Five Tips to Avoid People-Pleasing at Work…And Why It Matters

Achieving Goals, Burnout, Confidence, Leadership Coaching, Mindset & Mindfulness
02/06/23 - Betsy Westhoff
co-workers sitting together talking

When I hear the words “people pleaser” my gut reactions used to be, “of course”, “why not”, and “so what?” Then, I became a coach and I learned how being a people pleaser can drain us, take us out of our comfort zone and away from our values, get us in over our heads (with work for sure!), and distract us from our priorities.

If people-pleasing is a behavior you are comfortable with, my guess is that it has felt like it worked well for you in the past. Maybe your people-pleasing behavior smoothed out rough edges in your family or with a roommate. Perhaps when you began a new job people-pleasing made you feel like you would be included and liked more quickly. But now… you are moving your career forward and this habit is getting in the way of your growth.  

Here are five tips to help you avoid people-pleasing:

Ask yourself:

What are the circumstances or feelings that lead you to ”people-pleasing” behavior at work? For many of us we feel most comfortable when we avoid:

  • Conflict
  • Saying NO
  • Disagreeing with someone who we feel MIGHT know more than we do about a topic
  • Angering or upsetting someone
  • Being considered to be disagreeable, angry or difficult

When and why do you step into people-pleasing at work?

Get clear about the personal impact of your people-pleasing habits at work:

What are the feelings that arise from your people-pleasing?

  • I take on more than I can handle and feel stressed, resentful or fearful
  • I become shy and resist being around others
  • I notice I am agreeing to things/ideas/plans I am not comfortable with, and that results in negative and time consuming thought loops
  • I feel like a fake

What do you notice when you are in people-pleasing mode at work?

Focus on your strengths and determine how you can best demonstrate value to the team and organization:

Being open minded and agreeable can be beneficial at work. There may be opportunities we are presented with that will stretch us, enhance our skillset or help us expand our network and influence.

When you feel yourself leaning into “automatic yes,” take a pause to consider the implications of your answer. Often in coaching we encourage our clients to become individuals who are acting in response to circumstances as opposed to reacting without thinking.

  • If you believe that agreeing to take on a new assignment, travel to a new city, report to a new boss or join a team with an alternative POV on strategy will help you, then say yes!
  • If you know that the person who is asking you to join them, help them or see things their way has your best interest in mind, then maybe say yes!
  • If you really want to help someone out and you have the time and energy to do so, say yes.  

But, if you are being pushed out of your comfort zone for any reason consider saying no.


If you decide that people-pleasing is no longer serving you, you’ll want  to practice the difficult conversations that will feel uncomfortable. Consider gathering scenarios from your recent past when you were stepping into people-pleasing mode.  Then find a friend, co-worker, mentor or coach to talk those situations through.

  • What was really going on for you?
  • How else could you have handled the situation?
  • What are the exact words and tone of voice you could have used in the conversation?


What is the opposite of people-pleasing? A not so nice word may come up for you.  

  • If so, how will you shift your mindset to more positive labels? Consider for example:
  • “I am someone with confidence and clarity around my goals.”
  • “I know my value to this team.”
  • “I know that when I accept more than I can do I am not able to be effective in my   role.”
  • “I am prepared for difficult conversations.”

Working with a coach to step away from people-pleasing habits is extraordinarily helpful. Your coach will help you understand why people-pleasing has felt comfortable to you and identify practices to help you make self advocacy your new habit.

At Ama La Vida, we work with our clients every day to help them gain the awareness, skills and confidence they need to take charge of their careers. Reach out to us here to schedule a free consultation call to learn how we can help support you.

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