Being a people-pleaser might pay off from time to time in a professional context. Ultimately though, it isn’t in your best interests — and it won’t benefit you in your career.
It makes sense to want to make people happy at work. After all, hitting the marks that your manager and clients set for you is part of your job. And, there’s certainly a lot to be said for getting along well with coworkers, too. There’s nothing wrong with caring about your professional reputation and being mindful of what others think of you. But there are a lot of reasons why constantly seeking approval isn’t so great for your career in the long run.
signs that seeking validation has become a problem:
- You’ve lost touch with your own feelings and opinions. The problem with concentrating so much on what other people like and want is that you can eventually lose touch with your own thoughts and opinions. If you spend your days trying to make others happy, you don’t have a lot of time or energy left to figure out where you stand. It could be a sign that you’ve taken things too far if you’re no longer sure how you think and feel.
- Your work is late or subpar. People-pleasers put everyone ahead of themselves to the point that their own priorities often fall by the wayside. If your work is suffering or if you’re missing deadlines because of all the time you’re spending helping other people, take note. Overextending yourself is a sign that you’re looking to others for validation too much.
- You’ve become everyone’s assistant. People who don’t mind taking advantage of others’ kindness and flexibility will notice your tendency to want to help — and they’ll take advantage. Once you’ve developed a reputation for being super accommodating, get ready for the requests to start flying. You’ll start to notice you’re awfully busy at work when you’re the kind of coworker who can’t say no. If you’re starting to feel as though everyone is treating you like you’re their own personal assistant, you have a problem on your hands.
- You apologize too much. Frequent apologies are a sign of excessive people-pleasing. Do you find yourself using apologetic terminology in an off-hand way? For example, do you start conversations at work by saying things like, “I’m sorry, but can I ask you a quick question?” Or, “I’m so sorry to bother you, I know you’re super busy…”? If so, you’re really not doing yourself any favors. Over-apologizing at work undermines your authority and your professionalism. It’s best to save the apologies for actual mistakes.
- You’re exhausted. People-pleasing is tiring work. Putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own takes a real toll on your time and energy levels. If you’re chronically exhausted, it could be a sign that you’re taking on too much. Are you saying yes to extra requests from people at work rather than using that time to take care of yourself and your responsibilities? Do you often stay late when you hadn’t planned to in order to help someone else? If you’re exhausted from helping others, you’re putting their needs ahead of your own to your detriment.
How to stop being a people-pleaser at work:
It’s easier to cut back on your people-pleasing tendencies once you appreciate why that’s a worthwhile goal. You want to become the most capable version of your professional self and bending over backwards to please others all the time won’t help you to get there. Instead, you have to shift your focus.
So, here are some tips for how to stop being a people-pleaser at work once and for all:
1. Practice politely declining
If you really want to stop seeking validation, it’s important to learn how to say no to requests. And, you’ll also want to practice expressing a contrary position or perspective when you have one. People-pleasers don’t do these things very often. They say yes even when they’re stretched for time. And, they agree to go along with things, even when they have another opinion, without expressing their ideas.
First of all, remember that saying no at work isn’t impolite. You can still be courteous and decline a request. If you’re swamped, say you’re swamped. Explain that you don’t want the quality of your other assignments to suffer as a result of taking on too much. Keep your response kind and brief. Then, remind yourself that it’s OK to say no and pat yourself on the back for making progress.
Also, speak up if and when you have an idea that goes against the grain. Remind yourself that your ideas and contributions are valuable. You’re not just here to make other peoples’ ideas come to life. You have unique and meaningful contributions, too. Practice sharing them more often.
2. Focus on developing better self awareness
People-pleasers have this habit of thinking about everyone else before they think of themselves. If you have these tendencies, you can begin to turn things around by focusing on building better self-awareness. You can learn to concentrate on yourself a little more instead of spending so much time and energy focusing on those around you.
Amazing things can happen when you begin to focus more on yourself and less on other people. You’ll develop a better sense of your own strengths and weaknesses, for example. You’ll self-regulate more reliably and effectively on a day-to-day basis. And, you’ll be better equipped to improve yourself in meaningful ways in the long-term because of your heightened awareness, too. You’ll also be more authentic, which is something people tend to respond to very positively.
You might just find that you end up pleasing other people more when you focus on it less.
3. Take a beat
If you’ve spent years, maybe even decades, focusing on others’ needs instead of your own, people-pleasing is probably something of a knee-jerk reaction at this point. You probably do it without even thinking about it. You may even say yes to requests without even considering the alternative.
So, practice pausing before responding when you’re at work. Take just a moment before speaking up when your input is required. If someone asks for help, train yourself to consider your own needs before answering.
If someone is uncomfortable, don’t jump right in and try to get them to see the situation differently. Maybe it’s not your job to make them feel better. Pause to consider what’s best for you before extending yourself to others. Otherwise, you could run out of the strength to help anyone at all.
4. Celebrate your accomplishments
Folks who direct their time and energies toward accomplishing their own goals, rather than focusing on pleasing other people, tend to celebrate their progress more along the way. Acknowledging your strengths and your accomplishments is key if you really want to stop people-pleasing.
When you’ve done something well, take a minute to notice and celebrate. If your project comes together beautifully, step back and take a look and revel in your accomplishment for just a minute. Tell yourself that you did well. Feel a sense of pride for a job well done. If you land a new client, celebrate with a little private happy dance or even just a smile to yourself.
Don’t wait for other people to tell you that you did a good job. Celebrate as soon as you know within yourself that it’s deserved. In this way, you’ll train yourself to please yourself first and foremost.
5. Work toward accomplishing your goals
Your workdays should not be consumed entirely by trying to make other people happy or by helping them to accomplish their goals. Your life belongs to you. You should spend your time working toward your own goals and objectives, not someone else’s.
Start by having clearly defined priorities. If you’re a chronic people-pleaser, this might not feel easy or natural. Put aside what everyone else thinks and wants and just look to yourself. What’s most important to you professionally? What are your career goals? Take time to consider what will make you feel happy and fulfilled.
Once your goals are clear in your mind, you can begin to work toward them. Of course you need to leave room in your life for living. Things will come up that aren’t entirely on-mission. But, in general, you should try to live and work in a way that moves you closer toward accomplishing your own goals and objectives.
Finally, it’s important that you communicate your preferences and priorities to others. Let your boss know your hopes for the future. Work together to develop a plan for how to get there. Be yourself and let others see who you are. You’ll find greater fulfillment and happiness professionally if you’re working toward accomplishing your own goals at work, not someone else’s.
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