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Is perfectionism detrimental to your career?

Posted Jun 23, 2014 5:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Perfectionists who fear failure focus on attention to detail, orderliness and schedules. But perfectionism can harm managers’ careers, experts say.

Perfectionist supervisors can slow down projects and engender resentment among workers forced to perform even minor tasks with perfection, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Career coaches provided examples, including that of a general counsel at a Boston biotech company.

The general counsel was facing a possible demotion because of her perfectionism, executive coach Anne Stevens of ClearRock Inc. told the newspaper. The lawyer wanted to do everything herself to avoid mistakes, and sometimes stayed up half the night correcting her workers’ draft presentations.

The workers had lost enthusiasm, Stevens said, and the general counsel “was pretty stressed out.” Stevens persuaded the general counsel to loosen her grip. In one instance, the general counsel let a junior attorney decide how often provide updates on a big assignment. The project was a success.

Paul Laudicina, a partner at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. told the newspaper he suffered from the same problem when he ran the company. "It's like being an alcoholic," he said. “You're never cured of being a perfectionist. You're basically just in remission."

With the help of a career coach, Laudicina remembered to ask himself each day: "Are you inspiring people rather than perspiring people?"

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