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Overcoming Workplace Perfectionism

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Overcoming Workplace Perfectionism

How many of you out there are perfectionists? And how many of you consider perfectionism to be a positive trait?

Well, in the workplace, perfectionism can be both a positive and a negative. Sure, you are detail-oriented and you never give less than 110%, but your need for perfection can also result in missed deadlines and huge amounts of stress.

Angela from Baldwin knows what I'm talking about...

Dear Michelle,

I am paralyzed by my own need for perfection at work! Every time an assignment comes across my desk, I can't stop myself from obsessing over it, and no matter how much time I devote to it, no matter how many times I review it, no matter how hard I work on it, nothing ever seems to be good enough to meet my standards. I've always thought being a perfectionist was one of my better qualities, but lately it's been driving me crazy and creating a lot of frustration.


Can you help me get over my perfectionism?


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Angela, I hate to tell you this, but if it's driving you crazy, it's probably driving everyone else crazy, too. And the fact that you're starting to take a good look at yourself and understanding that your need for everything to be perfect is actually harming you at work is the first step towards overcoming that frustration.

You need to understand why you feel everything that leaves your desk needs to be perfect. Is it that you feel insecure? Is it that you have a fear of failure, or a fear of other people judging you. Most perfectionists actually have a lot of trouble with procrastination. They put things off because it's never really complete to the standards that they desire.

I've also noticed that perfectionists have a tendency to be very, very critical of others' work as well as their own work, holding others to this very stringent standard of performance. That can cause tension and big problems in the workplace, too. The reality is that we are imperfect creatures, and it's a matter of taking pride in your work but not getting so paralyzed by the need for perfection so that you end up not producing.

Another by-product of perfectionism that's detrimental to the workplace is the inability to finish a project. If there's always one more thing to do, one more thing to tweak, one more thing to review, your work can actually get stuck on your desk for a very long time.

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So there are a couple of things that I would like you to consider. This awareness and understanding of what's going in your head as you get work assignments is the first step towards pushing yourself to a place where your work is good; your work is great...but it's not perfect. You want to make sure that you're not worrying so much. Think about the fact that you will produce more if you're not so focused on perfection. If it's fine to go out the way it is, then it needs to just move.

Today I read a quote from Ed Foreman in my Franklin Covey planner: "Worry is no more than the misuse of imagination." Most perfectionists are worriers, so I want you to start to get rid of that worry and start to move yourself forward. The more you practice at what you're doing, the better you're going to get at it, but if you hold everything close to you and never want to let projects go for fear of them not being perfect, you're never going to get actually out to project completion.

In the words of Nike, you should "just do it!"


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I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. Henry David Thoreau