The Imperfect Perfectionist

September 21, 2011

Whenever I’ve had a job interview or have been asked what one of my strengths are, I’ve always answered that perfectionism was my best strength.  It’s what has allowed me to be a hard-working individual and to have accomplished the things I have in my life.  And then, when asked to name a weakness, I cannot help but answer with the cliché response that mirrors my strength: Perfectionism.

There are a lot of great aspects about being a perfectionist, but equally, there are just as many (if not more) negative effects of being a perfectionist.  Here are just a few.

Perfectionism Leads to Inefficiencies.  The perfectionist may choose to not only do a task on their own to ensure it’s “perfection”, but they may also take more time than necessary or normally required of a task.  What should take 5 minutes might take 10, 15 or 20 minutes.

Perfectionism Loses Sight of the “Big Picture”.  With perfectionism, it’s so easy to get lost in all of the tiny details.  Crossing all of the T’s and dotting all of the I’s.  In the meantime, much bigger and more important tasks go unattended because of all of the small details that were being perfected and the big picture is lost.  Perhaps the devil is in the details, but you can’t get caught up too much with the devil.

Perfectionism Leads to Procrastination.  Perfectionism can often lead to procrastination.  Perfectionists can be very black and white in their thinking—very all or nothing.  So, while the perfectionist is waiting for the perfect conditions to do a task, the task isn’t getting done.  Then, ultimately, it results in an unnecessary level of stress to rush the task to completion.

Perfectionism Divides the Team.  As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I remember growing up and hearing the saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM.”  I used to sarcastically respond to this saying with, “Yeah, but there is a ‘ME’!”  In a way, it reflected my own feelings that it was best for me to do everything to ensure that it was done to perfection and done correctly.  Ultimately, I ended up taking over tasks that were previously delegated and intended for other members of the team and I recall the way it left the team feeling not only about their own role within the team, but about me.

Despite these few negative aspects of perfectionism, it isn’t to say that being a perfectionist is a lost cause or won’t have anything positive that can come out of it.  It’s just very important for perfectionists to be aware of their weak spots and to be conscientious when their perfectionism may, in fact, be creating unintended and unnecessary imperfections.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.

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