The need to people-please is part of human nature. It can effect our big decisions, like choosing a career path to please our parents, and our smallest social graces, like smiling at a stranger hiding our bad mood. In the workplace, pleasing people is a double edged sword. It’s important to please, to rise amongst the ranks, to make a good first impression. So, when do pleasing people become a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone?

As an employer, pleasing my clients and keeping a positive team environment are necessary for success. If you are in a people-focused environment, good decisions are often synonymous with keeping others happy. But, if I’m hesitant to make a good decision for my business because I fear what other people will think, I know I have a problem. Insecurity can’t be the root of decision making in any area of your life, least of all your career. When making a controversial decision, there are two potential outcomes.

The first possibility is this: you might be surprised. Often, our insecurities are based on a lack of facts or misguided information. Worry could cripple you because you think that those around you won’t agree with you. I had this fear when I opened my fitness studio; I was worried about being too tough or appearing rigid as a boss, so I pushed several systems and processes to the side for over a year to create a “laid back” atmosphere. However, after some time, I realized that I really needed those systems, even if they would make life less “fun” for my staff. To my surprise, when I bit the bullet and announced the changes, everyone was thrilled! They had been craving the same type of structure, and I’m so glad that I listened to my gut instead of my fear.

The second outcome is the one we dread–rejection. It’s painful to make a decision that you know will hurt your reputation in the eyes of others or cause conflict. In order to make a good choice in a high stakes environment, it’s important to weigh the opportunity cost. More than likely, the decision you need to make will improve conditions for one party and negatively affect another. In the workplace, it’s important to consider the person or party to whom you answer. 

If you are an employer, you might not have anyone above you in the ranks, but you exist to serve your people and your clients. If you work in a very team driven environment, you need to consider the good of the group. And lastly, if you operate as more of an island, your clients might be your sole focus. We all have people who are directly impacted by our decisions, ourselves included. Ultimately, if you are serving the people you have been put in place to serve, you have to rest in the fact that you are doing your best to honor that responsibility. That doesn’t mean you’ll always get it right, but you will be acting out of a service mindset, rather than a selfish one.

If your decisions are ultimately reactive instead of proactive, you might be caught up in a people pleasing vortex. In business, as in life, we can’t let our fear of rejection be the driving force in our decision making. Making tough choices will never feel good, but understanding what fuels your decision making can help ease your anxiety surrounding letting others down.