» When People Pleasing Becomes a Problem

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Her newest venture, Authentic Boss, is an online learning resource for business owners seeking to work and live more authentically. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

When People Pleasing Becomes a ProblemBusiness ownership can be confounding for a lot of reasons, a big one being that we often find our personalities in conflict with our priorities. Sometimes, our natural traits can be a hindrance, both to our financial success and to our well-being as business owners. For example, we all have times when we get frustrated or angry with a client, yet obviously we can’t express the sentiments that may be going through our head (at least not verbatim!).

There’s another trait that’s just as detrimental to business as an anger management problem, but far more common: an addiction to people-pleasing. Sure, empathizing with others and wanting to make them happy are good things in our uniquely sentimental, emotion-driven industry. However, constantly putting clients first, at the expense of your business, can quickly cause you to go under. The ability to honor your own standards, set boundaries, and maintain your bottom line are all essential to your company’s longevity.

If you’re a kind, thoughtful, chronic people-pleaser, here are three mistakes to avoid as you operate your business:

Agreeing to things that put your business in jeopardy. Selling our products or services often feels like selling ourselves, and it can be intimidating. When a client seems ready to hire us, but just wants us to make a “few” changes to our contract or modify our policies, it can be tempting to go along with their requests just so that we’ll make a sale. This is a dangerous risk to take, however. For instance, when a client is asking you to strike a clause holding them or their guests liable for damage, they’re essentially asking you to assume that liability yourself. It would be crazy to accept that, right? Well, sure, when you’re thinking about it theoretically – but when a client is putting the pressure on, it’s easy to rationalize that a worst-case scenario will never happen, you’ll accommodate them just this once, blah blah blah…All well and good, until something does happen. If nothing else, you’ve demonstrated to the client that you’re a pushover, and they’re bound to keep pushing. Instead, hold firm to your contract and to any other terms you’ve put in place, and do so with the confidence that you’re giving the client the benefit of being served by a protected, established business.

Saying “yes” when you should be saying “no.” When you love to make people smile, it can be hard to resist throwing in extras, or bending to every request. Maybe you’ve upgraded your packages at no extra charge. Maybe you’ve agreed to take on responsibilities that really should belong to other vendors (or even your client!). Maybe you’ve accommodated meetings with a client during times when you’d normally be doing other things, like spending time with your family. Whatever the situation, there’s a real cost to you – it might be money, time, or mental health – and, as your business grows, these costs can become unsustainable. Be flexible when you can, but within reason, and remember that your clients hired you because of your talent and reputation. You shouldn’t need to sweeten the deal with things for which they haven’t paid, or things which cause you not to love your work.

Being too accessible. Being available to your clients is just great customer service, which makes good business sense by any account. However, it’s also a quick route to insanity when you can no longer draw a line in the sand between your “work life” and your “real life.” Rather than instantly responding to emails around the clock, try limiting your responses to more reasonable windows of time. Consider not giving out your personal cell number to clients (for calls or texting) if they’re driving you mad. And be sure to manage your clients’ expectations from the outset, perhaps through your website or in your initial consultation, so that they know your preferences. Communication can go a long way toward building trust, and knowing that they will be taken care of and when can go a long way toward soothing even the most anxious clients.

Consider that, in each of the scenarios above, it’s often we as the business owners who are creating monsters out of our clients. It’s a fact that people will push about as hard as we let them, and by going overboard to accommodate every request, at every hour, at any cost, only trains our clients to believe they’ll get more by asking more. They might never have thought to keep asking for freebies if we hadn’t shown that we’re willing to give away the store. They might never have expected an instantaneous response to a 10 p.m. email, if we hadn’t actually responded that quickly.

Exceeding expectations is great, but not at our business’ demise. Wedding pros, rather than running ourselves into the ground, let’s focus our efforts on pleasing our clients through the quality of our work and through the professional experience they have with our companies.