A Deeper Look at the Pleasing Personality in a Work Setting…

As I sat down, I asked Judy how her week had gone. Her reply, “Definitely not good.” So, I asked if something had happened. Yes, something had.

Judy is an engineering consultant. She has a degree and 20 years of experience in her field. She’s been freelancing now for about 7 or 8 years with different companies, all in the pharmaceutical industry.

Several weeks ago, she was asked to write a report assessing a product’s readiness for public consumption. After careful testing and analysis, she recommended that more testing be done.

The report went up the company ladder to the vice-president of the quality control division. He didn’t like her recommendation. It would mean more cost and a delay in getting the product to the consumer. Further, he questioned Judy’s qualifications in the narrow area she was writing about.

He did not question her qualifications in the other two departments she was working in. He liked her work there.


In this company when a report is made, the writer, in this case, Judy, signs it. Also, several other people who know the subject well, read the report and “sign off” on it, unless they don’t agree. Then, instead of signing, they note their disagreement. It’s a check and balance system; it’s good.

Of course, all who sign are expected to read the report first. One woman, Carol, signed without reading Judy’s report. Because Carol signed off on a report that her boss has rejected, she’s blaming Judy for tainting her reputation. She takes no responsibility for not reading the report before she signed it.

A few days after the report was rejected, Carol met with two separate department heads behind Judy’s back. She tried to convince them that they shouldn’t let Judy finish the two projects she was working on for them.

Judy learned about this when one of the men, Rob, told her about it. Rob said that even though he was happy with Judy’s work, he was going to take her off his project. He just didn’t want to deal with Carol’s temper.

The second manager Carol went to, Mark, doesn’t care about her temper. He likes Judy’s work. He wants her to finish his project.

The decision of whether or not to return to Mark’s office and finish her project may seem a simple one. But, it wasn’t for Judy.

After Judy told me this story, she sat up on the edge of the chair. Clearly angry, a jumble of statements came out: “I’m not going back there; I don’t have to put up with somebody talking about me like that.” “Who does she think she is, going around telling lies about me and my work?”

While Judy was catching her breath, I said quietly that I thought she was “running.” I didn’t doubt that her feelings and words were genuine. But, I thought they were also “smoke.” Meaning: she was working hard to convince herself that she shouldn’t go back. Her face collapsed. Her words were, “You’re darned right I want to run.”


She remembered aloud that the whole time she was growing up, she was the littlest and most helpless target when any of her four older siblings were upset about something. Back then, when Judy spoke up for herself, her mom wouldn’t listen. Instead, she insisted that Judy “make up” with the sibling who had just mistreated her, “for the sake of family peace.” What Judy learned was that she couldn’t/shouldn’t “stand up for herself.” As a result, Judy doesn’t know how to be assertive. She either gives in or runs.

To this day, Judy’s older brother is still “on her,” criticizing her weight, how she decorates her apartment and anything else he can think of. She is still “taking it” from her brother and she’s sick of it. This is why, at 46, Judy doesn’t want to be around anyone who disapproves of her or who might confront her. She believes that the best solution is to stay away. Run.


It took Judy some time that day to get “out of her feelings” and “into her head.” Once she did that, we weighed her options.

  1. One choice would be not to go back. That would take care of the fear and anxiety. It would be easy.
    1. But, Judy needs this income. Her consulting work has been spotty for some months.
    2. Almost as important, Judy needs the structure of the workday. When she isn’t following set work hours, she falls into depression.
  2. The other option would be to go to Mark’s office on Monday morning, and get to work. If she did this she’d be facing her own fears that:
    1. Carol would confront her.
    2. If Carol confronted Mark; Judy would feel responsible.

So, Judy, feeling defeated, asked, “What’s to be gained by going back?”

“Actually?” I asked. “Good stuff.”

By returning, Judy has an opportunity to work on a few much-needed assertive skills.


