By: Alexis Gomez

People pleasing is often brought on by the desire to be liked and respected. You may think that saying yes and putting others’ needs before your own will result in people liking you, but instead, this can lead to a lack of respect. When you don’t establish necessary boundaries, your colleagues may follow suit. Before you know it, you’re picking up other people’s slack, agreeing to carry out certain tasks despite your reservations, and working several extra hours a week with no extra recognition or pay.

Research also suggests that saying yes too often at work can lead to feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks and a reduced quality of work. People pleasing can take many forms in the workplace, and recognizing the signs can be the first step toward overcoming it. Some people-pleasing tendencies include:

  • Having difficulty saying no to requests. It can be difficult for people pleasers to stop adding extra tasks to their schedule that don’t need to rest on their shoulders, especially when it comes to work.
  • Being preoccupied with how others feel and what they think. People pleasers constantly think about how others perceive them and if those people are happy when they’re with them.
  • Making a conscious effort to avoid conflict. People pleasers may try to distract others or change the subject to try to avoid potential arguments or conflict.
  • Having difficulty disagreeing with others. People pleasers may have difficulty discussing viewpoints that are different from their own, despite the importance of sharing diverse thoughts and opinions.
  • Needing praise. People pleasers constantly seek approval from their colleagues and loved ones and may worry that they are not doing enough if they do not receive that approval.
  • Not wanting to express feelings and needs. People pleasers may suppress their needs (i.e. taking a break, grabbing a bite to eat, etc.) in an attempt to not inconvenience others.

The result? Burnout, stress, and even resentment. However, recognizing these habits is important to be able to confront them. Although it can be challenging, putting a stop to people-pleasing habits is more than possible. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Set boundaries. Arguably the most important step to stop people pleasing, boundaries are like an expression of self-respect and self-love. Recognize what you are willing to do for others and communicate those needs. Also, note that this may result in your relationships changing or your connections fading away. This can be uncomfortable and intimidating, but clearing space in your life for people who will respect your boundaries will be much more beneficial for your growth and happiness in the long run.
  • Identify priorities. Once you recognize what your priorities are, what is most important to you, and the types of people you want to surround yourself with, it becomes easier to avoid people and things that don’t align with your goals.
  • Set time limits. Remember your time constraints and abilities. Time blocking is not just helpful for productivity, but also for giving a hard stop when helping someone.
  • Ask for time. In addition to setting time limits, consider delaying saying “yes.” Some phrases you can use are: “Let me get back to you on that,” or “I don’t have my calendar with me, so I will check when I get home.” If you have more pressing tasks, consider saying something like: “I need to finish this task first and then I can help you,” or “I won’t be able to work on this project at this time. If you still need help later, I can help after I’ve finished my current project.”
  • Say no with conviction. It may be difficult to not say “maybe” or “I don’t know” when it comes to certain requests, even when you know you are not available or interested. Instead, consider using a polite, but effective no. Some phrases to use are: “Unfortunately, I’m at capacity,” or “I’m honored, but someone else can dedicate the time that deserves.”
  • Remind yourself that you can’t be everything to everyone. Regardless of what you do or who you are, someone is going to disapprove… and that’s okay! The only opinion of you that matters more than others is the opinion you have of yourself!

When it comes to establishing healthy work-life boundaries and balance, managers can support their employees by setting a precedent. Managers can encourage their employees to disconnect from work fully and not answer messages or emails while taking time off. They can also check that there is a fair distribution of work responsibilities, and offer support for their employees with one-on-one meetings. Validating employees by showing gratitude, congratulations, or other uplifting affirmations can also make a huge difference. Ultimately, being respectful and mindful of employees’ time and boundaries can, in turn, empower employees and help so that they do not fall deep into people-pleasing habits in the workplace.