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Setting Boundaries

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

Episode 5: How Saboteurs Impact Boundary Setting at Work

A new project just landed on your overfilled schedule, again. How did this happen? If it feels like you don’t have control over your schedule, there’s an opportunity strengthen your mental fitness and to set boundaries differently.

Boundary setting is important in our relationships, our work, and with ourselves. We’ll focus on how to set boundaries at work, so we can maintain our personal time, have time to recharge, connect with people, and care for ourselves. When boundaries get fuzzy, everything suffers, including our effectiveness and productivity at work.

Saboteurs often tell us that setting boundaries jeopardizes our future. We’ll discuss how the Hyper-Achiever, the Controller, and the Pleaser saboteurs effect boundary setting because they show up quite often when we coach.

Generally, our saboteurs are the price we pay for overusing our greatest strengths. We all have wonderful, powerful gifts which can be used by both the Sage and saboteurs. When we use these strengths from a Sage perspective, we feel like we’re at choice and are uplifted as a result. When we use these strengths from a saboteur perspective, it feels like we’re acting from need and there is no other option, so we feel stressed instead.


People with a strong Hyper-Achiever saboteur tend to be driven, pragmatic, adaptable, goal-oriented, and self-directed. They can grow themselves and others to achieve their potential. And when they are at their best, they inspire themselves and others towards meaningful growth and achievement. These are powerful strengths!

But when those strengths are overused or abused, it can show up as the Hyper-Achiever saboteur. When that happens, it’s tough to maintain appropriate work-life boundaries. Because of that strong goal orientation, the Hyper-Achiever saboteur would have us believe that we must function at 110%, or even better, 150%, all the time! As soon as we accomplish something, we celebrate briefly, if at all, before the Hyper-Achiever has us dive into the next project. The Hyper-Achiever persuades us that we must constantly achieve more and more to earn acceptance, status, and recognition. It can be exhausting.

By using the mental fitness process we described in prior episodes, the Sage uses these same wonderful gifts but with discernment, which results in a very different outcome. The Sage critically assesses what’s important and what isn’t, which makes it easier to drop or postpone things that aren’t needed right now. The Sage knows it’s in everyone’s best interest to negotiate realistic timelines and deliverables so you can dedicate your energy where you will have the biggest impact. It knows others will still respect you, even if you slow down, and that slowing down will allow you to keep going.


People with an active Controller saboteur tend to be confident, action-oriented, decisive, and persistent. They challenge themselves and others. They are likely to do the right thing, even if it’s unpopular. As they see new possibilities, they activate themselves and others to make things happen. These strengths are especially useful for leadership which is why so many leaders are predisposed to have a Controller saboteur.

This is a saboteur that everyone has to some extent. It’s part of the human condition to want to master our circumstances. People with a strong Controller saboteur can have trouble setting healthy boundaries. The Controller will convince us not to delegate and share our workload. It will say others won’t do the work as well as we do, that we know what’s best. The Controller also worries that how others perform will reflect poorly on us.

The Sage, on the other hand, knows that developing people is a key role of leadership. That if we deliver on a project but haven’t developed our people, we’ve failed at building the organization. That sustainability will be elusive if we don’t tap into the strengths and gifts of our team. The Sage will also discern when 80% is good enough and when a higher standard and training is needed to reach the ultimate goal.

The Pleaser

Just like we all have some level of the Controller, we all have at least a little bit of the Pleaser saboteur. People who have a strong tendency toward the Pleaser saboteur have some beautiful strengths. They are empathetic, loving and giving. They are tuned into the feelings and needs of others, and they are emotionally self-aware.

However, even great strengths when overused can create problems, especially with boundary setting. The Pleaser saboteur will put the needs of others ahead of one’s own needs and thinks everyone should do this. The Pleaser feels upset and may try to make others feel guilty when they don’t notice how much The Pleaser went out of his/her way. The Pleaser also worries about what others will think of them if they say no. Will they still be accepted? When it comes to setting boundaries at work, the Pleaser would have you think and act like a martyr, “If I don’t rescue ________ (this project, my co-workers, etc.), who will?”

It’s not that focusing on the needs of others is a problem, it’s a question of motivation. Are you doing this because you enjoy giving, or are you doing it to gain acceptance? The Pleaser saboteur will make you feel guilty for putting your own oxygen mask on first and beat you up for being so selfish.

The Sage knows that every time you say “Yes” to something, you’re saying “No” to something else. We only have so much time in our days and lives. Are you spending your time in a way that’s meaningful to you? What do you need to say “no” to so you can give an enthusiastic “yes” to things that really matter to you? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s our responsibility to choose how we spend it.

If you’re finding these discussions intriguing, there are a few options for delving deeper. As described in episode 3, you can visit and take the free Saboteur Assessment. You’ll get a personalized report that shows which saboteurs are strongest within you as well as detailed descriptions of all of the saboteurs. As a coach I use a variety of tools, including mental fitness tools, to help you reach your goals. The Positive Intelligence program I offer accelerates the process of bringing these concepts into your daily life. Let’s talk to see what makes sense for you.

Wishing you strength and foresight in setting healthy boundaries!

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