Building Boundaries to Brace Against Toxic Individuals

Your line in the sand

Personal boundaries are extremely important when dealing with workplace bullies and toxic individuals. Boundaries are the guidelines of behavior you establish for yourself or others that informs the limits of what you will or won’t do or tolerate. Consider personal boundaries your line in the sand for dealing with toxic people.

Toxic people are notorious for pushing or crossing over your boundaries. Maybe it’s your personal space or your personal code of conduct.

A boundary could be something as simple as not allowing individuals to curse, in your presence, because you find it offensive. It could be as strident as having a zero-tolerance policy on being late to meetings or appointments.

There is not a lot you can do to control the behavior of others, no matter your relationship, but you can do a lot to draw the line in how you let other’s behavior effect you.

For instance, I had coworkers who would regularly show up late, forcing me to stay late on my shift or interfering with tasks that really needed to be completed, with their help, before the time they finally decided to show up. Typically, I would draw the line on this type of behavior by making sure that I was too busy to be chatty with someone who did not respect my time. Any excuses they had would fall on deaf ears. If my work was done, their being late interfered with me getting on to other things that were important to me; I didn’t have time to be friendly with people who regularly disrespected me.

Another way to enforce a workplace boundary is to no longer ask for support from individuals who regularly drop the ball or make excuses for shoddy work. Unfortunately, this may require you to carry more water than you should have to, but if other’s work impacts your work reviews, then that may be a necessary boundary to establish until you move on to your next job.

Setting up boundaries is necessary for yourself, if not for the toxic individuals you have to interact with. If you understand your own limits, your boundaries will help you to maneuver around people who try to overstep them.

The stronger your boundaries, the less likely a toxic individual will pursue breaking them down, because they prove that you are strong and thus, not worth their time trying to break down. Of course, they’ll try for a bit, but if it takes too much effort to break down your walls, then that’s usually too much work for the toxic bully who’s looking for an easy target.

Tips/regular/bold: Of course, using the Gray Rock method is one way of setting up a boundary, but there are a few other things you can do to draw a line in the sand between yourself and your workplace bullies:

1) Shut it down, immediately. The first time, anybody crosses the line with you, you have to let them know. Be polite about it, but make it clear that you won’t listen to cursing or gossip or deal with an individual’s tardiness, etc. You don’t have to let them know what you will do if the individual crosses the line, again. Just make it clear where your line in the sand is.

2) Walk out.If you have made your boundaries clear to someone and they continue to cross the line, just walk away. Make excuses if you must, but leave the immediate area. If they know your boundaries, allowing them to cross the line, even once, is tantamount to giving them a free pass. They will continue to cross the line, unless you make it clear “you’re not here” for their disrespect.

3) Document it. If you have made your boundaries clear and individuals continue to cross the line, despite your shutting it down and walking away, then it time to keep track of each infraction. If you have a good manager or HR department, then showing a record or boundary-crossing may end up being proof of harassment and possibly a dismiss-able offense. If you do not have a good management team, you can use the journal as a reminder of why you need to leave that job, sooner rather than later.

How have you built boundaries in your workplace?

Other posts in the series:

How To Determine If You Are Being Scapegoated

How To Determine If You Are Being Gaslighted

Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: Gray Rock Method

Are You Being Baited?

How Do You Deal With Toxic Enablers?

On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.

Feel free to send email to with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.

Published by Diva

Trying to live my best life, but chores keep getting in the way!

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