Perfection may seem a recipe for success. Several high-achieving individuals, including businesswoman Martha Stewart, have described themselves as perfectionists, arguing that their quest for perfect has been responsible for their success. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Stewart said, “I’m a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have this company. I have proven that being a perfectionist can be profitable and admirable.”
While it’s true perfectionists can be rewarded for their flawless performances and may even think their desire to never make a mistake is what makes them more efficient at their job, the obsession for perfect may indeed stand in the way of success.
Dr. Martin Antony, professor at Ryerson University in Toronto and author of “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough,” says, while some aspects of perfectionism can be helpful in reaching one’s potential, the perfectionist attitude also has some downfalls that can seriously hinder both personal and professional growth.
1. Perfectionists avoid taking risks.
Perfectionists tend to set high (or in many cases, unrealistic) standards and strive to be the best at everything they do, but this desire to be perfect all the time can turn into a fear of failure, causing perfectionistic individuals to get stuck in the status quo.
“Lots of people set high goals, and, if things don’t work out, they may be disappointed for a few hours or a day, but they move on,” Antony says. Perfectionists “aren’t able to let go and instead they define themselves in terms of whether they meet these impossibly high goals,” he says.
Perfectionists can become so paralyzed by their fear of not being able to meet goals that they will often not take greater risks, preferring to be perfect at what they know they can achieve rather than take the risk that an endeavor may fail. This personality trait doesn’t sit well with entrepreneurs who, by the nature of their professions, must be willing to risk some level of uncertainty.
2. Perfectionists are inflexible.
In today’s environment, one’s success often depends on his ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and contexts. Change can be difficult for perfectionists, who often believe there’s a clear right and wrong way to do things. Antony says perfectionists will often only see one possible solution as the right one, even though there may be many paths that lead to the same outcome. This inflexibility can cause creativity and innovation to suffer – two things that are key in any business in order to grow.
3. Perfectionists take too long to get things done.
“If you’re checking and re-checking and making sure everything’s absolutely perfect, you may be less productive,” says Antony. A sales report may be absolutely perfect, contain zero typos and have the best-looking flow charts, but if it’s not completed on time or if making it perfect gets in the way of you completing other important competing tasks, this can prevent your business from advancing.
4. Perfectionism can affect relationships with employees and co-workers.
Oftentimes perfectionists not only demand perfection from themselves, but for others around them as well. This can cause tensions in the office as others aren’t able to live up to these high standards or they may deem them to be unnecessary. A perfectionistic boss can create a very tense working environment.