Bob Goldman
Excuse me if I'm being too personal, but honestly, if there's one workplace problem you will never ever have to worry about, it's being perfect.

You didn't know that being perfect can be a problem?

Obviously, you didn't read Joann Lublin's recent column in The Wall Street Journal.

Not one to beat around the bush, Lublin's headline puts it on the line: "To Keep Your Job, Quit Trying to Be Perfect." What followed are a number of horrific stories of big-deal executives whose need for perfection threatened the existence of their big-deal careers.

Interestingly, the real problem of these execs was not that they demanded perfection from others. Shockingly, they believed that the only people who could be perfect was -- you guessed it -- themselves. Take the case of Paul Laudicina, a managing partner at A.T. Kearney, Inc. Laudicina's perfectionist tendencies reached a level so extreme that the management consultant hired a management consultant to help him manage his consultancy.

"Perfectionist leaders operate 'under the delusion that they are being efficient' but they are not," the consulting mentor taught the consulting mentee, who learned that "to reflect about the big ideas he wanted to convey before demanding perfection in minor work tasks."

"Are you inspiring people rather than perspiring people?" Laudicina learned to ask himself daily. What he answered himself we do not know, but when preparing for his firm's super-big-deal Global Business Policy Council meetup, Laudicina managed to stop himself when he found himself badgering his direct reports with an inquisition that included questions such as "Have you checked out the rooms?" and "Have you tasted the menus?"

"He says he stopped interfering after realizing his bed linen queries wouldn't motivate his associates," columnist Lublin writes. "Having control over their areas of expertise allows them to feel more empowered."

Hooray! You've got to love any executive who thinks he's doing his employees a big favor if he puts them in charge of checking for bedbugs.

Another case history involves Judy Murrah when she was an information-technology executive for Motorola Solutions. Graduating from college as a straight-A student, Murrah tried to continue her run of perfect grades while at work. (Why anyone would continue to work so hard once they actually had a job, I have no idea. But then again my grades in my final year of college were four F's and a D. Obviously, I had spent too much time on one subject.)


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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