Are you someone who goes out of your way to be a people pleaser at work? For example, do you consistently say yes to taking on new projects even when you are overloaded? Do you find yourself agreeing with co-workers even though you may have a very different viewpoint? If that sounds like you, you may have people-pleasing tendencies.
Of course, doing nice things for others isn’t a bad thing. But when this behavior causes you to disregard your feelings, suppress valuable opinions, and take on more responsibility than you can comfortably manage, that’s a problem. People-pleasing behaviors are often disguised as positivity and camaraderie. But unfortunately, it can be a façade. What’s more, people pleasers typically want to be liked and respected. But when you give up your power this way, it leads to a lack of respect. That’s because when you don’t acknowledge your boundaries, your colleagues follow suit. Before you know it, you’re working 60 hours a week with no extra pay or recognition.
The reality is that you can’t be all things to all people. And the costs of people-pleasing in the workplace can be high, including frustration, resentment, anxiety and burnout. Fortunately, there are strategies to mitigate these tendencies. Here are ten ways to stop being a people pleaser so you can become more confident, productive and fulfilled at work.
1. Increase your awareness
Awareness is the first step toward change. Begin by keeping track of how often you say yes to things. When it happens, write it down. Then in another column, describe how you feel in those moments. Look for patterns. For example, there may be some people, in particular, you have trouble saying no to. Then think about how you could have handled the situation differently to be better prepared for next time.
2. Understand your boundaries and limitations
As you increase your awareness, think about how much bandwidth you have. Then try to determine your limits and establish clear boundaries. Next, communicate those boundaries to the people around you. Finally, be clear and specific about what projects you can realistically take on.
3. Seek a supportive mentor
Seeking a supportive mentor, friend, coach, therapist, or co-worker can be very valuable during this time. First, explain how you want to change this habit and describe specific skills you want to work on. Then develop an action plan. That way, you can create detailed milestones and hold yourself accountable.
4. Start saying no in small ways
People pleasers have trouble saying no. But the more you practice, the easier it gets. You need to work to strengthen your no muscle the same as you would any other muscle in your body. Start doing it in small, easy ways like over text or chat. Rehearse responses that you can use frequently. For example, if you’re too busy, you could say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m really overscheduled right now.” Or, if you’re just not the right person, you could say, “That sounds really interesting, but I know there is someone who is a better fit for that project.”
5. Set measurable goals
One thing to remember is to focus on progress, not perfection. Start small and don’t feel you need to make major changes overnight. One goal could be to turn down one additional project a month. Another might be to speak up in every meeting when you’d like to share a different viewpoint.
6. Ask for help
Recognize that you’re not alone. Instead of saying yes to every assignment that comes along, ask others for help. Even if you can delegate minor tasks, it’s a step in the right direction.
7. Replace negative self-talk
Negative feelings need to be replaced with more positive behaviors. One worthwhile approach is replacing negative self-talk with positive mantras. It might feel strange in the beginning. But with practice, mantras can help you manage stress, boost confidence and increase productivity. Here are a few examples:
- “If I spend all my time at work pleasing others, I surrender my power.”
- “I can only be true to myself if I stop trying to please others.”
- “Even if I say no, it is not my fault someone else is displeased.”
- “I am not responsible for the feelings of anyone except myself.”
8. Pause before responding
If you’re a people pleaser, you probably say yes to things immediately and regret it later. Instead, practice pausing to buy yourself time to assess the situation. For example, you could say, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Studies have also found that even a short pause before making a choice increases decision-making accuracy.
9. Stop making excuses
When you say no, it’s important to avoid making excuses. For one thing, it can give that person a way to adjust the request to ensure you can still do what they are requesting. The other reason is that you often don’t need to offer a detailed explanation. Usually, it’s enough to simply say that you have too much on your plate and leave it at that.
10. Be true to yourself
The most important thing to remember about your behavior is to stay true to yourself. Don’t agree to do something that conflicts with your priorities or makes you uncomfortable just to please someone else. Know what is right for you and stick to it. By taking this approach, people will respect you more in the long run.
While being a people pleaser at work is a hard habit to break, you can do it. Use these strategies to take small, consistent steps towards setting healthy boundaries. Only then will you be able to truly listen to your inner voice, embrace your authentic self and regain your power.