  1. The first step to becoming stronger is for Judy to become aware of how much she allows her own fear and anxiety to control her behavior. At the moment, her feelings are “in charge” of her instead of the other way around. To , she must realize when they rise. This thought has never occurred to her. Now that she understands that her feelings overwhelm her and that’s why she runs, she can work with them.

Bonus: If she practices raising her “feeling awareness” gradually her inner confidence will grow, and her scary feelings will fall. What little remains, she’ll handle well.

  1. Judy can assure herself that in spite of her scary feelings, she can do the “right thing” to protect herself. The second step in a situation like this is to start thinking. The reality here is that the Carol incident is over, there’s no rational reason to be concerned with Carol. By obsessing over Carol’s possible aggression, Judy keeps her anxious feelings going. Instead: practice thinking solutions.

Bonus: If Judy practices analyzing situations like this as they come up, her thinking and decision-making skills will grow stronger. Eventually, there’ll be no reason to “run.”

  1. The third step in becoming stronger is taking charge of her personal space. She can do that by setting limits. Judy can prepare herself in case she runs into Carol at the office.

For example, if Carol and Judy pass in the hall, and Carol speaks in a friendly tone, Judy can respond with a “Good Morning.” If Carol doesn’t speak, Judy doesn’t either. ** (This is hard for Pleasers; they view ignoring others as rude. And, of course, Pleasers can’t be rude; they’re Pleasers!). It’s important for Judy to learn that she has a choice.

If Carol confronts Judy, Judy can set a limit on the encounter by simply saying: “I won’t talk about this, see my supervisor.” Judy can respond calmly and non-defensively.

Note: This kind of behavior is hard for Judy. (Actually, it’s hard for most of us. But, it’s very rewarding; you build self-respect.) As a Pleasing personality type, Judy’s first impulse, before she even thinks about it, is to give people what they want. That’s what Pleasers are all about: pleasing others. The Pleasing person doesn’t know about setting limits; it would never occur to Judy not to give the other person what she asks for if it’s at all possible. She has the belief that she should never disappoint.

But here, we see that Judy would be putting herself at a disadvantage if she tried to “make peace.” The best way to handle situations like this, no matter who they’re with, is to be polite but not engage. In other words, don’t talk anymore. If Judy doesn’t reply, there’s no interaction. If there’s no interaction, Carol has no power. Judy keeps her composure and moves on.

Yes, training ourselves to be effective with these communication skills takes determination and practice. But, in the adult world, (1) inner feeling awareness,(2) sharp thinking, and (3) assertiveness skills while (4)setting limits are necessary to “take care of ourselves.”

Bonus: An unexpected bonus comes out of mastering these skills: we feel respect for ourselves (we can stand a little bit taller) and the other gal respects us too, whether she wants to or not, simply because she doesn’t get the power she wanted.

In the future Judy will be able to handle the Carols in the world (let’s face it; there are lots of “Carols” out there) without excessive worry and with respectful assertive behavior. No, she doesn’t have to “take it” anymore.

Big Thoughts In This Article.

  1. Get acquainted with your feelings. They often drive behavior.
  2. Once you know your feelings, switch to thinking about solutions. Think about the positives and negatives of each solution that occurs to you.
  3. Compare them. Choose one.
  4. If you need to practice language privately, do. You’ll feel more sure when the encounter happens. Remember to choose words that are brief, honest, and respectful of both yourself and the other person.
  5. Then, stop talking. Be calm. Enjoy your new skill. You deserve it.

Warm regards until next time,


Author's Bio: 

Joan Chamberlain is an author, therapist, and life coach with over 30 years of experience helping adults, couples, and teens. She has a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance, a Bachelor's in education, and a Masters in individuals, couples, and family counseling. Her book, Smart Relationships, has helped many people achieve the self-awareness needed to see themselves honestly. Its wisdom has helped them work toward improving their relationships with themselves, their friends, and their families.

To learn more about the ideas and concepts presented in her articles, please peruse her website: