Perfectionism: When Good Intentions Go Bad

“Isn’t it time we kicked the perfectionism habit?” In this way, Leah Eichler raises an important question about how we have allowed the concept of perfectionism to become a pseudo-negative. The question is whether that perfectionism is adaptive, which serves as a motivator and is tempered by an awareness of the realities of the situation, and maladaptive, where unconstrained by considerations of the context, perfectionism serves to cause anxiety and negativity.

In recruitment, the old joke is that to the question about weaknesses you should say something that sounds like a negative while being positive. “I am a perfectionist. I drive myself too hard. I am far too punctual and love to work.” Yet in the contemporary business world, being a perfectionist means you are not able to move quickly, view something as a continuous work in progress, or collaborate to get something out to market before your competitors. Ironically, while perfectionism is rooted in a fear of failure, perfectionism in the contemporary business world can cause the very failure the perfectionist fears.