Stop People-Pleasing & Set Boundaries at Work

kaitlyn rapai smiles at she works at her desk people pleasing boundaries

I’m honored to be a guest on the Learners & Leaders podcast this week! Its an amazing educational podcast hosted by Huda Harajli and Jen Kibbey. On the show, we talk about why so many teachers identify as people-pleasers, how people-pleasing can lead to burnout and how to set a boundary despite our desire to always keep everyone happy. 

Learners & Leaders Podcast cover art

Just in case you don’t have time to listen to the full episode, Here are the big takeaways:  

So what is people-pleasing exactly?

People-pleasing is essentially not being honest about what we want in the hope that it will impact others’ view of us positively. 

Why are so many teachers people-pleasers?

All humans are built for connection with others. Teachers are often the glue that holds their family/friend circle together. Teachers choose to be of service to others and that choice is often intertwined with our identity. When we say no to others, it can create a lot of cognitive dissonance. This is often very uncomfortable to experience. 

Many teachers also identify as “Type A” or “perfectionists”, myself included. Saying no often equates to doing something wrong in our minds. Like not being a team player, or not pulling our own weight. “Type A” people & “perfectionists” are also generally very concerned with the opinion and judgment of others. Doing something that we perceive as “wrong” can be very painful. 

How does people-pleasing lead to burnout?

When we people-please, we are saying yes when we would really like to say no. Oftentimes we feel like no isn’t an option. A lot of teachers end up overcommitting themselves to workloads they can’t handle. The combination of extra work, and lack of time for ourselves can lead to resentment of our jobs, and even the educational system as a whole. This process repeated over time can cause even our most dedicated teachers to burn out. 

We then have two options.

Change the feeling of resentment at completing the extra tasks through mindset work…


Be honest with ourselves about what we really want. 

How do we set an appropriate boundary at work?

I find it really helpful to set my intended boundaries at the beginning of the school year. If you are reading this in the middle of the year, you can just as easily define your boundaries at that point. Having clear, pre-set boundaries can be especially helpful when unexpected requests are made. If a parent is looking for a tutor and I have already committed to my activities for the year, then my answer is pre-decided, there’s no waffling or overthinking.

There are two types of boundaries:

Those that apply to yourself and your behavior:

This year, I promised myself that I would not stay at work past 4:30. This is a boundary or promise to myself that is for my own self-care.


Those that involve you and the behavior of others:  

I made parents aware that if they call or email me after school hours, I will get back to them during school hours. This boundary involves my time, and how/when I’ve decided to share it.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to set a professional boundary in the moment, especially if it’s something you have already addressed or something that feels especially personal. Ideally, a boundary should be set from a calm place. If you need to take some time to think over what kind of boundary needs to be set, let the other person know you need some time. There is nothing wrong with pausing to think things through. 

What if someone violates a boundary after you’ve set it?

This is the most difficult part for most of us. If the boundary has been violated, you have to enforce it. When that parent calls after hours, you have to not answer. Maybe they sent you a frantic email… you have to wait until the morning to reply. 

If you set a boundary and then go back on it, you are eroding the trust you have in yourself. Additionally, you are showing those around you that your boundaries don’t need to be taken seriously. Most of us want to have clear boundaries. There won’t be any validity to them if we state them and do nothing to follow through.

Not having clear boundaries creates unnecessary resentment and drama. The alternative is to speak our truth and then follow through. This is the work of really honoring ourselves, knowing our intentions are good, and we are setting boundaries to take care of ourselves, then being willing to let other people feel their own feelings, and maybe even be wrong about you.

Want to learn more about burnout prevention? Check out my earlier blog: 3 Steps for Feeling Better from Burnout.

Ready to change your life? Schedule a time to talk with me!