Are You Trying Too Hard to Please Everyone?

Joe Weinlick
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It's natural for professionals to want to make other people happy at work, particularly when it comes to bosses or superiors. When your tendencies as a people pleaser start to impact your performance or violate personal boundaries, however, they can do more harm than good.

You Struggle to Say No

One of the most common signs of a people pleaser is the inability to say no — even when a yes comes at the expense of your own needs. Do you frequently accept requests that disrupt or delay your workflow? Do you find yourself staying late or working at home to get everything done? Do you experience anxiety at the idea of turning down a colleague? If these situations sound familiar, you might be trying too hard to please everyone. Avoid this pitfall by responding to requests with, "Can I check my schedule and get back to you?" This gives you time to examine the day's workload and work up the courage to say no if necessary.

Your Work Falls Behind

As a people pleaser, the whims and wants of others often take precedence over your own. When you start falling behind at work or turning in sub-par products, take a closer look at where your time is going. If the bulk of each day is spent helping others or following through on colleague requests, your people-pleasing behavior could be sabotaging your performance. To ensure that your work stays on track, schedule each task into a calendar. In doing so, you can identify free time and dedicate it to assisting others, all without short-changing your own projects.

You're Afraid to Speak Up

When you're trying too hard to please people, speaking up in meetings or small-group discussions can be scary. The reasons vary — you might be afraid of being disliked, standing up to your boss or upsetting the status quo. When the issue in question is tiny or insignificant, it's fine to keep your opinions to yourself. When doing so violates your morals or personal boundaries, however, being a people pleaser does everyone a disservice. In these situations, it's important to work up the self-confidence to state your opinions in a firm, professional manner.

You Can't Offer Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is an essential part of a high-performing team. If you struggle to provide negative feedback that can strengthen the final product, your people-pleasing tendencies could be hurting the company as a whole. In many cases, a people pleaser avoids criticizing colleagues' work because they can't stand the idea of anyone being angry with them. This behavior has several unintended consequences. It prevents changes that could improve the product and the end-user experience, which opens opportunities for competitors and impacts profits down the road. Worse, however, it forces you to suppress your own instincts and knowledge-driven insights, which kills your confidence.

When you're a people pleaser, behavioral change can feel emotionally painful. By making small shifts, you can reestablish your boundaries, boost performance and build confidence in the workplace.

Photo courtesy of James Baker at


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