People Person

Are you a people person?

For years unsuccessful Human Resources candidates would say ‘I’m a people person’ somewhere during their interviews with me. Inside I always thought, that’s too bad, if you were more like a cat or a dog person you’d have a better chance as I’d understand you more.

On the inside.

Thankfully the candidate pool has evolved enough that I seldom hear that anymore – or our recruiters are doing a better job in screening noting that the “people persons” never got past first round.

Yet a more insidious relative of the people person has now infested organizations and in many cases escaped beyond the bounds of HR.

Beware the People Pleaser

Boundaries between work and social life are thin and permeable with our behavior remaining quasi-steady (unless we’re schizophrenic) across both. Thus some of this may apply in your social life.

But let’s talk about work.

The complexity of the modern organization given relentless information input, geographically distributed teams and collaborative relations is enormous. It takes a lot of focus and energy to successfully participate every day.

So stop sabotaging yourself.

Stop being a pleaser

What does a pleaser do?

  • Delay decisions – The primary driver for Pleasers is to create no offense, cause no ill will. Whether in the name of culture, engagement, etc they strive not to piss anyone off so therefore make no decisions. If you see the resemblance to modern politicians you’re a smart cookie. Progress requires choice and while its never linear we have to move ahead. Its simple: to have or exercise responsibility you must make decisions
  • Sugar coat – Decision now made Pleasers try to position things with euphemisms to avoid hurting other’s feelings. Examples of double and triple speak abound. Yet using vague and uncertain language simply confuses constituents. Truthfully you won’t please anyone using this ruse. HR especially must speak clearly and with conviction to have real influence
  • Abandon principles – If the goal is to please everyone the first precept must to be to abandon principle for acting on principle will annoy people. Maybe even make them angry. For principles matter. If taken seriously they are immutable. Principles are core. Principles are agnostic. Principles give us spine. Pleasing others requires abandoning principle. And hope

In the end the Pleaser really satisfies no one.

Unlike some of the other character archetypes we deal with in the workplace its hard to be angry with the Pleaser: their motivation is either some form of misplaced Kumbaya or an unfulfilled need to be liked.

Neither works as a driver of adult behavior however.

It is important to have good relations at work. Its just as important to remain intellectually honest in sharing perspectives, views and interpretations clearly without the foggy glass of “pleasing others” clouding our vision. This is especially true for the Human Resource professional.

Pleasing others by obviating yourself and your worth pleases no one.

Least of all you.


6 thoughts on “People Person

  1. Christopher,

    This line says it all “It is important to have good relations at work. Its just as important to remain intellectually honest in sharing perspectives, views and interpretations clearly without the foggy glass of “pleasing others” clouding our vision.”

    To think one gets ahead by “pleasing” is foolhardy. Our careers advance by bringing value…our the party. Usually that means rearranging the fruit on the apple cart enough that suddenly it seems easier to push. Great stuff! ~Dawn

    • Love the analogy of the fruit cart! I would never have thought of that (which is why collaboration is cool…)

      Yep, pleasing others is not only a weak strategy vis a vis gaining influence, it actually serves to diminish our import and in fact can cause others to like us less. Stand up and be counted knowing that there is difference in opinion and perspective in almost everything we do. Ironically, we’ll probably please each other more the less we set out to!

      • How right you are! Sometimes pleasing is akin to being wimpy…wimpy reveals weaknesses…and we both know where than can lead in a business setting…and it isn’t pretty! Thanks for adding even more here!

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