When Perfectionism Becomes a Problem

Posted on: October 9, 2014

What do you think of when you hear perfectionism? Type A personality? Extreme attention to detail? Focused? Self-motivated? A hard worker? All of these are positive attributes in an employee, true. However, perfection doesn’t always mean productivity; in fact, it can sometimes limit it.

While perfectionism may seem like a good thing to have from the outset, the problem with perfect is that has the potential to:

  • prevent productivity
  • keep you from taking chances
  • seek to control rather than collaborate
  • lead to extra stress and anxiety
  • make you constantly compare yourself and your work to others
  • waste time instead of using it efficiently
  • trap you in a narrowly focused mindset

The root of the problem is that perfectionism leaves you with a false sense of identity. You may spend hours and hours breaking your back and pouring yourself into a project with the intention of making every part the absolute best it can be, only to find that you still aren’t satisfied with your work in the end. Perfectionism tricks you into measuring your worth by how well or poorly you perform. If your work is good, you have succeeded. If your work is bad or not well received, you’ve failed. Now hear this, your performance does not define your identity.

If you find yourself rating yourself by the perfect scale, try reminding yourself of these four simple truths.

Perfection does not equal success.

The truth is that failure is a much better teacher than perfection. Many employers ask interviewees about their failures, because we can’t reach success without failure. Remember Thomas Edison (failure and inventor of the light bulb): “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Collaborate rather than control.

Instead of always trying to be in control of the situation, be a collaborative team member. Be willing to delegate and let others share the responsibility of the task. 

Know when its time to stop.

Write down a list of your tasks and prioritize them. Keep moving through the list, and don’t spend too much time on just one thing. You could also set a timer and strive to complete each task within the time frame. When the alarm goes off, let it be ok as it is and move on.

Be realistic.

Sometimes, perfection exists only in our heads. Admit to yourself that you can’t get it all done at one time, and you can’t do it all on your own. This isn’t to say that mediocre work is acceptable. However, simply admitting these truths can be restorative and refocus your mind on the bigger picture.

Contact The Lee Group, we love to help people maximize their strengths and sharpen their natural skills. Our message to all of the detail-oriented employees out there is this: focus your energy on the things that will have maximum impact rather than wasting it on minor details