When we discuss relational or organizational boundaries, it
can sometimes be a difficult concept to comprehend because it isn’t something
we can see. But just because we can’t see a boundary, it doesn’t mean it isn’t
there or it isn’t important.  It is a general misconception that having good boundaries will
distance you from others. However, the truth is that when you know where you
end, and others begin, you can then closely engage with others because you
won’t feel overwhelmed or unprotected. Boundaries
are present whenever a person or department interfaces with another person or
department (Cooper,1986 ). Yan and Louis (1999) define boundaries as “a domain
of interactions of a system with its environment in order to maintain the
system as a system and to provide for its long-term survival.

In
professional settings it is imperative to define the limits and
responsibilities of the individuals with whom you interact with on a daily
basis. When organizational boundaries are clearly defined, everyone works more
efficiently because redundant work assignments are eliminated and task
performance is accountable. Moreover, having a sense of autonomy prevents the
need to distance our self from others with a barrier. When everyone in an
organization is made aware of who is responsible for what, healthier workplace
environments are created (Ashkenas, 2000). It then becomes very difficult for
someone to blame others for their failed or inadequate performance, and good
job performance can clearly be identified.

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Organizations generally
are more innovative, relevant, and responsive when they are exposed to market
influences, yet they must regulate or limit the impact of outside influences to
operate efficiently. “Buffering and spanning represent outward-facing boundary
activities through which a work unit deals with other unites both within the
enterprise and in the larger environment. In contrast, bring up boundary
represents inward-facing activities that pull system elements/resources
together toward the accomplishment of the system’s purposes” (Parsons 1951). This
dynamic organization-environment tension has inspired the creation of several
models of organizational buffering which delineate the systematic exposure and
insulation of organizations from environmental uncertainty (Parsons 1951).

Spanning is an alternate
activity in which organizations interact with individuals and groups outside
the organization to obtain valuable information to help the innovation process.
As my company prepared for a federal audit, outside consultants were hired to
provide in depth guidance on federal compliance. For several weeks this company
coached, prepped and provided insight on key concepts we were lacking. This
collaboration lead to successful audit results. We would not have been to be
this successful without working with this consultant. 

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