My new favorite blog is Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. The posts rarely have much to do with the workplace, at least in a direct sense, but she’s a great writer who always has something to say and you can apply it however you like. And she’s usually got an insane-sounding story to illustrate her irreverent but useful points. You can check her out here.
Last week she wrote a post on another website called Perfectionism is a disease. Here’s how to beat it. This one doesn’t have an insane story, but it has some good thoughts:
1. People don’t care if you’re right all the time. “They just want you to get stuff done well enough that they can do what they need to do.”
2. People stop learning when they’re constantly afraid of being wrong.
3. Smart people cut corners; they just know which corners to cut.
Lastly and most interestingly:
4. People don’t care that much if you do a good job. They care that they like you. “Office politics is really about being nice, which, frankly, is more healthy and certainly more achievable than being perfect.”
That last one really rings true. “Office politics” have such a bad rap, but isn’t it really about treating your colleagues well? If you treat them well, they like you. If everyone likes each other, they seek to learn from mistakes instead of pointing fingers. The bad part of office politics starts when people don’t treat each other well, and then the gossip begins about why someone is behaving badly. It’s because they have bad intentions, we think; they are trying to make someone else look bad, or take control, or cover up mistakes. And there we are, right back at the typical behaviors of a perfectionist.
Maybe all workplace interpersonal problems are really about perfectionists. We just don’t recognize it because “perfection” looks different to different people, so we see different types of bad behavior when it really all comes down to just one source. The message: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re nice to your colleagues and they like you, they’ll forgive your mistakes. They’ll see them as motivated by circumstances rather than bad intentions, and everyone will learn from them.