Establishing and Honoring Boundaries While Consulting by Elizabeth Grim

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Grim (she/her). I am an evaluation consultant helping organizations build their evaluation capacity and tell their story through data. I am also President Elect of the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS).

As we cross the year anniversary of the global coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of boundaries. Physical boundaries like borders separating families and friends. Ethical boundaries such as what falls under the sphere of influence of a project. And personal and professional boundaries navigating work and relationships. 

Like many others, I’ve noticed a blurring of personal and professional boundaries during the past year as my work and home spaces became one. Some of these shifts have been positive, helping me to become more authentic and human at work. Others have been challenging, such as holding space for participation and reflection during online conferences (like the upcoming EERS conference: Capacity, Complexity, Collaboration on May 3 & 4).

As I’ve become more intentional and explicit about my boundaries, I have also learned that we cannot control how people react and respond to our boundaries. We can only set and honor them for ourselves.

Hot Tips:

  • Trust your gut – As evaluators we sometimes want to logic our way in and out of situations. I have found that understanding how my body feels can often be more of a boundary check than listening to my brain. One way to become more in touch with these sensations is through establishing a breathwork practice.
  • Schedule time for reflection – Believing in reflection and practicing reflection are different. Since colleagues can see and add meetings to my calendar, it can be a struggle to protect my time. I have started scheduling time on my calendar before and after meetings to allow for preparation and debrief notes. I also add half days that say “no meetings” so I can read, reflect, and apply my learning.
  • Honor your no – It is ok to not be available. It is ok to not accept a project. Recently I told a client that I was very interested but I could only work for them on certain days and hours right now. I realized this could be a dealbreaker and wanted to be transparent. It wasn’t. They hired me and we honored that boundary.

Rad Resources:

Looking for a way to connect with evaluation colleagues outside of AEA365? Join EERS for our virtual conference – Capacity, Complexity, Collaboration – on May 3 & 4. Sessions include asking the right questions, trauma-informed evaluation, designing informative reports, creating a learning culture, evaluating community prevention, and more. Registration is open now and all are welcome!

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4 thoughts on “Establishing and Honoring Boundaries While Consulting by Elizabeth Grim”

  1. Bryanna Walls

    Hi Elizabeth! i have thoroughly enjoyed reading through your blog post. I believe that setting boundaries is extremely important in many aspects whether it be personal or work related. I think ethical boundaries are something every program, employer and/or company should have in place in terms of navigating protocol and expectancies within the particular field. Whether setting boundaries is personal or work related, i definitely think that the tips you mentioned are extremely helpful. When setting boundaries it is important that we trust our gut, schedule time for reflection and honor your no. Setting boundaries is something I haven’t always been the best at, but I hope to take some of your tips and grow my knowledge and understanding of boundaries. Awesome blog post!

  2. Hello Elizabeth,

    Boundaries are something that is extremely important and needed, yet something that is something that can be so difficult to set when working with others. As I begin to enter the work field it is great to have someone who has learned through experience give tips to tackle such a tricky topic.

  3. Hello Elizabeth! I too have been thinking about boundaries but in a different light than you but still tied to the pandemic. I am about to become a first time mom and I am wanting to keep boundaries, due to my own feelings of how I want to raise my child and to keep her safe from people. So like your tip, I am trusting my gut or motherly instincts and not allowing people near her if they don’t have the vaccination, wear a mask, or sanitize their hands. I will also reflect on how me reacting to them with my child will effect them. Boundaries are meant to be kept and need to uphold.

  4. Boundaries are an important aspect of any professional endeavor and help both the client and the consultant understand the parameters of the professional relationship. In order to maintain a relationship where both parties respect the time, obligations, and personal responsibilities of each other, boundaries have to be set and set early so that both parties know exactly what is expected before continuing the professional relationship.

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