Thrive with Boundaries

Thrive with Boundaries

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA / Published October 2022

Photo by Vylicil

Recently, seasoned CAMs were brainstorming the needs of managers and some of the challenges they face. Part of the discussion centered on the following “how-to” issues: 

  • deal with challenging individuals
  • work with an uninformed or unethical board
  • work for a company that puts dollars ahead of doing the right thing
  • manage my time when everyone else is demanding it, and
  • do what’s right when all that is wanted is expediency

     What was interesting about this discussion was the challenges they struggled with the most weren’t issues related to finances, operations, insurance, legislation, or management. These challenges involved people. It wasn’t the budget shortfall due to inflation and rising insurance premiums, the massive concrete restoration project that was past its deadline, or the slimy pool whose homeowner had abandoned the property. 

     An observation about these challenging issues is that they involve two people or two sides of a relationship: the manager and the challenging individual, the manager and an uninformed or unethical board, the manager and a management company, the manager and the demands of others. Some of these are ethical issues, some moral ones, and some legal issues. There seemed to be unspoken questions like these: 

  • “How can I get ‘them’ to act right so I won’t be put in this type of situation?”
  • “How can I tell them ‘no,’ so they’ll like my ‘no’ and won’t fire me?”
  • “How do I get out of this situation and not hate myself for compromising my ethics and morals?”
  • “How do I find more time in a day?”

     With so many variables in these situations, there could be more than one way to handle each one. But there is one common dominator in these issues—the manager—and the common issue is something called boundaries.

     Perhaps these CAMs need to try the skill of boundary setting—that is, defining your personal boundaries, knowing who and what you are responsible for, recognizing the boundaries of others, and when and how to say “no” or “yes” or “let’s make a deal.”

     A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible (Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan Publishing House 1992). Boundaries are like personal fences; they define what’s mine and what is not. Like a fence around your yard, boundaries define me and what I take care of and am responsible for. They tell me what I am not responsible for. For instance, I am not responsible for the weeds and trash in my neighbor’s yard. Neither am I responsible for making others happy.

     Healthy boundaries say I am responsible for my own thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, and motives. I am not responsible for those of someone else. I may take their thoughts and emotions into consideration, but I am not required to make decisions just to keep others happy.

     The following are several different types of boundaries:

  • Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
    • Skin boundaries are good for us. Being able to say “no” to inappropriate ouching is a good skin boundary. Managers should never let someone inappropriately touch or physically harm them.
    • Geographical distance—Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries and give you time to think.
  • Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.
    • Words can be boundaries, especially the word “no.” It is often hard to say “no” because we are afraid the other person won’t like our “no.” Resist saying “yes” when you really mean “no.”
    • Truth is a boundary. It is important for you to know the truth about yourself, which may be different than what others say.
    • Time is a boundary. Learn to distinguish between urgent and not urgent, important and not important. Learn to schedule time for returning calls and emails. Setting aside time for a vacation is a good boundary.
  • Emotional boundaries help us deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.
    • Emotional distance should be a temporary boundary used to give you some space. Some people are not good for you; they bring out the worst in you. Others are good for you, so hang out with them.
    • Consequences are boundaries. Others can learn by consequences what they can or cannot say or do to us. Many of us only threaten consequences but never follow through with them. The telephone caller using menacing or vulgar language should be told you are going to end the call and then you should hang up.

     Understanding boundaries will help you set limits and still be an effective manager. Boundaries will help you say “no” and not feel guilty or afraid. Exercising boundaries will help you manage your time, money, and emotions. Here are some boundary reminders. 

  • Let my “yes” be “yes,” and my “no” be “no.” Strive for honesty but be nice.
  • I will not second guess anymore. When asked questions or for an opinion, I will give information instead of guessing what they want to hear.
  • Resentment is a signal that I should have said “no” sooner.
  • People with good boundaries are seldom angry. How often am I angered?
  • People with good boundaries seldom blame others. Ask yourself, “Do I excuse my behavior or blame others and say, ‘She made me mad,’ or ‘He just ruined my day.’”
  • Not everyone will like my “no.”
  • I will look at people and relationships (my job) and ask, “Are they good for me?”
  • I have no control over what other people think. I am responsible only for my own thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, motives, and emotions.
  • Actions speak louder than words. I can renegotiate my boundaries when I see changed actions/behaviors in the other person.

     Don’t just survive your people issues; thrive with boundaries!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

Florida CAM Schools

     Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a former member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. Subscribe to CAM MattersTM at For more information, contact, call (352) 326-8365, or visit