I think one of the number one challenges that leaders face at work, is believing that they have the permission not only to set boundaries with those, with whom they work, but also to hold the boundaries of other people like to honor them.
And I think one of the reasons that that happens is because we live in a, a system that really socializes us to believe that going to work means leaving ourselves at home. And so the idea of actually being really honest about our emotional capacity, our mental capacity, our physical capacity, is one of those things that we believe that we have to leave at home in order to lead successfully. - Episode 6
About Bunny McKensie Mack
Bunny McKensie Mack (pronouns: they/them/their) is an anti-oppression consultant, coach, facilitator and the founder of Boundary Work™ and Radical Copy. For over 5 years, Bunny has consulted with some of the largest for-profit and non-profit organizations in the country to develop cultures of accountability that dismantle racism and gender inequity at the individual, interpersonal, and institutional level. Their work has been featured in Now This News, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, The Guardian, Artsy, Afropunk, The New York Times, Pop Sugar, It Gets Better, ArtNews, Wear Your Voice, Bubblegum Club, and El País.
Connect with Bunny McKensie Mack
Visit their website: mckensiemack.com
Liz Wiltsie: Welcome to What's Leadership? I'm Liz Wiltsie. The more I learn about leadership, the more I'm convinced there's not a one size fits all solution. So I am on my own learning journey and I invite you to join me. EbonyJanice reminds me that being open about my journey is important. Each episode features someone I admire with actionable insight to share. So please join me as I ask what's leadership?
I'm so excited to welcome this week's guest Bunny McKensie Mack uses pronouns they/them/theirs is an anti oppression consultant, coach facilitator, and the founder of the trademarked Boundary Work™ and Radical Copy for over five years. Bunny has consulted with some of the largest for profit and nonprofit organizations in the country to develop cultures of accountability that dismantle racism and gender inequity at the individual, interpersonal, and institutional level. Their work has been featured in Now This News, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, The Guardian, Artsy, Afropunk, The New York Times, Pop Sugar, It Gets Better, Art News, Wear Your Voice, Bubblegum Club and El País. And I am so, so excited to welcome Bunny here. Thank you so much for being with us.
Bunny Mack: Thank you so much for having me, Liz.
Liz Wiltsie: So, Bunny. Let's get right to it. What do you think is the number one challenge that leaders face at work?
Bunny Mack: I think one of the number one challenges that leaders face at work, is believing that they have the permission not only to set boundaries with those, with whom they work, but also to hold the boundaries of other people like to honor them.
And I think one of the reasons that that happens is because we live in a, a system that really socializes us to believe that going to work means leaving ourselves at home. And so the idea of actually being really honest about our emotional capacity, our mental capacity, our physical capacity, is one of those things that we believe that we have to leave at home in order to lead successfully.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. When you say boundaries, what is your definition of boundaries?
Bunny Mack: So a boundary is a where you begin and where I end. It's a tool that, that I use that we use to protect our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity. And it really is a means of identifying our needs and articulating those in a way where we're really letting people know that we have limits and that those limits and articulating those limits and those needs are what enable us to really embrace the fullness of who we are.
Liz Wiltsie: So in that, in that sort of vein, what's your number one tip for dealing with the challenge of, you know, boundaries?
Bunny Mack: One of my number one tips is boundary mapping is where you actually sit down, take a blank sheet of paper and draw potentially into four sort of quadrants, like four boxes. And then in each of those boxes, you have a very specific category of people that you are looking to set boundaries with, or even just people you encounter on a regular basis. So that could be right. They could be colleagues in one category. That could be clients, another category. That could be family. Right. Cause we're talking about boundary work is about sort of embracing a fullness of who we are and not segmenting or compartmentalizing.
Right. So, cause that just isn't sustainable and just ends up really pushing us closer to burn out more quickly. And then potentially another sort of category could be friends or it could even be like, right, like other things she likes to do, like travel or like hobbies that you have. And I find that sort of the, the boundary mapping methods to be super helpful because once you are putting those folks in different categories and you're actually writing out right when I work this way, or when this person approaches me to do work in this way, it makes me feel, for example, fulfilled, they make me feel successful. It makes me feel like my needs are being honored and sort of reverse engineering from that feeling into what the actual boundary is.
And I find that to be incredibly helpful because I think that for a lot of folks, especially a lot of my clients, if you sit them down and you say, okay, what are your boundaries with your colleagues? A lot of times they're like, oh, you know, I don't know because when we're in it and we're in the midst of it, I think it's hard to sort of distinguish between the things that we need things that they need, right. And the things sort of like our organization and all the folks that make up that space in that community want and need. so really sitting down and being able to work that out. I found to be incredibly helpful for my clients and also incredibly helpful for me.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. Have you had this experience as well? Where I keep thinking about, you know, I started working when I was probably 14 and...
