My coaching clients tell me they are challenged when they have to work for a people-pleaser leader. When the boss tries to be too nice and make friends with everyone, it’s hard to have good discussions and debates, and there’s often a lack of clear focus on decisions, priorities, and strategies. Dissension is avoided so that “everybody can just get a long.”

Understanding what goes on inside people-pleasers’ heads can help us work more effectively with this personality style. According to Dr. Beatrice Chestnut, author of The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017), people-pleaser leaders are most comfortable when they receive approval, consensus, and mutual consideration.

This makes them relationally productive, yet corporately productive only at the peak of harmony. They empathize well and feel the need to serve selflessly. They see the good in others and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Avoiding rejection is paramount to them, so they hide emotions that may upset others and suppress contrary opinions. This explains why they serve others with the hope that they’ll be served in return, without having to ask other people to do so. They become adept at reading others’ body language and are sensitive to others’ moods and preferences, allowing them to “shapeshift” to the most effective position to win people over.

People-pleaser leaders will strategize impression management to look good, receive affirmation and be liked. Being upbeat is important to them. They generally have the skills to lift people’s spirits and focus on meeting the needs of those who work for them. They may resort to manipulation as a means to a desired end.

Blind Spots

People pleasers develop blind spots that prevent them from seeing when their own needs are going unmet. They don’t recognize their own neediness, resentment, desire to blame others for ruined plans, and loneliness, even while they’re surrounded by “friends.” They repress frustration over the lack of social reciprocity or co-unity. This can, in the extreme, impair their perceptions, cloud judgment, and lead to poor decisions.

It’s difficult to deal with people-pleasing leaders who cannot see what’s obvious to others. Colleagues and coaches can help guide them by asking several key questions:

  • Do you find it hard to say “no” to people?
  • Is it difficult to ask people to help you or take on a tough assignment?
  • Is being liked one of the most important things to you? Why?
  • Is cultivating positive relationships the most vital part of your job?
  • Do you struggle to meet everyone’s needs all the time?
  • Does positive feedback give you an incredible high? What about criticism?
  • What gives you the most emotional reassurance on the job?
  • How do you feel when you upset or disappoint someone?
  • What happens inside you when conflict arises?
  • How do you handle difficult performance discussions with subordinates?
  • Do you criticize yourself when rejected?
  • Do your own needs go unmet? Why?
  • Do you paint a positive picture for people, even when it’s not that encouraging?

Truthful answers to these questions can help people-pleasers see how their behavior negatively impacts their personal and professional lives.

What’s been your experience working for someone who tends to be a people-pleaser? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 561-582-6060, let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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