The most difficult part of maintaining a healthy boundary is enforcement. Enforcing a boundary may trigger conflict, and conflict can be quite uncomfortable.
Whenever possible, consequences should be enforced; however, in some situations the choice may be made to not enforce a boundary. We will discuss those situations in the next section.
Choosing not to enforce a boundary carries potential problems:
If a boundary turns out to be unenforceable, the consequence need to be reevaluated and realistic ones formulated.
There are two questions to ask when evaluating whether a consequences should be enforced:
The flexibility one gives to a consequence depends on the severity of the outcome when that boundary is broken.
Using the previous example, if the report was extremely important and our own supervisor needed it first thing the next morning, the outcome is severe, so there is not any latitude to give more time.
Intent is another consideration when evaluating boundaries. Enforcing boundaries may be inappropriate if a boundary is broken:
However, boundaries should be adhered to if the boundary was broken by:
For example, we communicate to a staff member that we need a certain report by the end of the day and if he or she does not complete the report he or she will be required to stay late to finish the task.
How do we know whether to enforce the boundary or change it? We are better off enforcing the boundary if:
We are likely to not enforce consequences if:
We may search for a compromise if:
To exemplify the third point, one might allow the person to go home with the report unfinished, provided he or she returns to work early the next morning to complete the task before normal work hours.