Bunny Mack: Oh me too, me too.
Liz Wiltsie: I never sat down and thought about this stuff. I didn't know that we weren't, that capacity was, is limited, right. That you're like meant, like it, it's okay to have limited capacity and it's normal and it's human.
And that feels like a piece in, in sitting down and saying, Hey, this is what my boundaries are. Even the notion that you're allowed to have boundaries at all.
Bunny Mack: Yeah, for sure. And I, and I think, you know, two things, one is that. I also started working when I was 14. Taurus rising here. I'm like, where's the money.
But for me, I really am a firm believer that whenever a person started working from whatever age, that from the beginning of that career, professionally from the beginning of like, sort of building up interpersonal relationships and engaging in relational dynamics that we have, we all sort of known from the beginning, what boundaries are, but potentially we're not you know, exposed to that vocabulary. I didn't, I think that that was a right that we had, but I know I can call, I can recall things from when I first started working or recall things from earliest, my earliest relationships and friendships, where something just didn't feel right to me. And maybe I would sit with that thing and be thinking about it and be asking myself, you know, what, what is it about this?
Or I need someone. Meet a new supervisor, a new manager, and I'm asking myself, there's something about that. There's something about the interaction that felt off to me. And then particularly, especially when I was younger, I'd be like, okay, well, you know, it just happens. Let me just move on live life, you know, and more than likely it would happen again, but I was never naming it as maybe potentially this doesn't feel right to me because this person was crossing a line, but I'm not exactly sure what the line is.
So that's the first thing is sort of like, I think empowering ourselves to know that there's always, that we've always had boundaries, but maybe sometimes due to sort of our circumstance and the fact that we maybe, you know, most of our socialized methods see them as things we're worthy of. That we didn't know at the time that we were recognizing, or really even, reflecting on the fact that a boundary of ours had been crossed.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. And I know you do, as, as I said earlier, you do anti-oppression consulting. As we get into different power dynamics, and privilege dynamics, how does your coaching around boundary work shift?. I don't, I don't know that shift is the right word, but how does it move in relationship to, you know, that different folks have different needs?
Bunny Mack: Yeah. My work has focused really on being as transformational as possible. But we're talking about a holistic transformation and when I, sort of, first started delving into more or my own research around boundaries and boundary work, I encountered a lot of work. They focused a lot on the individual.
And sometimes I think in a way that felt like it was written through a lens of sort of shaming, the person who had not set the boundary, as opposed to focusing on the fact that there's another person on the other end or another community or another organization that was actually crossing those boundaries.
And potentially not even checking in with the person to ask, hey, do I have your consent, your emotional consent to at work after you worked a 12 hour day,for me to ask you personal questions about your personal life? Or, Hey, do I have your consent, even though I know that, you already just worked on these two major projects and you completed them successfully to add three more on your plate, even though I know that you're about to go on vacation tomorrow?
You're right. So it's like, sort of, for me, and thinking through that work and asking myself what's missing for me was missing. What was missing was the systemic part, where I think a lot of times we want to focus so much on the individual, especially within business coaching stations, where we want a resource to talk to people like they're saviors, and we're like, you are the special one.
You're the one who's going to save this organization. You're the one who's going to build this business on your own. Right. That's going to have the tremendous impact within your community. And I think it's great to empower people. It's great to encourage people. And also we are all members of community.
Various communities, the intersect based on our identities, based on the way we were raised based on our circumstances and our interests in our hobbies. And so for me, there's not really a way to talk about boundaries in a way that really is sustainable in a way that really addresses, all of the needs of a person, if we don't address the fact that a lot of times. We're not setting boundaries with people because of these systems, in which, in which we exist, like we exist and we have to sort of navigate within. They have given us the, put a lot of pressure on it to be perfect. Put a lot of pressure on us to value material goods, material wealth, over the humanity, over our own humanity and many of your other people.
And that really also put a lot of pressure on us, to show up and have all the answers, even when we potentially have not done the research or if not, have not had the lived experience. And I feel like, especially when I think about major organizations making or crossing major boundaries like culturally or stereotypically, racially, in terms of gender, I think that's one of the reasons is because there's, there's sort of like, this leaning into having all the answers and to sort of like, if you don't have the answers you just guess. Which I think, especially when it comes to the communications and marketing space, where there are a lot of folks who will very easily, an organization with a lot of money will make a huge mistake, right, a huge error in their marketing or communications that's racist, or that is patriarchal or that's transphobic, because I think they're putting it on themselves to just have all the answers where they're actually using their funding and their resources, to hire folks who have those answers, who have those experiences, right.
