5 Signs You’re a People-Pleaser

5 Signs People-Pleasing is Your Conflict Style and Negatively Affecting Your Leadership Credibility

Why do some leaders have more credibility than others?

Beyond the “smart” side of leadership vision, strategy, and metrics, a leader’s ability to handle conflict directly and productively is a skill that greatly affects their leadership credibility.

It’s the difference between openly dealing with problems in a professional and respectful way and problems going underground that contribute to a ripple effect of gossip, low morale, and employee turnover.   

Believe it or not, how we all deal with conflict is influenced by our upbringing. 

From what was modeled to us when conversations got tense to challenging circumstances, our work life is an extension of our early family life. It’s what I call our Workplace Family Factor® addressed in my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?!  

Today’s blog is the third part of a multi-blog series addressing how family upbringing affects your conflict style and business relationships today.

In the first blog, we addressed five common remarks leaders make when avoidance is their go-to conflict style.  In the second blog, we discussed five signs that control as a conflict style may be contributing to employee turnover. 

Today we focus on people-pleasing as a leader’s go-to conflict style that can negatively affect your leadership credibility. 

Read the list below and see if you relate to any of the signs of people-pleasing as a conflict style. Be inspired at the end by how a leader transformed her people-pleasing tendencies with boundaries.

1. You tend to adapt, adjust, and accommodate

In an attempt to make others happy, you tend to perform, juggle, coordinate, you name it, you do it, in order to please others. 

The word “no” is rarely in your vocabulary. People around you may have taken to calling you “the fixer” because it’s known that if there’s a problem, you’ll find the solution. Even if it requires you to sacrifice your wants and needs.

2. You don’t want to impose

If you have a need, you will make sure other’s needs are met first. You have a tendency to sacrifice your wants and needs in order to not burden others. 

At first glance, people see you as being very level-headed. But below the surface, emotions are churning.

3. You want to keep the peace

If someone is upset or angry, you do whatever it takes to ease the tension. You might make excuses for others’ behavior or minimize the effect of their behavior all in an effort to keep the peace. 

When it comes to a bully coworker, you prefer to stay quiet and avoid rocking the boat rather than speaking up.

4. You wear a smile, but you’re hurting inside

Other people’s needs come before your own and often times you don’t even know what you feel. 

You may have underlying anxiety that unconsciously drives you to please others so you don’t have to feel what’s going on inside of you. 

You may be aware that you have rich inner resources when it comes to understanding why a given conflict is arising, but you don’t know how to address it.

5. You are exhausted

Since you are so busy attending to others’ needs, you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  Perhaps near burnout. You have health concerns and your body is screaming “take care of me!”. 

Changing people-pleasing patterns through boundaries

Recently I had the honor of interviewing a business owner about how conflict was handled in her family upbringing and influenced her leadership and conflict style.  as a people-pleaser. 

By her own admission, she identified herself as a people-pleaser and gave me permission to share her story in hopes of inspiring other leaders to transform people-pleasing as their conflict style. 

How was conflict handled in your family upbringing?

I grew up in a family where I saw my parents deal with conflict by yelling first and then they worked things out. When they yelled, I felt uncomfortable and was relieved when the yelling stopped. When I was growing up, my parents in general didn’t talk about feelings.

I was very close to my father and always felt encouraged by him to foster my independent thinking. While my mother was supportive, she wasn’t very affectionate. She didn’t give me as much encouragement as I got from my dad. 

Mom was more task-oriented and focused on equipping my brothers to be breadwinners. She didn’t think women should be in leadership. However,  if she were alive today, she would be proud I have my own business.

How did your family experiences with conflict influence your leadership?

For many years, when conversations got heated and conflict started, my tendency used to be to try to make everybody happy and people please in an attempt to keep the peace. 

It took many years of carrying other people’s burdens, making excuses for others’ poor choices, and stress before I realized I am not responsible for the behavior of others. 

The stress took a toll on my health, sleep, and happiness before I realized I was the one who needed to change. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how. I was stuck in this cycle of doing for others.

It took a crisis in my personal life and business for me to realize I needed to learn how to set boundaries and hold people accountable for their actions. 

As I changed, I felt a burden lift from me. Funny thing is, when I changed, my business took off and has continued to succeed the more I set boundaries with others.

How has changing your pleasing pattern and implementing boundaries with your employees helped your business?

I learned many things the hard way, here are my top three …

  1. Allow employees to be responsible for their own behavior and problems

When I made my employee’s problems my problem, I was preventing them from learning responsibility. While being supportive and empathic is still part of my leadership, I no longer rescue others from choices they make. Simply said, I don’t let their problems  become my problems.

  1. Address problems early

By nature, I am a positive person. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt even though their actions told me otherwise. 

It was a big dose of reality when it finally sunk in how much I was being taken advantage of and how I had allowed it. Now, when there is a problem with an employee, I address the situation right away by helping them figure out what they are going to do instead of me fixing it for them. 

The icing on the cake is holding people accountable to do what they said they will do.

  1. Boundaries improve the work culture

When I started to establish and enforce boundaries, my employees had clearer expectations. Initially, there was pushback and attempts to get me to revert back to old ways. Some people decided this wasn’t the place for them to work anymore and moved on.

Another change was my mindset  when I hire new employees. In addition to selecting candidates for their skill set, I am more aware of considering if they will be a good fit for our culture. 

The result has been a better work environment and overall culture. When differences come up, there is not the drama like there used to be. Conflict is addressed, worked through, and we move on.

Changing patterns is possible

Perhaps you resonate with having a pleasing pattern and would like to figure out how to replace people-pleasing during conflict with boundaries so you increase your leadership credibility.

As a recovering pleaser, I understand the struggle of releasing old patterns and the benefits of boundaries. Change is possible. 

Make the Conscious Choice to replace pleasing behaviors with boundaries, and you will elevate your leadership credibility.

Ready to find out how your family upbringing impacts your conflict style?  

Take my complimentary Workplace Family Factor® Assessment and learn how self-awareness of your family upbringing will equip you to improve how you handle conflict at work. 


About the author 

Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills. 

Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together. 

Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.