The People Pleaser

A Product Manager who believes their core job responsibility is to seek concessions and compromises between the development teams and stakeholders.


Product Managers often have to mediate between two groups comprising of very strong personalities:

  • Stakeholders, who know what they want the product to do
  • Developers, who know how to build the product

Optimally, the relationship between stakeholders and developers is one of collaborative give-and-take, but often it is quite contentious. The People Pleaser Product Manager finds themselves unable to control these two groups, and instead tries to build consensus through a series of compromises, resulting in neither group being happy with the final product.

It is fair to say that the People Pleaser Product Manager has given up managerial control over the product. Instead, they are only mediating between stakeholders and developers in an attempt to document whatever both parties can agree to or live with. As they normally have to do this under time pressure, it is the ideal circumstance for groupthink. Products developed by groupthink are easy to identify: no one likes the final product.

“Design through compromise” is a recipe for disaster, as it can result in an unsalable product. If the initial product offering is rejected by customers, the project will most certainly be declared a failure, and it is unlikely that it will be allowed to continue.


To manage two groups made up of strong personalities requires a great deal of managerial skill and experience. A firm but fair hand must be used to settle down each group, and align them towards the common goal of building a great product. This high managerial bar is what makes the People Pleaser so difficult to fix: If they were capable of controlling both groups, they would have already.

People who have the capability to effectively manage groups comprising of strong personalities will have most likely been promoted out of the role of being a Product Manager, as this is a key attribute of upper management.

Ultimately, if the stakeholder and developers cannot be coached into working together more effectively, the People Pleaser Product Manager will have to be replaced. Not doing so will, in all likelihood, result in the project producing an unsalable product, and therefore the project being canceled.

3 thoughts on “The People Pleaser

  1. As someone who enjoys proposing compromises that awkwardly make all parties in the room grimace, this one depresses me. Is the only solution to hire so many promising upper management candidates that enough of them are stuck down in product management, and hope they don’t become disgruntled and go elsewhere?

  2. I do not agree with this black and white classification as there are many different versions of people pleasers.

    I for one see myself as one but I also learned(!) to say no or propose a solution for the sake of the success of the product. That solution for example would only make the stakeholders happy but not the developers. The next day it might be the other way around and another day we go with a compromise that makes everyone feel “ok” – always with the customer in mind.

    Truth (at least for me) is product management and project development is full of compromises.

    A people please can also decide not to please. There is a spectrum.

    • No agreeing is perfectly fine, encouraged, respected, and expected.

      My rationale for something being cast as black-and-white when colloquially “people pleasing” is a spectrum is can be understood by making a correlation to “Agreeableness” as defined in the Big-5 personality traits, in that the more agreeable a person is, the more likely they are be a “people pleaser”.

      By definition, someone’s “Agreeability” is on a spectrum, with both extremes creating problems for the individual or the people that surround them. Where “The People Pleaser” Product Manager becomes a black-and-white classification is when their high agreeability crosses the threshold of them being able to do their job effectively.

      The crux of what makes a product manager fit this specific archetype is captured in the latter part of this phrasing:

      “The People Pleaser Product Manager finds themselves unable to control these two groups, and instead tries to build consensus through a series of compromises, resulting in neither group being happy with the final product.”

      If everyone is happy with the final product, by definition there is no “difficulty” at all, so the archetype cannot apply. Instead, there’s a product manager capable of figuring out the right compromises to make to keep the project moving forward while delivering on the goals of the business. In their specific situation, their agreeability was in tune with the needs of the organization. However, when no one is happy with the result of the compromises made by the Product Manager, and the Product Manager only made the compromises to make people happy, then I claim they fit the archetype of “The People Pleaser” Product Manager.

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