Escape the Disease to Please Trap!

In my Coaching practice I have seen first-hand how the “Disease to Please” undermines the effectiveness and impact of women leaders. They sometimes talk themselves out of asserting themselves in situations where their differing viewpoint is needed, instead they choose to hold back in order to keep the peace. Adding race, age, orientation to the mix can create even greater complexities for those who have a ‘“Pleaser mindset”.

The right Coach can take this journey with the client creating a safe space for the client to do the work that will enable them to reach breakthrough outcomes.

By Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen, published on

The disease to please can undermine your ability to make clear decisions because you’re always trying to split the difference among competing needs in hopes of creating consensus or avoiding giving offense. This can impair your judgment and leave you vulnerable to manipulation by people who know how to use guilt to get others to accommodate their needs. It can rob you of the capacity to act with authority for fear of disappointing others or making them even temporarily unhappy. It can make you an unreliable advocate or ally because you are so easily swayed. It can distract you from your purpose, squander your time and talents, and contribute to your general stuckness.

The disease to please is anything but pleasant and it can be positively poisonous for your career.

How can you break the habit? Push back.

Coaches we work with report that not only do they find the disease to please more commonly displayed by women, it is becoming more problematic because expectations are constantly ratcheting up. It’s a difficult habit to break and is an unspoken elephant in the room at many of the women’s conferences we attend, where programs on “achieving balance” have become a standard part of the repertoire.


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