10 Ways to Stop People Pleasing in the Office

In the wise words of philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I believe human beings are inherently good.

In the wise words of philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I believe human beings are inherently good. With this natural sense of morality, I think most of us are happy to help one another. Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled by my coworkers, as they are always willing to share in the workload. While this is a huge part of our company culture, it’s also something we need to be careful of. Having done it myself many times, it’s easy to help others so much to the point where you can’t focus on your own job anymore. This kind of personality is commonly referred to as the “People Pleaser.”

Although it’s a good attribute, agreeing to do the tasks of others sometimes causes several negative results. Since SkillGigs is so heavily invested in making work life more balanced, here are my 10 tips for saying no in the workplace, without necessarily saying no.

  1. Honesty is the best policy: This is probably the hardest method, which is why I am handing it to you first. Although your initial reaction to a request for help is going to say yes and deal with your stuff later…you need to exercise your honesty. Honesty will almost always be your best friend when it comes to resolving issues at work. In this situation especially, communicating that your plate is full will make your co-workers respect you and your time.
  2. Delegate away: I am so sick of hearing the phrase, “That’s not my job.” That kind of attitude has no resolution! What I do like to hear is, “I can’t help, but let’s get Sally or Mick in on this and you 3 should be able to knock it out.” Some of the best leaders are just master delegators. If you are the kind of person that someone is going to for help, you’re also probably the kind of person that can also pull in other resources.
  3. Offer to split the work: We all know what it is like to compromise in a workplace. If it goes against your nature to say no completely, maybe take the bait and help out halfway. Answering with the response, “Sure, I can handle these tasks, if you want to take care of others,” will make your co-worker understand that your help won’t necessarily get them off the hook from doing their job.
  4. Sell an IOU: If you’re thinking of exercising the IOU, you’ve probably taken on too much and can’t fathom one more thing. The people pleaser in you is screaming through, so an easy way to say “No, I can’t help” is to say, “I will help later.” Regardless of if this IOU applies to the task at hand or another one, your co-worker will understand and will still think of you as the helpful colleague that you are.
  5. Be too good at helping: If you’re anything like the SkillGigs team, you’re probably very thorough. Use that quality to scare away co-workers from asking for unneeded help. Ask your questions, get all the details, and be as thorough as you can be. This may not help your current situation for avoiding people pleasing – but it will help you long term because then your colleagues will know to only go to you if it’s absolutely necessary to get the job done.
  6. Switch out tasks: If you can afford the change in tasks, then by all means, replace your own tasks with your colleagues. I personally work well when I am working on several things at one time. However, if you are ready to switch things up, then make sure your own tasks are accounted for. I only offer this tip for the people pleasers who are experts at multi-tasking.
  7. Later Gator: It’s perfectly acceptable and really quite common to tell your colleagues that you can help…just not right at that second. If you explain that what you are doing is time-sensitive and you do want to offer your time right after, then you are employing probably one of the more common methods for people pleasing. Your colleagues were probably actually expecting this type of offer.
  8. Leverage for a Promotion: Helping your colleagues, while still being able to carry your own job responsibilities, is actually very impressive – and probably bodes well with your supervisor. If you are going to do this, make the evaluation that you can do it all and do it well. Even more so, do it under the circumstances that are ethical and where you aren’t throwing anyone under a bus. Accomplishing the tasks of more than just your job & applying an ability to help others are both qualities that call for a promotion.
  9. Evaluate Priority: Similar to switching out your tasks, but on a bigger scale – if you can rationalize helping, see how these fits into the entirety of your schedule. With my own people-pleasing tendencies, when people ask for my help, I take a quick look at my calendar and make a decision of where it can fit in. Sometimes my colleagues’ task is more important than my own. And sometimes, someone else is waiting for me to finish their own task and I need to rearrange my schedule. Reprioritizing when things are due is the best way to evaluate your tasks and to become a more pragmatic people pleaser.
  10. Cave In: I don’t mean to teach you how to not help your colleagues! If you can and you want to, then by all means, be the best people pleaser you can be! Just think about what I said to make sure it doesn’t hinder your own workload. If time permits and you can afford it, then just do it.

I know these ideas may go against your nature, given your tendency to make other people’s lives easier. However, step back and think about the implications of you giving others a break. They may be asking out of disinterest to do it themselves – which means you are enabling them to not do their own job AND you’re taking away the attention you would normally spend on your own. Each of my tips addresses a work situation you have probably come across several times. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed & someone wants to add to your plate – I encourage you to refer back to these tips!

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