Three ways of curing yourself from people pleasing at work

I was talking to someone who had a meeting with one of the most highly regarded business men in the world. One of those private jet globe trotters you read about in the Wall Street Journal.

“So what was he like? Did he have a presence? What did he say?”

The meeting went for two hours and was all business. Famous business person spent the whole time checking his phone and barely made eye contact with the others in the room who had prepared for weeks and were all working hard to impress him.

I had to laugh.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the last few years is don’t work to impress people or seek other’s approval. It’s been a hard fought battle for me as my nature is to seek external approval-make people rate you-that sort of thing.

There are many times over a working week I have to remind myself not to enter into the no-win game of competing with other people and trying to get the pat on the head. I often wondered why I never got the pat on the head but now I realise it’s been a blessing in disguise…so I don’t need it.

That’s the no-win game. The praise that you seek will probably make you crave more of it anyway and it will never be enough. So bow out. Choose not to be the star. Choose not to be the fastest email returner or the one who works till 9pm or the person who produces the most magnificent Excel spreadsheets because in the big picture..nobody cares and you’ll only make yourself stressed out and feel insecure.

But how do you train yourself out of this praise-seeking behavior?

1.     Praise others. Most people are starved for encouragement so become the praiser rather than the praisee.

2.     Remind yourself regularly that it’s not a competition. Many workplaces foster a competitive culture and it can be challenging to resist but mutter under your breath “I’m not playing this game. I don’t compete with others”. Seriously—it works and you’ll be amazed at how many train wrecks you avoid by not engaging in competitive behavior.

3.     Go low and go slow. This is something I’ve learned from the great Mozambique missionary Heidi Baker on community building.  Adopt a “slow and low” mindset and approach. When everyone else is trying to elevate themselves and hurry around and compete, you’ll stand out and be more effective by bowing out and not working reactively.

Everyone likes their moment in the sun and it’s natural human behavior to want to be liked and rated but it’s fleeting and the negative behavior and stress you can put on yourself in the process is not worth it. 

The famous business man got in his private jet and went on to his next round of meetings where he’ll probably check his phone continually and not make eye contact with another group of people all trying to impress him. Aren’t humans funny.