Everything must have its place. Every meeting must be run in a specific way. Every project detail must be exact. You know who I’m talking about … the perfectionist who sits two cubes down from you. Or, perhaps you are the perfectionist.
Do you want perfectionists in the workplace? Some managers say “yes,” whereas others respond with a resounding “no.” The informed answer is, “it all depends.”
Perfectionists possess many traits that provide great value in the workplace.
- Produce quality work: Perfectionists tend to produce high-quality work. They take pleasure in excellence and find satisfaction in a job well done.
- Exceed expectations: If the boss expects a short summary, the perfectionist will submit a report. If achieving a 99 percent rating is admirable, the purist will aim for 99.9 percent and then 100. Being above average is not good enough; being the best is a self-imposed requirement.
- Go the extra mile: Perfectionists often give more than asked. If a report needs to be five pages long, they will turn in six. If a product needs to have three new features, they will add a fourth and maybe a fifth. If they set a record last month, they will strive to better it this month. In sports, this results in shooting free throws while the rest of the team showers or taking 30 minutes of extra batting practice—every day.
- Set high standards: Another trait is that perfectionists set high standards, both for themselves and others. As long as the standards are reasonably attainable, it is acceptable, and even admirable, for perfectionists to set a bar high—for themselves. (However, foisting faultlessness on others does little more than establish the groundwork for future frustration, disappointment and conflict between the precision-minded and the rest of the world.)
Of course, there are counterparts to these traits. One is procrastination. It is said that perfectionists subconsciously reason that the results of their work will never be just right, no matter how much time is invested, so why start? In fact, the project is often delayed until the last possible moment, so there is a plausible excuse as to why it’s not perfect: “I didn’t have much time to work on it!” Taking this to an extreme, some perfectionists miss deadlines and blow past due dates, often agonizing over some trivial or irrelevant detail.
Another side effect associated with perfectionism is a problem in making quick decisions. Sometimes, they need to “sleep on it” to be assured of the correctness of their judgment. Other times decisions can be agonizingly difficult for them to reach. They fear coming to the wrong conclusion; that is, a less than perfect one. They delay a decision while awaiting more information so they can conduct an informed analysis. Unfortunately, this mental paralysis is seldom cured by amassing more data.
So if you work with a perfectionist, be assured this individual will deliver an outstanding product, even thought it might be a day late!
Source: Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Sign up to receive his newsletter, read his blog or connect on social media.