This Is How Being A People Pleaser Is Ruining Your Career

An expert advises how to stop being a people pleaser at work.
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Being a ‘people pleaser’ sounds like a good thing on the surface, right? You please people?

However, as the British composer Elizabeth Parker once said: “The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy. You.”

This couldn’t be more true in the workplace. While working hard and helping your colleagues can feel good and progress your career, you may soon find yourself burnt out and bitter.

Careers expert and founder of Social Media Jobs, Rob Phelps, spoke with us to explain why people pleasing in the workplace can be harmful, and how to break the cycle.

The dangers of people pleasing in the workplace

It’s a recipe for burnout

While it may just feel like doing ‘small’ things to help others, Phelps warns that saying yes to everything, taking on extra work on top of your own to-do list and prioritising other people’s needs over your own can lead to ‘serious burnout’.

Phelps said: “The constant state of busyness can take over and make it difficult to focus on your core responsibilities, and potentially mean mistakes or missed deadlines, for the sake of helping too many people with their own deadlines.”

It can make you almost invisible

If you spend a lot of your time making sure that you’re helping other people, it’s likely that your own voice and needs will get lost.

Phelps said: “People pleasers often shy away from advocating for themselves or putting forward their ideas, so it can be difficult to get noticed for your contributions and ideas.”

He also warned that this lack of visibility can reduce your chances of getting a promotion or being put forward for new challenges or projects.

It can weaken boundaries

Phelps warned: “People pleasing often means weakening your boundaries, both professionally and personally.

“Your time, expertise, and energy are valuable, and constantly giving them away for free can lead to frustration and resentment, and this can start to bleed into your personal life too.”

He said that you may find yourself checking work emails while on holiday, or saying yes to taking on more tasks when you’re actually off sick, or even accepting friend requests from colleagues on private social media accounts — all of which are ignoring your own boundaries and comfort levels.

How to break free from people-pleasing

Understand why you do it

Phelps said: “The first step is understanding why you feel the need to please everyone around you.

“Is it a fear of disapproval? A lack of clarity on your own goals that makes you take on extra work to avoid having time to work out what you really want?”

He added that talking to somebody you admire at work or even friends and family can help you to get to the root of the underlying cause and address the patterns and start saying no.

Know your own worth

Recognise your skills and contributions! You deserve to be valued for what you bring to the table, and when you feel invisible it can have a serious impact on your confidence in your abilities.

Phelps advised: “Take time to reflect on your accomplishments and successes, to boost your confidence and help you advocate for yourself more effectively.”

Set and keep boundaries

Phelps said: “Setting boundaries isn’t just about saying no to others, it’s about saying yes to yourself. When you prioritise your own growth and wellbeing, you become a more efficient and fulfilled member of the team.”

To do this, you need to learn to politely say no to taking on tasks that aren’t part of your job, explain that you’re prioritising your own workload and offer alternatives solutions if possible.

Phelps added: “You might be surprised at how understanding people are when you stick to your boundaries rather than saying yes to everything.”

Advocate for yourself

Sometimes you have to remind people of everything you do if they’re not paying attention. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions, even if they’re different from what everyone else is saying. Your perspective is valuable and deserves to be heard.

Be patient with yourself

Finally, Phelps urged, you need to be patient with yourself.

He said: “Remember that change is a gradual process, and after years of saying yes, it can feel strange to start saying no. Be patient with yourself and celebrate progress.

“By putting yourself first, you’ll be able to achieve a healthier work-life balance, and ultimately have a more fulfilling and successful career, rather than letting your desire to keep everyone else happy hold you back.”