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Is it Possible to Stop People Pleasing at Work?

People pleasing usually comes from a good place, but it rarely has advantages for the people pleaser. In the workplace, especially, people pleasing can lead to burnout, self-censorship, and bullying or manipulation by coworkers and bosses.

Scott Mautz successfully ran several businesses under the wing of Procter & Gamble, significantly improving the health of the organization and its employees. He manages his own business where he trains people to work, lead, and live a fulfilled life, while also teaching “the secret to sustaining motivation” as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University.

In his book, Find Your Fire, he discusses the role people pleasing plays in depleting energy and excitement in your job.

“The truth is, while you’re admirably giving of yourself with your people-pleasing tendencies, you’re giving away more than you realize,” he writes.

The more of yourself that you give away, the less you reserve for your true talents and the more frustrated you’ll get with your position.

In the following excerpt, Mautz describes the ramifications of people pleasing at work and how you can take action towards crushing the habit, which could be potentially damaging to your career.growth and happiness.

Your People Pleasing Habit is a Power Suck

Whether or not we realize it, we take actions that directly give away our power. This is an awareness and avoidance campaign. Become aware of how you are doing this, and then avoid doing it.

When you people please, you sacrifice the power of bringing the authentic you to the table.

To please others and gain approval, you say “yes” when inside you’re screaming “hell, no,” you tell bold-faced white lies to avoid hurting feelings, and you suppress your voice, the power of your words, and the value of sharing what you’re really thinking.

You do whatever you can to avoid confrontation, thus giving away the opportunity to change a situation for the better and to learn and grow from the change. You’re giving away your personal productivity as you take on more and more in your desire not to disappoint and to be liked.

You’re acting like a robotic version of you, not the real version of you.

You may not realize that people pleasing quite often backfires.

The pleaser acts as such to gain affirmation and instead draws contempt.

Psychologist Maria Sirota explains this phenomenon:

Human beings are highly sensitive to power dynamics in relationships, and we’re always looking to see who the alpha is and who’s at the bottom of the totem pole...We’re aware, even if only on a subconscious level, of those who are insecure and lacking in confidence. People who aim to please come across as weak and needy, and many of us are inclined to react negatively toward them.

It gets worse.

Unfortunately, people pleasers attract manipulators who will take advantage of them, and they can even be the target of abuse from workplace bullies. In fact, it’s estimated that 12 million people experience workplace bullying in some form each year, with people pleasers being the clear majority of those who report such bullying.

How to Stop People Pleasing at Work

So how do you shift the emphasis from pleasing to empowering? Try this bullet-point list to put a bullet in your bad tendencies:

  • Commit to 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned-worth—How you feel about yourself should flow dominantly from your own self-appreciation and self-acceptance—two things you must get better at.
  • Think of the You-niverse, not the universe—Stop trying to be everything for everybody in the world (leave that to Ryan Seacrest). Ask yourself if continually making others happy is really worth sacrificing your own happiness.
  • Spot the difference between compassion and compulsion—Be on alert to what you’re feeling when you choose to respond in a people-pleasing way. Are you doing it out of kindness? Great. Are you feeling compelled to do it to because you want to avoid conflict or want approval, and afterwards notice you feel ticked off that you gave in? Not great.
  • Remember that politicians never get 100 percent of the vote, and neither will you—Not everyone will like you. It’s a fact of life, and it’s OK. So stop trying to make it so.
  • Push through unease to unearth growth and change—It’s not easy to press through the discomfort of saying “no,” pushing back, or saying what’s on your mind instead of what you think others want to hear. But in doing so you can change someone’s point of view or help them realize something about themselves, while also delivering a more assertive and confident representation of yourself in the office.

Scott Mautz

Scott Mautz is an award-winning keynote speaker, and the author of "Find the Fire - Ignite Your Inspiration - and Make Work Exciting Again". He's also author of "Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning" - a book that's received many accolades including "The 2106 Leadership Book of the Year - First Runner Up".

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