Are you a pleaser?

Do you like to make other people happy?

To feel appreciated when you’ve done somebody a favor?

It feels good, right?

It only becomes a problem when your feeling of self-worth depends mainly on other people’s opinion and feedback. When you do favors for others just to feel good and not because you believe what you do is actually important.

Then you become a puppet of those people.

And they will come back with more requests:

“Can you schedule the meeting in the morning please. I have to pick up my dog at 2 PM”

“Can you print out the project plan in color?”

“I don’t like flying United. Their champagne sucks. Please book me on Delta.”

Why am I telling you this?

In the world of work, and especially in project management, you often have to make unpopular decisions. Decisions that will piss off some people.

As a pleaser type, you will have a hard time.

Here are some unpopular decisions I had to make:

Business trip on January 1st: To keep our project schedule we had to travel to our remote site on January 1st, one day after New Year’s. Do you think it’s fun sleeping only 5 hours, being the only one at the airport and then embarking on a 14 hour flight? It’s no fun at all (read more about what managing projects was like at my previous company)

Rolling out new IT systems: People hate when they have to switch to a new software. Their work used to be easy. Now they have to get used to a new system where every step takes them an hour and they have to remember a new password. I can’t expect people to love me for these changes.

Escalations: Escalation basically means you are fed up with certain conditions and directly approach management to help get the situation fixed. Sometimes you escalate because you’re not happy with the performance of one of your team members. That’s exactly what I had to do — not just once. This was not easy for me because I knew it would affect the relationship with that person, but I know it was the right thing to do.

You’ve probably faced similar, uncomfortable situations. Situations where you had to decide between “pleaser mode” and doing what you felt was right for your work / project.

I encourage you to observe your own behavior.

Do you sometimes say or do things just to please somebody? If you do, change your behavior. For instance, if you disagree with someone’s opinion don’t be afraid to say so — in a friendly way (‘I respect your view on this, but I see it differently’). Also, don’t be afraid to say NO to favors when you are already loaded with work (‘I’d really like to accommodate your request but I can’t because of …’).

Be friendly. Be Dependable

Instead of trying to please everyone, just be friendly and dependable towards your coworkers and customers. Note that the opposite of being a pleaser is not to be an a***hole. It’s to treat people in a kind and respectful way without ignoring your own goals and feelings.

Remember, you can say NO to people and they will respect your decision if you communicate your reasoning in a clear, transparent way.

Talking about being dependable (or should I say predictable), this is really what this article is about. You don’t want to be perceived as a fickle person that always changes their mind or worse, a person that does not deliver on promises made.

And that’s exactly the trouble many ‘pleasers’ get into. They commit to too many favors and then realize (a) they cannot make everybody happy (b) they cannot deliver on favors they took over. And that’s when they become really stressed.

So, please:

Don’t be a pleaser.

Just be friendly, honest and dependable.



  • Adrian Neumeyer

    Hi! I'm Adrian, former Senior IT Project Manager and founder of Tactical Project Manager. I created the site to help you become an excellent project leader and manage intense projects with success!

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