When the people pleaser in you is getting in the way of your career

by | Sep 17, 2017 | Anxiety at work

When it comes to career, you may not even know what you want, let alone how to get it

A lot of people who have trouble with anxiety will identify to some extent with the term people pleaser. It’s not a great thing to have to admit about one’s self. The term has negative connotations, as it’s seen as somewhat of a weakness. And, to be honest, when it comes to career progression, it certainly can be.

If your main concern at work is pleasing people and getting their approval, here are a few things that you may find extremely difficult:

• Conflict

• Voicing a contrary opinion

• Taking control of a situation

• Making difficult decisions

• Taking credit for your own work

• Saying no to work when you already have too much

• Giving an honest status of a difficult project

• Putting yourself first

• Taking time off

• Asking for a raise

• Seeking a promotion

The list is by no means exhaustive, but I would imagine you can already see the complications this throws up. When it comes to career, a people pleaser may not even know what they want, let alone how to get it. One of the many negative effects of constantly seeing to other people’s wants and needs, is that you never develop any of your own. And even if you do have an idea of what you want, getting there is almost impossible if you can never put yourself first. When you focus on the needs of others ahead of your own, the choices you make are dictated by their effects on other people.


How always pleasing others affects you around the office

It is this fear of hurting other people’s feeling that causes so many problems

The people pleaser is often a boss’s dream. Always there, willing to do whatever it takes, loyal to the end, making little or no demands. They often see their peers progressing much faster than they do, and stay in jobs with little gratification, because they don’t value their skills enough to apply elsewhere, but also because they don’t want to let their boss down.

It is this fear of hurting other people’s feeling that causes so many problems. This, coupled with the feelings of guilt when you attend to your own needs, is a combination that can keep a people pleaser trapped in a position well below their skill level.

If you fear looking after your own interests will be seen as selfish, or you will do almost anything to be liked, you will not be able to say no, and will take on work that is not your own. The more you do, the more others will let you, as you take on more responsibility, with none of the credit.

This can lead to feelings of anger and resentment. But where do those emotions go? You can’t be universally liked whilst showing negative emotions. The more those around you scoop up the plaudits and promotions, the more you feel your acknowledgements ‘should’ be noticed, and that you shouldn’t have to go around shouting about all your qualities.


How to begin to look after your own needs

If you find it very difficult to talk yourself up in the beginning, at least stop talking yourself down

Unfortunately, when it comes to progression in work, and forging a career, you have to be a self-publicist at times. Most companies these days will have performance reviews where you get a chance to showcase your qualities to the company. It can feel cringy and unnatural talking ourselves up, but it has to be done.

Outside this process however, it is imperative to find your voice and begin to come out of the shadows. As the people around you move on, you don’t want to be left behind.

Here’s a few places you can start:

• Begin by noticing every place you sacrifice your own needs for those of others.

• Push back on work that is not yours. Don’t let others take advantage of you.

• Stop apologising all the time.

• Seek assistance when you are too busy. If you always help others out, call in those favours when you are under pressure. Even if you are not all that busy, it will be good to practice asking for assistance.

• Start taking responsibility for your work. If you have done the bulk of a project or presentation, be the person to front the demo. If you are always in the background you will never get the exposure necessary to progress.

• Stop playing down your importance to the team. If you find it very difficult to talk yourself up in the beginning, at least stop talking yourself down.

• Learn to say no. Start with something small.

• Know that it is not possible to be liked by everyone.

• Stop believing that looking out for your own interests is selfish. If you do it 100% of the time, then maybe it is, but let’s at least get up to 5% of the time to kick off.

• Start trying to figure out what you want from your career. This may be difficult, as you have not focused on yourself before. Give it some time. Try to figure out what you like and where you would like to go. Then start moving in that direction.

The people pleaser in you will not go down without a fight. Prioritising your own needs can be very difficult if it’s something you’re not used to. It is crucial to start though, and soon. Your career is not being served by constantly putting others first.


  1. Pauline

    Dear Stuart
    Thanks for your superb book that has really helped me.
    Can you contact me ?


    • Stewart Geddes

      Hi Pauline,

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve sent you an email, but you may want to check your Spam folder, just in case.

      Kind regards,


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This