Being a people-pleaser is one of 12 derailment factors that we talk about in module 5 of the Women Rising program. It’s also one of 5 behaviours that significantly contributes to burnout and unfortunately, it impacts women in particular. This can be attributed to both nature and nurture, as well as the double bind, the research showing that women can be perceived as competent or likeable, but rarely both.
As the name suggests, a people-pleaser wants to please, to be liked, be helpful, and not ruffle any feathers. If you’re a people-pleaser, you don’t want to let anyone down. This often means that you take on too many responsibilities, and struggle to set effective boundaries because you have difficulty saying ‘no’. This creates an excessive workload as well as a lack of time to rest and restore, which means that burnout is on the cards.
When people-pleasing shows up in managers or leaders, they can be overly nurturing with their teams. They want to protect their team at all costs and often it results in them taking on too much and bringing unnecessary stress on themselves. But it’s not only your workload and stress levels that are negatively impacted by people-pleasing. This type of behaviour can also affect the career decisions you make, the things you say in meetings, the roles you put yourself forwards for, the way you interact with your colleagues and the list goes on and on.
Take a Moment Now to Reflect:
- Are you a people-pleaser?
- Does pleasing people in your career impact the decisions you make?
- Does it impact when you will speak up and what you will say when you speak up?
- Do you canvas opinions so you can ensure that when you give your opinion in the meeting you’re not upsetting people and you’re still going to be liked?
- Do you agree to take on work that you may not have enough time or resources to complete because you want to please your coworkers or manager?
- Do you find yourself volunteering or saying yes to doing non-promotable tasks? Things like taking minutes for the meeting, scheduling appointments, helping to organise employee events etc.
- Do you fall into people-pleasing behaviour because you want to avoid conflict?
It can be an exhausting way to work and live. If this sounds like you, we want you to have compassion for yourself and understand that one of the major reasons why people-pleasing impacts women more than men, is because women have been socialised to be kind, agreeable and of service to others. You are not the problem. It is operating within flawed patriarchal systems that has caused women to participate in many of the behaviours that can be detrimental to their own wellbeing and career success.
Here are some ideas for ways to manage your people-pleasing so that you can get this behaviour in check and make sure it doesn’t derail your career, or make you miserabe or burnt out in the process.
If you struggle with people-pleasing, it’s important to become aware of the stories you’re telling yourself and the impact they’re having. Take some time to reflect on the following questions:
- What am I afraid will happen if I say no to this request? Is that true?
- What stories am I telling myself about what it means if I say ‘no’? Is that true?
- What would pleasing myself instead of another look like in this scenario?
- What would make it easier to say no to this person or this request?
Often people-pleasing has become such an ingrained behaviour, that we say yes to requests on our time without taking a moment to think about it. Here are some suggestions for what you can say when someone asks you to do something rather than defaulting to ‘yes’ straight away:
- Let me have a look at my priorities and my schedule and get back to you on that tomorrow.
- I don’t have the capacity right now for anything more.
- I can’t help you with that, but you might find this resource helpful.
- I appreciate you asking, but I don’t have space for that.
You might also consider finding a mentor who can help you manage your people-pleasing tendencies. Is there someone in your organisation who sets effective boundaries, manages conflict well, and communicates authentically who could help mentor you in these areas? When there’s a behaviour that you want to change or improve, finding a person who role models the type of behaviour you’d like to emulate and asking for their help and guidance can be a great place to start.