Who can speak to the ways in which those communities want to be represented. So those main things, no, it's not. It is about us very much so. And also there are a lot of times where we haven't set boundaries because we've been socialized, not to, or maybe we've been threatened by a supervisor, by a manager, or by institution in a way that makes us, you know, it sort of wounded us and made us feel like we don't have the right.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. So what is something that's impacted you in the way that you think,
Bunny Mack: Oh my God. Great question, Liz.
I mean, there's a lot of things in trying to think.
Liz Wiltsie: Yup. You get to, you get to pick just one.
Bunny Mack: Let me think. Oh my God. I think knowing what it's like as a, a black queer trans nonbinary person, knowing what that's like to have, folks consistently trying to cross your boundaries. and I think at one time when I was, sort of, growing up and experiencing that I did sort of try to, I did turn that inward, which I think a lot of us do.
And I, you know, for a long time perceived myself as the issue. Oh, people are trying to cross my boundaries, people are not attempting to honor my space, you know, my physical, mental, emotional space, spiritual space. And it must have something to do with me. And then when I, you know, grew older and had all these experiences, with, when I not just with myself, when I was witnessing, I think other folks boundaries be crossed or people do things, right.
I thought, wow, you didn't even ask consent to do the thing, or you didn't ask consent to get this person, to send this person that thing or can ask them, send it before. You're just sort of like, expecting marginalized folks, for example, to give you all this information about the community and the history without any sort of like right payments or without any sort of value being exchanged.
And that's, for me, when we made me realize, oh wait, actually, this is a specific systemic issue. And so even with my own and my own work, a lot of what I'm teaching about has to do with the lessons, the mini lessons that I've learned, especially within 10 years, the nonprofit administration, right? And over five years now and consulting and facilitation work where I realized, wow, okay, I can actually apply this in a way that, helps to make people's lives better and helps them to navigate and to identify what it is that they need in order to embrace the fullness of who they are.
Liz Wiltsie: That's a fantastic answer. What should I, what should I have asked you that I didn't?
Bunny Mack: What did you ask me that did it? That is a good question, I guess maybe is this something that I'm going to, I'm going to answer after this or is this like a.
Liz Wiltsie: I mean, you can, if you want to go for it, if you want to just sort of say, this is what you should have asked and I'm leaving it, then feel free.
Bunny Mack: Okay. I think I would maybe the question that I think you could have asked them what they should have, because I think you've done a great job already with the questions that you got. I think one of the questions you could have asked was, what are some of the core steps or core characteristics of boundary work?
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. Do you want to answer it? Do you not want to answer it?
Bunny Mack: And I'm going to leave that as a cliffhanger.
Liz Wiltsie: Fantastic. Last question is what is something that you are grappling with either in your work or a personal something that is just sort of out there for you, that you don't know where you stand on it yet?
Bunny Mack: I think there's one thing I know where I stand on that. And also I think it's about constantly sort of navigating and developing a deeper awareness of it is, when we think about boundary work, specifically, it's not just about, right. It's not just about an individual sort of setting boundaries with others or setting boundaries, right. With communities with organization. But it's also about the work that we do to honor the boundaries of other people. And so I've been thinking a lot lately about emotional consent, and how, like, we have an expectation for people to do emotional labor for us, especially if we are compromised, if we are like compromised emotionally, we're going through a difficult time.
And so that's something that I'm consistently at least sort of thinking through. What does it mean to honor the boundaries of others? And also, what does it mean to be, to sort of build awareness, or to build a sort of level of perception or even right, because we know that neurodivergence exists. So maybe not all ways, can a person look at a person and have an awareness of how they're feeling. But even in those situations, what does it mean to sort of ask questions so that we have a better understanding of where a person is, as opposed to sort of assuming that we know, because they're smiling a lot in the office are smiling a lot, right. In public community spaces.
Liz Wiltsie: Yes. So I want to remind folks, there will be, there are show notes here. You will have all the links to Bunny's work. And you do, you coach on Boundary Work in particular and also Radical Copy. And all of that will be available. Thank you so much for being here.
Bunny Mack: Thank you so much for having me.
Liz Wiltsie: Full show notes from this episode, and every episode are available at 4needs.work/podcast. If you're intrigued by this episode, please subscribe.