Last week my youngest had her wisdom teeth out, so I re-arranged my schedule and worked from home for a few days while she recouped. Though I was grateful to have the flexibility to keep working while still being able to look after my daughter, by the end of Day 2, I was starting to feel a bit stir crazy, confined within the walls of my office and away from the chaos, meetings, and daily face-to-face interactions with teammates and clients that I find fulfilling and energizing.
When I shared this with two of my virtual teammates, they laughed! They had just been discussing how much they enjoyed working in boundaries of their quiet home offices with few interruptions to their production. I quickly realized that what some of us view as boundaries, others of us view as confinement!
Boundaries vs. Confinement: What’s the Difference?
I posted this question on Facebook a few days ago, and here are some of the answers I got:
- Confinement is not having boundaries and allowing others to smother you.
- Boundaries are the lines you try to color between…Confinement is only one crayon
- Confinement is total solitude, where you can’t escape; you can’t see out; you don’t know the freedom that exists outside. Boundaries are the lines you can cross (if you dare!) to escape; you can see the other side, where in confinement you cannot.
Boundaries are similar to discipline. As leaders, we have boundaries like not going around the leaders on our team to try and fix problems below us. We have boundaries regarding the direction we give our teams and the freedom they have to work within that structure. We have boundaries that establish how we treat others and the behaviors we support or discourage.
We all need boundaries. However, when they become frustrating, or when a person doesn’t know how to operate within a certain set of boundaries, or if they’re new to having boundaries, the boundaries can feel confining. And different leaders approach boundaries differently. My structured teammates like their boundaries, but then it’s their organization and structure that keeps me on track! I, on the other hand, like the freedom to flex and change on a whim, so I need a very broad set of boundaries!
Neither approach is wrong, and good teams need both types of people. It is important, however, to know your teammates’ styles and what boundaries they need to be successful and produce their best work.