business people collaborating with each other

Personal and Professional Boundaries in Collaboration

Mirjana Maksimovic Management

Are you happy? What do you need to be happy? Is it money? Value? Acceptance? Love? Are those your choices or those of others? If you cannot answer this, it means you might be having troubles determining where „You“ begins and „Others“ end. It means this might be an interesting read for you and might help you at least gain some insight on why you never should confuse private and personal, especially in work-related collaboration, and that the boundaries set here are the only ones really needed in the world. Here is why.

1. The road to hell is paved by good intentions

This is an old saying people ever so often take for granted. Yes, good working climate is essential for creativity and prosperity. But so are efficiency, clear head, and productivity. In business, it is never about the intention, but about the outcome or the result. And, even though you might wish to go way over your head in helping your teammates and colleagues, boss even or employees, students or clients, don’t do it. Stick to your guns, know what your tasks are, be efficient in what you do, and do not make yourself perpetually available. You will end up drained and in a state of a burnout and then no one will benefit from you. The best thing to do is to simply keep doing your job, in a conscientious and professional way, as efficiently as possible. Everything else is, as the song goes-a heavy paved road to Hell.

2. Do not expect quid pro quo

Of course, you might be inclined to be nice and kind and start bringing extra snacks or making coffee for the entire office. But one day if you realize you are the only one doing that, you might be disappointed and put yourself on a position in which this might affect your spark and morale. Just get what you need, celebrate something important, but don’t make taking care of your colleagues your chore. Be human, but leave expectations at the front door. In this aspect, also don’t feel responsible in case someone else is doing that. Be aware, say “thank you”. No quid pro quo expected means happier all of you will be.

3. Be friendly, but not friends

Collaboration means going through thick and thin together, but professionally. You will for sure befriend some of your colleagues, just beware. It might easily backfire. You cannot expect people to be like you. You cannot fully know their status and position. Don’t put yourself in a tricky situation and just keep it professional. Boundaries are important so we don’t get our judgment blurred. Also, don’t fall a victim of lazy and inefficient people who are only looking for others to do their job. It’s a trap. And, the result will yet again be-increased level of overall work dissatisfaction and-you guessed it-burnout. So, be friendly. But keep it professional.

4. Choose mentors wisely

The issue of mentors is so important, and yet so often overlooked. You need, especially at the very beginning of your career, to find a professional whose experience and expertise will help you get into the workflows as quickly and efficiently as possible. On a technical side, there are collaboration software programs for enabling smooth and precise exchange of information and data, but on the human side-nothing can beat a real person and guidance so choose mentors wisely. Think about where you want to go and who you want to be, and look for a life-long learner. Industries change ever so quickly today, meaning quite frequently, faster than before, it can happen that the student surpasses the master. Think about this beforehand. Also, you should at all times know your limits. A mentor can help you regarding work, establishing private and professional boundaries, but don’t go beyond that.

5. Never forget who is the boss

The most difficult situation is when your boss wants to be your buddy. Don’t do it. You will be tempted; you might even yearn for it. Don’t. He gives you your livelihood and paycheck, he controls your workflow and as best as you might be, the first moment you do something wrong or there is a misunderstanding, the power-play will, well-come into play. Avoid this by just focusing on your work tasks, managing your time schedules and reports, schedules and file sharing platforms, but never forget who is – the boss.


If you are looking for friends, go to a bar or to a party, join a running club or just be open to people.

If you are looking to excel in your career-be productive, ambitious and precise, respect deadlines and be collaborative, showing both initiative and great teamwork skills.

And if you’re looking for an online tool for collaboration, you can try CollaboraZon and get a free trial period. It is a single solution to help teams collaborate and be productive, thanks to a simple and easy-to-use interface with powerful features like sharing files, giving feedback, exchanging messages, creating events and more.

PS: You can share your experience with us in the comments. Good luck!