Are You a People Pleaser? (And If So, Why Is That an Issue?)

You think you're helping but you're really inviting others to take advantage of you.

Are You a People Pleaser? (And If So, Why Is That an Issue?)

People pleasers do a disservice to themselves and others.

Do you describe yourself as a team player? A rule follower? Someone who goes above and beyond and gives 110% at work? While those all sound like favorable attributes, sometimes those are just euphemisms for “people pleaser,” which could be unhealthy for your career. In fact, being a people pleaser could result in others taking advantage of you in the workplace and eventually lead to burnout.

What Is a People Pleaser?

A people pleaser does things simply to appease others even when something in their gut feels off. Here are some other signs of a people pleaser:

  • You can't say no or stop volunteering to help even though you might feel like you’re overburdened, or you know that you’re being asked to do more than others.
  • You to apologize to others, even when there’s no reason to.
  • You tend to shy away from disagreements or even having an opinion of your own because you don’t want others to dislike you.

The key is to realize that while having a can-do attitude is wonderful, if it’s paired with a compulsion to put everyone else’s needs above your own, then it’s gone too far.

The fact is other people don’t even really like people pleasers. Think about it: If you’re the one always showing up early or agreeing with the boss, it can create resentment with other staffers. A supervisor might also tire of people-pleasing workers who constantly need validation.

Sound familiar? Take some steps to break that habit.

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser:

1. Create Boundaries

Whether it’s saying “I stop answering emails after 7:00 p.m.” or sharing your calendar with someone to choose a time that’s open for you, letting people know that your availability is limited will send a clear message. Boundaries aren't rude, they're reasonable.

2. Don’t Always Give a Full “Yes”

Instead of agreeing to do something and then privately kicking yourself when you’re stuck late at work. Instead, say you have to review your schedule and get back to them. Then, if you can spare some time, put a limit on it. Say something like, "I can look at this for 20 minutes after lunch today, but then I have another project I have to get back to."

3. Learn to Give an Unequivocal “No”

If you’re being asked to do something beyond your scope, simply say, "Unfortunately, I won’t be able to help with that." And don’t feel like you have to offer up an excuse, since that may end up with the person trying to convince you to make them your priority. If you’re feeling generous, you could suggest another person or resource they could turn to, but stick to your "no."

4. Try Offering a New Perspective

Often, a people pleaser just agrees with everyone around them—especially the boss—because it’s easier and more comfortable. But some of the best innovations come from debating and voicing alternate ideas. As long as you do so respectfully, a little push back can help you stand out in a good way.

5. Ask for Feedback, But Not Constantly

Being a people pleaser, you tend to seek infinitely more feedback than most others in order to feel confident about yourself and your work. It’s reasonable to check in part way through a project, but at some point, you need to fly solo and feel good about your contributions without hand-holding. Eventually, once you stop seeking approval for every little thing, you’ll start to realize that you know what you’re doing.

6. Stop Apologizing

Of course, if you step on someone’s foot in the elevator, say sorry. But if you have to ask your manager a question, and you instinctively start with “Sorry to bother you,” that’s a habit you should try breaking. Stop apologizing for your presence. 

7. Learn to Take a Compliment

People pleasers tend to struggle with how to respond when someone tells them they did a great job. They may say something like “My presentation wasn’t as good as Kelly’s,” or “Thanks, even though there was a huge typo.” Instead, just say “Thank you. I’m glad you liked how it turned out.” Being humble is a good quality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accept some well-earned praise, too.

People Pleaser, Please Thyself

Once you scale back and learn how to stop being a people pleaser, you may just find that your own focus and productivity will improve, and you’ll stress less. People will respect you for having your own thoughts and opinions, and for being assertive and confident when appropriate. Want more tips to make your job easier? Monster can send you free advice. All in all, to achieve real workplace happiness, the only person you really have to please is yourself.