Perfectionism is the best excuse to do nothing

"Perfection is the enemy of progress". – Winston Churchill

Everyone wants to do their job to the fullest, but what's perfect and what's possible can be very different things! While all work hard to succeed and to achieve our goals, some people can reach an extreme level as they seek perfectionism in work.

When we hear the word "perfect", we think of something nice or complete, and nothing is wrong with it, but have you ever thought about what it takes for something to be perfect? Achieving perfection at your job can harm the quality of your work and your productivity. Perfectionists are often intelligent and detail-oriented individuals at work. However, they might have a hard time letting go of assignments, delegating, and knowing when good enough is good enough.

The Perfectionist scale measures the degree to which we feel a driven need to be seen by others as perfect. A dramatic difference exists between the act of perfecting something and the concept of perfectionism. Rather than working to make things the best they can be, perfectionists require seeking flawless results. Perfectionism originates in a fear of failure.

Although we frequently think of perfectionism as a contributing factor in attaining excellent results, it is self-defeating. Since their drive for perfection practically guarantees failure, people with too much focus on it tend to remain dissatisfied with even their best work. Nothing is ever good enough for perfectionists. They are constantly confronted with the discrepancy between what is real and what they perceive as "perfect."

Needing to be perfect comes with a heavy price tag: Perfectionists are typically intense people who are unable to relax, tend to alienate themselves from others, and often have a distorted view of priorities.

What are the causes and symptoms of this sin?

  • A tendency to attach self-worth to accomplishment of tasks
  • Low self-esteem
  • A tendency to place excessive demands on self and others
  • A preoccupation with detail that distorts perspective and judgment
  • An excessive concern with avoiding mistakes
  • An inability to deal with or express, emotion
  • Inevitably, this sin creates unwritten laws such as “Personally taking care of every detail” or “Doing things perfectly”.

An organization expecting perfect team members value persistence, hard work, and the appearance of competence. Members might feel the need to avoid all mistakes, keep track of everything, and work long hours to attain difficult (and often narrowly defined) objectives. Therefore, the overall effectiveness can suffer if these norms are excessively strong. This might happen as members lose sight of the big picture, emphasize minor issues at the expense of important ones, and become frustrated with unrealistic standards that cannot be attained.

As unbelievable as it may seem, perfectionism leads to procrastination. Anyone would think that perfectionism moves organizations forward and towards excellence, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In the end, perfectionism causes people to block themselves and it is as if they find themselves in front of a mountain that they don't know where to start climbing. Then we hear the sentence: "I'll deliver it next week because it's not finished yet" (implying that it's not finished because it's not perfect yet, but, it’s not even started).

How can this sin be avoided?

If you commit it:

  • Improve your relationships. Your perfectionism may be keeping others away. Work on expressing your positive feelings first.
  • Try being less hard on yourself and less demanding of others.

If you have an organization:

  • Make this two the sentence your own:
  • " You don't have to be big to start, but you have to start to be big "
  • “A diamond with a flaw is better than an ordinary stone that is flawless”

This concludes our 8 sins against resilience. The bad habits in the culture of a company, or our habits of doing wrong, all have a negative influence on the success of the individual and the team.

As the business world is undergoing rapid and unpredictable change, organizations can't assume ongoing smooth business conditions. Furthermore, tools of self-reflection and communication are becoming even more important. The pandemic has shifted the way in which we communicate and the role communication plays in our daily lives. Ineffective communication or lack thereof can have significant detrimental effects to a project outcome and an organization. Continuous work on approval seeking, hyper conventional behavior, unnecessary dependency, avoidance, opposition, power, competition and perfectionism, will lead to highly resilient individuals in the work space.

We are looking forward to our upcoming article, in which we will look at the first of our 4 virtues: Achievement as the fuel for resilience. If you want to know more about how to manage change and build resilient organizations, contact us!