Why People Pleasers Don’t Set Boundaries and What You Can Do About It

people pleasers can't set boundaries
Your professional success will come much more naturally once you've made a solid habit of making appropriate boundaries with your manager, boss, co-workers, and others. How to target and change those people-pleasing habits.
Combining professional and social demands at work is a basic requirement for all in the workplace, and it can be especially challenging for individuals with people-pleasing tendencies.

In the workplace, setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and fostering personal well-being. The most important take-away from this article is that your professional success will come much more naturally once you ‘ve made a solid habit of making appropriate boundaries with your manager, boss, co-workers, and others. Let’s look at the concept of boundary issues at work, the reasons behind feeling guilty when setting boundaries, and effective strategies to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with supervisors, colleagues, and even extended family members. Throughout, we will draw upon academic and clinical sources to provide a well-rounded perspective.

What are boundary issues and what does it look like at work?

Boundary issues involve difficulty in distinguishing where one person ends and another begins, leading to challenges in setting and maintaining personal limits. In a professional setting, this may manifest as an inability to say “no,” taking on excessive workloads, and neglecting personal needs for the sake of pleasing others. According to research by Dr. Carla M. DeBello, published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, boundary issues can contribute to heightened stress levels and decreased job satisfaction.

Why do I feel guilty setting boundaries at work?

Feelings of guilt when establishing boundaries often stem from a desire to be liked and accepted. A study by Dr. Brené Brown, a renowned social work researcher, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that guilt arises from the fear of disappointing others. People pleasers may fear negative consequences such as strained relationships or professional repercussions. Understanding this guilt is a crucial step toward overcoming it and setting healthier boundaries.

How boundary issues and people-pleasing tendencies are related.

Boundary issues and people-pleasing tendencies are closely intertwined. Individuals who struggle with setting boundaries often engage in people-pleasing behaviors to seek validation and approval. Dr. Nina W. Brown’s research in the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration emphasizes that addressing people-pleasing tendencies is fundamental to resolving boundary issues. Recognizing and addressing the root causes of these tendencies is key to fostering a healthier approach to interpersonal relationships.

How are Boundary Issues and Anxiety Connected?

In addition to understanding the relationship between boundary issues and people-pleasing tendencies, it’s crucial to explore the connection between boundary challenges and anxiety. Dr. Judith S. Beck, a leading expert in cognitive therapy, emphasizes in her research that individuals with difficulty setting boundaries may experience heightened anxiety due to a perpetual fear of overstepping or disappointing others. The inability to establish and maintain clear limits can contribute to a sense of overwhelm, leading to increased stress levels. Recognizing the intersection between boundary issues and anxiety is essential for developing comprehensive strategies to manage both aspects effectively. Integrating mindfulness practices, seeking professional counseling, and gradually exposing oneself to boundary-setting situations can be valuable steps in alleviating anxiety associated with establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in various areas of life, including the workplace.

How can I establish boundaries with my boss and other authorities at work?

Establishing boundaries with superiors requires clear communication and assertiveness. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, in their book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,” emphasize the importance of expressing limits respectfully. Setting realistic expectations, negotiating workload, and proposing alternatives are effective strategies to establish boundaries without jeopardizing professional relationships.

How can I establish boundaries with my manager and peers?

Maintaining healthy boundaries with both managers and peers involves striking a balance between collaboration and autonomy. Dr. Anne Katherine, in her book “Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin,” suggests fostering open communication and being transparent about personal limits. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions can provide a platform for discussing boundaries collaboratively, ensuring a harmonious working environment.

Some handy phrases to memorize:
“I want to do my best work, and I won’t be able to do that right now.”

“I appreciate hearing your opinion, but I’m not prepared change my mind on this.”

“I’m intrigued by what you’re saying, though I’m not sure how it would work.”

How do I establish boundaries with other people in my extended family and my in-laws?

Boundary-setting is not exclusive to the workplace; it extends to personal relationships as well. Dr. Susan Forward, in her book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,” highlights the significance of clearly defining limits within family dynamics. Open conversations, setting expectations, and being firm yet compassionate are crucial when establishing boundaries with extended family members and in-laws.

How do boundary issues relate to “psychological safety” (Dr. Amy Edmondson’s work with Harvard)?

Dr. Amy Edmondson’s groundbreaking work on psychological safety underscores the importance of creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of reprisal. Establishing boundaries contributes to psychological safety by fostering clear expectations and mutual respect. Research published in the Harvard Business Review suggests that workplaces with strong psychological safety exhibit higher levels of innovation and employee well-being.

How to say “No” at work politely and with conviction.

Assertively saying “no” requires practice and confidence. Dr. William Ury’s research on negotiation and communication strategies, outlined in “Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents,” recommends using “I” statements, expressing appreciation, and offering alternatives when declining requests. By framing the response positively and maintaining a collaborative tone, individuals can decline tasks without damaging relationships.

Navigating boundary issues at work is a crucial aspect of personal and professional development. By understanding the root causes of people-pleasing tendencies, acknowledging feelings of guilt, and implementing effective communication strategies, individuals can establish and maintain healthy boundaries in the workplace and beyond.

Remember that professional success, in all of its forms, will come much more naturally when you are effectively able to maintain your boundaries with your boss, managers, co-workers and beyond.

Related Posts