Select Page

A lot of you will be promoted from peer/colleague to boss/leader. It happened early in my career. My former peers were very supportive and instrumental in helping me get the promotion. When we were peers, we questioned why the boss did things a certain way or wouldn’t green light all of our projects. My new role gave me a different perspective. Rather than only advocating for resources, I had to balance budgets.

As a peer, I didn’t like doing some reports, but as the boss, I understood why they were needed. My former colleagues thought I would give them a pass, so they turned them in late. Sometimes they’d be late to meetings. I didn’t want to come down hard on them, after all, they were my former peers who had helped me. I considered them my friends. I vented to my boss. To every complaint I uttered he said you get what you expect. The take-home message: expect more. I wanted to be nice but had to decide if I wanted to be liked or respected. I wasn’t merely being nice; I was people-pleasing.

According to Lizzie Moult, How to Stop People Pleasing – The Definitive Guide (25 February 2022), “A people pleaser is someone who puts other people’s needs ahead of their own. They are highly aware of others and what their needs are. However, they have trouble advocating for themselves which can lead to harmful patterns like resentment, self-neglect, and assumptions.” I stopped that level of people-pleasing before those destructive patterns developed. It turns out I had a mild case although making the appropriate adjustments were uncomfortable. I had to put professional distance between my former peers and me. I might not have been as well-liked but gained their respect as a leader.

While doing research for this week’s blog I learned that people-pleasing goes much deeper. You could be doing it but not be aware. Here are some behaviors that could be indicators you have people-pleasing tendencies. You feel hurt if someone doesn’t like you. You avoid conflict at all costs. To fit in you act like the people around you. You go out of your way to make sure everyone around you is happy. You hate saying no. You apologize way too much, especially for things you don’t control. People-pleasing is a way of seeking out validation. You don’t share your true feelings when someone hurts you. You don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings.  It’s a form of self-protection. You may not see yourself as equal to others. The antidote to unhealthy people-pleasing is self-knowledge and self-confidence. It might take coaching or therapy to get there, but it will be worth the effort.

Have you ever exhibited people-pleasing tendencies at home or work? To learn more about my coaching practice visit