Do you find yourself struggling as the resident workplace people-pleaser? Then you’ve landed in the right spot.
Let’s start with understanding a bit more about people-pleasing, or simply put, putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. And don’t get me wrong. It’s admirable to be a pleasant co-worker or a leader who lends support, but putting other people first all the time can often have a negative impact on your well-being.
At its core, people-pleasing is a sign you have a strong desire for approval and have low regard for yourself because you’re thinking and acting in ways that compromise yourself. Of course, you are kind, compassionate, and want to help others, but the truth is people pleasing is a self-soothing behavior. It’s more about avoiding criticism, conflict, judgment, disapproval, rejection, and more than it is about wanting to be genuinely helpful. The insecurity that results may drive you to conform to other people’s opinions and expectations—even when you don’t want to—and can make it hard for you to say “no” when you should.
Here are a few common signs that you’re a people pleaser:
- You need others to like you
- You apologize or accept fault even when you’re not to blame
- You’re quick to agree or accept assignments
- You struggle to express your thoughts or how you really feel
- You run all your ideas by other people first
- Conflict upsets you and you ruminate about conversations
- You take work home with you after hours
How many of these sound like you?
Resigning from your role as a workplace people-pleaser can take time, but it is possible. Here are some initial steps to think about to begin freeing yourself from the need for validation and approval from others.
3 Ways to Break Free from Being a Workplace People Pleaser
1. Create more personal policies and procedures.
Let’s take an example to illustrate this. One of my clients, Edward, was a product manager at a tech company. If you know anything about being in a product role then you understand that you are receiving requests from all sides. And this was Edward’s reality. He was constantly getting demands from biz dev, marketing, and engineering. And Edward, being the collaborative guy he was, would try to accommodate as much as possible. But soon, he found himself spending so much time triaging, fielding, and processing these requests, that no other work was getting done. So, we devised a process for Edward – a system whereby those teams had to submit requests in a more structured way. Instead of ad hoc throwing things at him in email or Slack, they had to go through a form and fill out specific questions. It was a simple but powerful change for Edward because it forced the other teams to be more intentional and detailed with their requests. It meant that Edward didn’t have to be the mean guy and constantly push back.
This is just one example, but I want you to think about what types of processes, systems, or procedures can help you operate more effectively in your role. For example, maybe you create a standard policy of no discounts, which means you eliminate the people-pleasing tendency to give people special deals. Perhaps you have a personal policy around your email or message response times.
2. Use strategic silence.
It’s common for Sensitive Strivers to have a tendency to overexplain. Many inadvertently try to overcompensate for their insecurities by expressing more than necessary, especially when feeling nervous, intimidated, or eager to be liked. It’s likely you’ve found yourself in a tense situation, attempting to be assertive, only to undermine yourself with the next breath. For instance, you ask for help or try to hand out an assignment only to immediately follow with, “But it’s okay. If you can’t do it, no problem. We can find someone else.”
This is where strategic silence becomes invaluable. It’s a powerful and underutilized tool. When used correctly, strategic pauses can enable you to regain control of conversations. For instance, taking a deep breath and waiting three to five seconds before responding can stonewall aggression effectively.
I’d like to share an example from one of the members of RESILIENT, my program designed to help Sensitive Strivers transition from insecurity to confidence in the workplace. Let’s call this member Todd. Todd had a client who was unyielding and refused to listen to reasoning. Rather than acquiescing, Todd decided to insert an extra-long pause after each of the client’s statements to reflect his contemplation. This strategic silence led the client to propose more options and eventually accept the route Todd suggested. Silence is not only a time and energy saver, but it also often leads the conversation to a more productive conclusion.
3. Get comfortable letting other people fail.
This may sound harsh, but what I mean by it, is that as a people pleaser, you need to give people space to make their own mistakes and missteps. For example, let’s say you’re constantly correcting data in a report from a colleague. Because you fix the problem, your colleague never has to face the consequences of failing to pull their weight. So they keep doing what they’re doing.
Your impulse to jump in may seem helpful, but it has a cost to you and them. When you start to take a step back, others will make mistakes. Balls will be dropped. When that happens, you have to be able to manage your own emotions well enough not to rush in to save the situation just to ease your own discomfort. You have to let people go through a productive struggle and let them figure things out. That’s how people learn and grow. That’s how they take ownership and accountability.
Imagine how much farther you could go without people pleasing, burnout, and self-doubt holding you back. Imagine how much more fulfilled, productive, and effective you could be if you got out of your own way. RESILIENT can help you do just that. Inside, you’ll discover proven strategies to trust yourself and use your sensitivity to fuel your success instead of self-sabotaging thoughts.
Head on over now to place your name on the RESILIENT waitlist. When you sign up, you’ll get first dibs on early enrollment savings for the next round. I hope to see you inside.