The price of pleasing people can be high, especially for your mental health.
People-pleasing people are especially prone to burnout, says Debbie Sorensen, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist based in Denver.
“They tend to be very nice and caring people, which makes it all the more difficult for them to set boundaries, not take on too much work, or become emotionally invested in their work,” says Sorensen.
And being a consistent yes is a double-edged sword: you might feel guilty for saying “no” to others and feel resentful every time you say “yes.”
You don’t have to completely let go of your people-pleasing tendencies to avoid burnout – previous research has shown that being polite, friendly and supportive at work are all important traits that can help you be more productive and happier at your job.
The difference, Sorensen says, is that people-pleasing people tend to have trouble setting boundaries, which can be “really exhausting” and lead to “chronic stress,” she warns.
3 signs that pleasing people is hurting your mental health and your career
If you often take on more responsibility than you can comfortably handle because you’re afraid of disappointing someone, your people-pleasing tendencies could be pushing you to the brink of burnout.
Although people-pleasing is different for everyone at work, Sorensen says there are 3 common signs to look out for:
- Say “yes” to every request for help, even if it interrupts your own work
- Disregarding your feelings when something is done or said that bothers you because you fear potential conflict
- Accept unrealistic mission deadlines
Pleasing people is not only dangerous for your career, as it can lead to burnout, it can cause you to lose sight of your own professional needs and goals.
“When you consistently put the needs of others ahead of your own, it becomes that much harder to focus on your job and move forward in your career,” says Sorenson.
How to Stop People-Pleasing at Work and Avoid Burnout
The first step in mitigating overwork and burnout is learning to set boundaries.
“It can be uncomfortable setting boundaries at work, but the next time you’re tempted to pile more responsibility on your plate, pause and ask yourself if you really want to, or have to, take this on, and fight back. the knee-jerk reaction to say ‘yes’ to everything,” says Sorensen.
Curbing burnout and letting go of habits that could be doing you more harm than good is an imperfect process that takes time, Sorensen says, so be consistent in your efforts, but try to avoid the pitfalls of self-criticism.
Don’t view saying “no” as a reflection of your self-esteem or your abilities as an employee. Instead, think about setting boundaries while protecting your energy, goals, and priorities in order to be a more effective employee, Sorensen says.
“Just stay tuned and remember that free time, no matter how long, is really, really important,” she adds, whether it’s resisting the urge to working after hours or taking a longer lunch break. “We all deserve the time and space to recharge ourselves.”
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