Or do you please people? There is a big difference between the two, and it’s not just semantics. The second is a successful leader. By contrast, it’s impossible to be a leader and a people-pleaser. It may seem as though it’s the safest approach to ensure your position won’t be eliminated, but the opposite is more probable.
There are numerous websites on the characteristics, qualities, and results of people-pleasing. Most of us don’t fall into the full spectrum of people-pleasing as described by psychologists, but too many incorporate aspects of it into work behavior. Reviewing what is discussed, look to see if you notice patterns that reflect some of your behaviors.
Jay Earley lists the following actions in The People-Pleasing Pattern:
- I avoid getting angry.
- I try to be nice rather than expressing how I really feel.
- I want everyone to get along.
What’s wrong with avoiding being angry or wanting everyone to get along? Doesn’t it make for a better workplace environment? Isn’t that using your Emotional Intelligence? Not exactly.
Emotional Intelligence does require you to manage your emotions, which means getting to the reason for your anger and dealing with it to achieve your goals. Suppressing your feelings means you are making your emotions and yourself less important than those around you. That is not leadership – or healthy.
The underlying truth to your behavior may be another of Earley’s characteristics—you are afraid to rock the boat, a fear frequently based on the concern that your job and program might be cut. However, you are most in danger of being eliminated if you don’t show your value and being a quiet doormat does not demonstrate value.
Consider what happens if your principal assigns you extra duties or you are told you will be responsible for two schools instead of one. What do you do? Even though your principal might blame it on the budget situation, should you just accept it as is?
The people-pleasing response is to accept without any comment. This subtly sends the message that it’s no problem for you to take on the extra responsibility. Which then suggests you have plenty of room in your schedule. Taking that to the next stop, if you have plenty of room in your schedule, doesn’t that mean that your program doesn’t keep you busy?
If you responded this way, you are not alone. Many librarians have done the same. The simmering resentment can then affect how they do their job and their willingness/ability to build a relationship with their administration. You don’t get to be a leader if that’s how you react.
I am not suggesting you get angry with your principal. Obviously, you can’t ignore what you are being told to do. But you can react in a way that will please people – including yourself.
Start by making a list of all your responsibilities. Take some time to ensure you have identified almost all of them. As much as possible, do a fair estimation of how much time you spend on each on a daily or weekly basis. Star anything you definitely don’t want eliminated because it is at the core of your program. In addition, try to determine a fair estimate of the amount of time your additional assignment will take.
Next, set up a meeting with your principal seeking his/her advice and guidance. Explain you want to be sure the students and teachers will be getting the necessary literacy and 21st-century skills after the change in your schedule goes into effect. Review your list of responsibilities, current and combined. Be clear that some things will have to be eliminated, and you want to have the principal’s agreement as to how to proceed. Also, realize you will have to go along with whatever the principal says you can stop doing.
Yes, you still have the change in your responsibilities, but recognize the difference in how they came about. You didn’t quietly accept it. You expressed your concerns, current program needs, and possible sacrifices to the person most able to support you (complaining to coworkers and spouses changes nothing). Your principal had to face the cost of your new assignment. In the process, he/she was reminded of your value and contribution to the school program. Managing the request this way will likely leave you with a much greater sense of satisfaction since you have not acted in a people-pleasing manner.
In your dealings with teachers and administrators, you don’t and shouldn’t quietly accept negation of your role while seething inside. Leaders stand up for their worth. They don’t do it aggressively. That loses supporters. They do it with calm confidence, offering alternatives. We teach people how to treat us. If you say nothing in response to being minimized, you give that person the right to repeat that behavior.
One of my students in a summer course told me the principal had contacted her to say he was cutting her budget in half, and she needed to eliminate some purchase orders. He added, “I have always been good to you in the past.” I told her, she could have said, “I saw it as being good for our students and our program, and then laughingly continued if you were being good to me, you would have given me a BMW.”
How have you handled being given additional long or short-term assignments or other changes which were given to you? Were you a people-pleaser or did you figure out a way to please people and show your leadership?