5 reasons why striving for perfection at work is bad for you
Are you trying to attain the unattainable? Is it all or nothing, with you? Are you striving for perfection?
There is nothing wrong with wanting something to be perfect…unless of course it leads to anxiety, stress or failure, which it inevitably does. Perfectionism is about an all or nothing view of the world. Things are either exactly where they should be or they are a failure. Does this describe you?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard during an interview, “I am a perfectionist”. Usually, this is in answer to the question, “what is your key weakness” or a variant of the kind. Occasionally, and worryingly, it is given as an answer to “what are your key strengths”. For some folks, they have just read one too many interview guides, from the 1980’s, but “I am a perfectionist” is a red flag to any potential workplace.
Here are 5 reason why striving for perfection is bad for you at work
It is never done
If you are truly striving for perfection at work, chances are you never get your work done. At the very least, you never get your tasks done on time. Striving for perfection in work tasks will kill your ability to be creative, responsive and timely. Sometimes good enough is actually good enough.
You live in a world of constant discontent
If you struggle with wanting everything to be perfect, you will live in a constant state of dissatisfaction. The reason; nothing in life is perfect. Of course, you know this, in your head, but that doesn’t stop you from wanting it (whatever it is) to be a bit better, a bit more or a bit less.
Take my friend, the chronic dieter. Even on a successful week, where she has lost a healthy amount of weight, she will bemoan that it wasn’t more. For her, it is never quite enough. It is exhausting for her, because everything she does is bound to end up in some sort of failure. Rotten for her self-esteem and detrimental to enjoying any present success.
Striving to be perfect can suck the joy right out of any work accomplishment or activity. It’s hard to appreciate what you have when you are beating yourself up because it’s not perfect.
Striving for perfection makes you costly and unproductive
Voltaire once said that ‘Perfect is the Enemy of Good’. Striving for perfection can be costly to any workplace due to unproductive behaviours. If you lose sight of what you need to achieve, in order to make something perfect you quickly become a burden to your organisation.
Perfectionism limits your ability to work with others
There are very few workplaces that don’t demand some type of team interaction. Striving for perfection in a team environment is death to any form of work partnership. A colleague that tries to attain perfection will slow down the project, inhibit creativity and likely lose friendships. There is usually a perfectionist lurking on every team. At the start of any project they are full of enthusiasm, keen to contribute and show their worth. By the end of the project they have often been sidelined, are resentful of all of the additional hours they have done (as compared to their colleagues) and see the entire project as a complete failure. Easy to work with? No way!
Striving for perfection makes you not fun
It is an Australian pastime to “take the piss”, particularly of yourself. You can’t poke fun at yourself if you are striving for perfection. In fact, it’s hard to look at anyone without judgement. That makes you no fun. A couple of years back I worked with a colleague who was a self-proclaimed perfectionist. Firstly, she worked massive hours, trying to attain the unattainable. She was often sick, a result of high stress and anxiety (a common side effect of perfectionism, as detailed in this article on how perfectionism could be killing you). She was resolutely miserable, and, it leaked out as snarkyness. Ultimately, she was no fun.
If you can’t love the imperfections, enjoy the bloopers and delight in the defects then you are missing out on so much that is good about life.