My backyard opens up onto a main thoroughfare with a walking path.
It’s not a fenced-in yard; and because it is not fenced in, it basically has no boundaries.
Some of the teens and even more surprisingly, adults in the neighborhood, have felt emboldened to use the yard as their own personal pass through to the main road instead of walking around which takes a few minutes longer.
In case you are wondering, none of the neighbors who cut through our property have ever once asked permission to do so. We do not know these particular neighbors very well other than to say ‘hello’ in passing. Yet, maybe they’ve rationalized that a friendly greeting is an open invitation to enter private property.
When we see a neighbor emboldened enough to trespass, we have addressed it. But it always leaves me baffled as to what it is about human nature that makes people push boundaries in a way that is inappropriate at best.
This story has clear parallels to what managers face on a daily basis when it comes to the issue of how to address staff who bump up against the lines of inappropriateness or enthusiastically cross the line.
When you think about it, pushing boundaries or going against the grain at work isn’t inherently bad. Depending on your organizational culture, or the task at hand, pushing the limits of what one may be used to– essentially being a nonconformist, is just what is needed.
But when you have specific business goals or practices that require uniformity so that the work gets done, there are times when not following the rules can impact the quality of the work, affect employee morale, or cost the company money.
In the case of my trespassers, the practice leaves my family with a sense of vulnerability and quite frankly, a feeling of being disrespected. I’m sure that they would be displeased if I showed up in their fenced in backyard unannounced. “Don’t worry about me. Just checking out the scenery“… but I digress.
There are so many ways that boundaries are stretched in the workplace every day of the week:
- Being insubordinate
- Consistently coming in late or slipping out early
- Making excuses for not getting the work done
- Being rude to a client or co-worker
- Missing important meetings
Boundaries are pushed whenever there is a work situation where the action or behavior goes against the norm or is different than what is reasonably expected of staff.
What is the simple solution? Address issues immediately and be clear about your expectations. Avoidance never helps and it just reinforces for the offender that you approve of the behavior. Sometimes, you have to set clear boundaries before the behavior will change.
In my trespassing case, I found that there was just a small group of neighbors who trespassed. I addressed my concerns in a friendly but direct way each time and the issue has never occurred again; that is with the exception of one or two neighborhood teens who continue to push boundaries and disregarded our requests to refrain from trespassing.
If they were my employees, I would have minimally put them on corrective action – or worse after repeated offenses, but alas, I don’t have that level of influence on their behavior. But their parents do – so I relayed my concerns and extremely clear expectations to the parents instead.
I haven’t seen them cutting through my yard in a while…
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