The problem with being a people pleaser

Why IT leaders should close their doors, learn to say no and start delegating.

As an IT executive, you probably don't face the same level of life-or-death urgency that fire fighters face in their jobs, but it may feel like you do. And that's because you are a people pleaser, suggests time coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders, and you feel compelled to respond immediately to everyone else's needs.

Wanting your colleagues to be happy is not a bad thing, but the problem with the people-pleasing paradigm is that it keeps you from devoting attention and energy to your most important work. "[T]his cycle of responsiveness leads to neglect of the most important activities. Either they don't happen at all, or you end up filling your nights and weekends doing your "real" work with the last fumes of energy you can summon," Saunders writes in a post a Harvard Business Review.

To fix this problem, you have to first realize that you do not have to be the victim of your own circumstances. You do not have to permit others to derail the schedule you set for yourself. But you do have to be aware of your own needs and you must know how to set and maintain boundaries. Saunders offers three scenarios that might prompt the people-pleaser in you and how you can adjust your behavior. In a nutshell:

  • First, you do not have to feel guilty about keeping your door closed to prevent interruptions when you are working on high priorities. 
  • Second, you do not have to say yes to every request and you do not have to volunteer for every project. If these kinds of service-oriented tendencies overwhelm you with work, you can't focus adequately on the key components of your job.
  • Third, you do not have to believe that things get done faster if you just do them yourself. Learn to delegate.

For more:
- see Elizabeth Grace Saunders's post at Harvard Business Review

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