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to shoot off an answer. I do that stuff all the time.
Mary: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate our conversation.
Tami: Thank you for having me. It’s always fun to talk with you, Mary.
Mary: All right. Take care.