Burnout to Leadership

Ep#22 People-pleasing won't help you

February 18, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 22
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#22 People-pleasing won't help you
Show Notes Transcript
  • How people-pleasing worsens burnout.
  • What's actually happening in people-pleasing.
  • The awful cost of seeking approval this way.
  • Rebuilding relationsips.

Hi, everyone, my name's Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hi, folks, this is Dex here, and what I want to talk about today is people pleasing, and how it multiplies the awfulness of burnout. 'Cause we often think about burnout as induced by our work environment, stress, overwork, lack of control and frustration, but actually that over simplifies it. Yes, people in burnout are overworked, overwhelmed and all of that and they've lost motivation, they're basically fed up with the whole thing and looking for escape, but they're fed up because they have deduced that they can't win this game and then they kinda give up and slump into a bitter defeat. And one of the contributors to that, oddly enough, is people pleasing. Are you with me? People pleasing is essentially wanting to manipulate people and situations to gather the approval of others. Now, it's to avoid conflict, rejection, fear of failure and reproach and to enjoy a sense of safety, belonging and worth. It's normal. If you're human, you want to survive, and humans are pack animals, they rely on their place in that pack to survive, to have food, shelter, protection and warmth, not to mention other perks like procreation, social bonding and perhaps power. So naturally, we're highly incented to make our way inside the pack and to keep that place secure. We'll fight for it. And people pleasing is that fight. Have you ever tried to safeguard or even advance your position at work by people pleasing, sucking up to the boss? I'd be a little tiny bit surprised if you haven't, I'm sure I have, survival, right? And for many men, survival means being the provider for a family or rising in status to ensure career progression or enjoying the esteem of mates and the confidence of partners, being able to hold their heads up in front of their kids. There's really a lot at stake. I heard someone say the other day, that for a man, success with money is what beauty is for a woman, crikey. So anyway, if this people pleasing is a hidden trigger for burnout, how come? It sounds paradoxical that the very behaviour we might use to protect our career and status and income is in fact destroying it. So let's take a look.

The people pleasing dynamic is essentially this:

We want other people to like us so that we can feel safe and happy. Of course, if you know anything already about the coaching work I do, we can debunk that right away, because we'll only be safe and happy if we create that safety and happiness. It's like seeing somebody near us holding a parachute versus having one strapped to our back. However, a popular myth is that when stuff happens out in the world, it creates our feelings. Good stuff happens and we feel good, bad stuff happens and we feel bad. Neuroscience actually suggests otherwise, we have direct control over our feelings because we control how we experience life. All our experience is subjective. We create it with our perceptions and beliefs about what happens, our lens onto the world. So Scotty from marketing might think the new product is amazing, Andy from accounting might be gnashing his teeth in despair about it. So okay, we want everyone to like and approve of us and we'd like them to say so actually and preferably to tell other people. We want people to like and approve of us so badly that we will lie and manipulate people into expressing that approval. We'll tell them we can do something for them when we can't. We'll say we'd love to do that extra piece of work when it clashes with our family holiday. We'll say we got plenty of time to squeeze their request in when we're already swamped. We'll tell them how great their new idea is when it looks like a total disaster. We'll agree that the new hire, the new project, the new company direction is fantastic when... I'm sure you get the picture. But whatever, when we're people pleasing, we get this little dopamine hit when we get the approval. We want approval, we play nice and if they oblige and approve of us, we feel safe from rejection and criticism, for a moment anyway. We also get to avoid any conflict that might have arisen by telling them the truth, that their plan sucked, that racism isn't okay, that you won't collaborate on their project, that you don't like how they spoke to a female colleague. Let's face it, people pleasing is actually not kind and it's not generous, we're not being nice to people or doing them a favour, we're not being a good friend. How could we be when we aren't respecting them with the truth and we manipulate them, when we secretly resent them afterwards? When we people please, there's a cost, a cost to us. For one thing, people can't form a genuine relationship with us when we're lying all the time pretending to be someone else. All we give them is a caricature of who we think they want us to be. It's like a cardboard cut out or a, take your pick. Then this results in us feeling very lonely and outcast, which prompts us to seek approval even more. We aren't going to be able to enjoy ourselves anymore when we're people pleasing, because we're not being authentic and connecting with what makes us feel alive. We won't enjoy a sense of belonging and worthiness. And we'll probably blunt our emotions to stop the pain of all that, and how do we blunt our emotions? Any kind of addictive process, and then we shut down a little bit. Bitterness, resentment, irritation and frustration ensue, and finally despair, and now you can probably see how this flows into burnout. We become more and more jaded and run down. Burnout is essentially a condition of fear and despair. So back to where we started, people pleasing creates an environment where we feel we can't win. It's an illusion, but by that time we believe it, and burnout beckons. We can see, actually, that we've handed over control of our well being to other people. We can never get enough approval and we want ever increasing doses to feel okay. We're looking for safety outside of ourselves in an unpredictable world, and that feels out of control, doesn't it? We become twitchy and insecure, we stop trusting people, and that doesn't feel good. Now we're beholden them. Yeah, yeah, and they're not all that, we don't really like and respect them all that much. I mean, they might shaft us, right? Look at it from the other angle. Think about being on the other side of people pleasing. Do you know when someone's people pleasing you? And if you do, does that feel good to you? Do you respect that person? Would you go to a footie game with them, or would you criticise them behind their back? People pleasing is a lot easier than telling the truth, it just doesn't build good relationships, it doesn't help us to be the full, authentic, loving person that we are underneath. People pleasing is not love, it's fear. And by the time I got all the way into burnout, I didn't trust many people at all. I'd kind of drunk my own Kool Aid about people not approving of me. I became quite paranoid, sure that people were watching me, judging my mistakes, conspiring against me. I am mildly ashamed even now to admit that, but it's not unusual for someone in burnout to feel that people default to excluding or bad mouthing them. It's classic burnout thinking. So having painted that are utterly glorious picture of people pleasing, I would remind you that it's fundamentally what humans are designed to do. It's in our DNA to seek human connection, human approval, it's part of relationship building. What we've done is taken into extremes. So if you recognise it in yourself, no biggie, you can be very kind and compassionate towards your suffering, that's always the best way. And know that with compassion comes growth, it opens the door to build new healthy, harmonious, respectful relationships that can all be rebuilt, quite easily as it turns out. If you want to kill people pleasing and create stronger, more collaborative, productive, enjoyable relationships, you can achieve that very early on in my Burnout to Leadership program. It's one of the turnarounds that really puts a tiger back in your town. So if you're in burnout, this won't be the only contributing factor, for sure, there are many, and my program addresses each problem one at a time, until you come out of burnout, it's a step by step, proven solution, it's very methodical. Anyone can do it, actually. Anyone who's a professional in burnout can do it. So if you want to rebuild your work self, free of burnout and raring and to go, come and talk to me at mini.dexrandall.com. Let's do that. Let's do that together, I would invite you in. Thanks for listening today. Glad you're here. You can visit my website at burnouttoleadership.com for the podcast show notes, and I'd very much enjoy if you would subscribe, rate or forward this podcast to people that you know. Thank you. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com, just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.