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5 Circumstances When People-Pleasing Is Bad For Your Career

5 Circumstances When People-Pleasing Is Bad For Your Career

If you’re an appeaser, according to Sir Winston Churchill, you’re a fearful person who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat you last. But being a people-pleaser isn’t all bad. Sometimes it’s essential, depending on the circumstances, to “fake it until you make it”—a simple, yet powerful tool that says you can lift your workday mood by acting as if you already feel better than you actually do. Based on the science-backed, mind-body connection, simple mind-body adjustments to your actions, body movements, and facial expressions can course correct a downward spiral, contributing to career success.

There are also times when we must go along with certain policies and procedures for organizations to function properly. Rules such as dress code, company benefits, state and federal regulations, work hours and so forth create operational scaffolding that builds common ground, good communication, team spirit and workplace harmony. Most of us comply with these written and tacit rules willingly without a second thought. But it’s one thing to lift our moods and submit to rules and policies, yet quite another to fold yourself into a disingenuous pretzel to gain approval from corporate honchos, managers or coworkers.

If You’re A ‘Yes Person,’ It Can Stall Your Career
When people-pleasing is based on cooperation and team spirit it’s one thing, but there’s a point at which approval-seeking has a negative impact on how you’re viewed in the workplace: when it’s based on fear. Here are five circumstances when people-pleasing is bad for your career:

  • A “yes-person” is afraid of disapproval and judgment, opposes their own truth and agrees with colleagues even when they actually don’t agree and say yes when they really mean no.
  • A conflict avoider is afraid they can’t stand their ground in a disagreement, so they go along with the team to avoid conflict.
  • Mr./Ms. Nice Guys use manipulation to sell their souls in hopes of reaching the top of the career ladder.
  • Insecure people-pleasers agree with the majority out of fear of not fitting in to boost their egos.
  • Peace-makers are threatened by disagreements and go along with the group to create harmony and keep the peace.

Appeasement-seeking leads to pressure to keep up the facade, but it has a short shelf life before higher-ups and colleagues see through it. It’s important to know the line of when to speak out against or when to conform to the group. Research shows when employees sell out, avoid conflict or try to be Ms. or Mr. Nice Guy in hopes of reaching the top of the career ladder, those strategies don’t work. When you’re afraid to speak up, disagree, say no, think outside the box or stick your neck out in a creative way, you could be unwittingly sabotaging your career. Scientists report that non-pleasers and non-conformists are not necessarily the rebels or troublemakers in the workplace. They are rogue individualists, more likely to work together for the greater good of the company; whereas “yes-people” are less likely to do so because conformity and approval are more important to their self-esteem, security and ambitious goals than the common good.

The Straight And Narrow Versus The Winding Road
In the “good old days,” business was built on a motto that you work by the book and follow the straight and narrow. Many companies pigeonholed workers into narrow, tight roles forcing them to draw on their weaknesses and spend energy staying within strict confines that limited individual and company growth. If you didn’t rock the boat and went along with the corporate culture, you could retire with the proverbial gold watch and live happily ever after. Not anymore. A new trend known as “zig-zagging” discussed here is gaining popularity. Some experts believe taking a non-linear approach—versus a straightforward path—to career advancement puts employees in the driver’s seat, enabling them to build a set of skills and stretch into new applications of their talent, benefiting their own development and the company’s as well.

A 2024 thriving company is one that encourages thinking outside the box, innovative ideas and employee individualism. Studies suggest organizations that foster diversity, nonconformity and inventive ideas allow employees to draw on their strengths and add to the prosperity of the company. When a company supports self-expression, individuality and diverse ideas, employees have higher engagement in their jobs. The company benefits from improved customer relations, greater innovation and a thriving workforce that allows employees to speak their minds and reach company goals in their own unique ways, using their strongest talents and passions.

Successful career climbers constantly assess where they are on the spectrum between yielding and holding their ground. They don’t hesitate to ask what edge they can go to in their jobs, get out of their comfort zones and stick their necks out to move the needle in one direction. If you’re ready to take the risk to bloom in your career, instead of remain tight in a bud, it might be time to go against the fear of ridicule, rejection or being labeled a troublemaker. Consider finding that one place in your career where you’ve been hiding and challenge yourself to open pathways that allow you to thrive.

At the end of the day, after all is said and done, no matter how hard you appease, someone will disapprove of something or disagree, and its only a matter of time before the crocodile feasts upon you. Nobody has squatter’s rights in your head and heart unless you grant it. When you become a chameleon who changes with the wind, you lose touch with who you actually are. The Rx? Get comfortable with disapproval and disagreements and learn to face instead of avoid conflict. Start to see your individualism as a healthy approach. Reclaim your self-respect, stand firm in your values and opinions and be willing to speak up or say no. Be your own person, map your own career goals and gauge your actions by your own standards, not by the approval of others. When you look for that unpredictable bridge to jump from to sprout your wings or what limb to reach the fruit of the tree, you don’t have to fear the crocodile anymore.



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