If you have an excessive other-focused mindset, or you are a person who always puts the needs of others before yourself, then you may be a people pleaser. If you are considered the “workhorse”, the person who is always there to help and assist, then you may be a people pleaser. Do you always try hard to make others happy? Do you always want to fit in? Do you find it difficult to say no? Are you over-concerned about what people think of you? If the answer to some of these statements is “yes” then you may be a people pleaser.
Take, for example, a situation where you are always on call and where you cannot unplug from your work when you are actually not at work. You may often find yourself responding to emails as they arrive in your inbox. You may find that you are responding to work colleagues even though you are on time off from work. In such a life there are no tech-related boundaries or such boundaries are ignored and breached. If this is you, watch out because always being “on-call” can often lead to burnout.
It’s good to take care of others, but if that need becomes a type of drug for you or becomes your oxygen for life, then you have a problem. When you over-commit to others you can be left in a state of anxiety, which in turn can lead to burnout. You may consider other peoples’ needs and emotions more important than your own, but this should not be the case if you want to remain emotionally and physically healthy.
Research indicates that this deep-rooted need to always serve others’ needs at the expense of a person’s own needs can arise from a lack of self-esteem, which in turn, is often at the root of perfectionism. Often, such behaviour may also arise from a need to constantly seek the approval of others and such an attitude can come from feelings of deep insecurity. Such a person may also have an exaggerated fear of rejection or desperately wants to be liked and admired.
Such behaviour may also arise from how we were regularly corrected or admonished during childhood. As children, we learn not to be selfish and to think of others, and this is perfectly okay. But if children are constantly bombarded with such messaging they can perceive that minding themselves is wrong and that minding others before self is the priority.
While there is no formal Right to Disconnect under European law some European countries like France, Germany, Ireland, have already introduced codes of practice to support employees who wish to disconnect from the workplace outside of their normal working hours. In Ireland, for example, there is a Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect which references an employee’s right to disengage from work or work-related electronic communications, outside normal working hours. The Code aims to ensure safe workplaces while ensuring that employees can take rest periods away from work. The Code envisages a culture, that generally respects an employee’s right to disconnect from work and work-related devices during non-work periods. The Code recognises that there can be legitimate, but exceptional situations, where such contact would be considered reasonable.
Notwithstanding the existence of such codes, there remains a challenge to change an attitude that has become embedded in a person’s pattern of behaviour. It may take courage for a person to change but change need not be an overnight event and can happen incrementally. Perhaps setting boundaries and limiting one’s availability when outside of working hours is a good start. To do this a person needs to know what priorities are to be achieved and what actions are needed to achieve those priorities. In this context, this should be about guarding health and wellbeing and giving oneself peace of mind.
By listening to our inner voice we can ascertain what we need to do to protect our health and wellbeing. Sometimes that voice is screaming “leave me alone” so we should take action to make that happen. We must examine our lifestyles and ask ourselves do we work when we are not working? Perhaps we can even be manipulated by a work colleague, even if not intended.
For many of us, in this era of modern communications technology, there is no clear clock-out time. This is even more true in this post-covid, hybrid-working environment. Our days off may not be ours anymore.
But many workplace cultures are changing and many organisations have developed policies that support employees’ need to unplug from work, outside of working time or the workday. Employers are now more aware of the benefits of employees recharging their batteries during genuine, uninterrupted time off.
Those who need more help in this context are also those who most need to apply boundaries to their own attitude and behaviour by unplugging from emails, by referring work-related phone calls to work colleagues, by out-of-office automatic replies, and suchlike. When this is both policy and procedure for all staff and work colleagues there is an enhanced feeling of mutual respect, fewer feelings of guilt, more overall contentment, and better productivity as a result. All should feel empowered to unplug, so make this a team effort.
As a final word on this matter, perhaps it is worth noting the observation of Harold Kushner, whose quote may bring some realism to any life which is always on alert, ready to respond: No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.
(Feature photo by Magnet. me on Unsplash)