Perfectionism at Work: Why It Can’t Be Achieved

Can perfectionism at work be achieved? Why should employees and managers embrace imperfection?

While you should always strive to be ethical in both business and life, Thou Shall Prosper by Daniel Lapin warns that you shouldn’t be scared of accidentally causing harm. In other words, you should do your best to act morally and not be a perfectionist.

Continue reading to learn how you can accept imperfection.

Nobody’s Perfect, so Embrace Imperfection

Lapin says that ethical business decisions defeat the purpose of perfectionism at work since nearly anything you do will lead to both good and bad outcomes. For example, you could find yourself in the difficult position of having to lay off some of your workers. Those layoffs will be harmful to the people who lose their jobs, but they’ll be helpful to the rest of your staff and your customers if they allow you to stay in business. Therefore, proceeding with the layoffs is the ethical choice. 

Fight Perfectionism With Self-Compassion

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown states that perfectionism comes from feelings of shame—which she defines as the belief that you don’t deserve love and support from anyone, including yourself. In other words, when you feel shame, you believe that you have to be perfect in order to “earn” your right to exist.

Brown adds that perfectionism is also a way to control how others perceive you. In other words, people try to seem perfect not just so they believe they’re worthy of love, but so that others will also see them as worthy. Keeping up a good image can be especially important in business, where a bad reputation can cost you customers and profits

Further, Brown agrees with Lapin that achieving perfection is impossible; striving for it will only cause undue stress, and it may paralyze you during important decisions (like business decisions that will bring a mix of good and bad outcomes). She recommends self-compassion as the antidote to perfectionism: Openly acknowledge that you’re a flawed human being and that you’re still just as worthy of love as any other person is. Also, acknowledge your shortcomings, and forgive yourself for having them. This approach of acknowledgment and compassion has also saved numerous businesses after they made critical mistakes. 

Practice Atonement

Embracing imperfection, by definition, means embracing that you’ll make mistakes; possibly even mistakes that hurt people. That’s why Lapin says that atonement—making amends for your misdeeds—is a fundamental part of Judaism, and by extension, of Judaic business practices. In fact, the Day of Atonement (Hebrew: Yom Kippur) is the single most important Jewish holiday. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance. During Yom Kippur, Jews atone for their misdeeds and mistakes of the past year, and they ask for God’s forgiveness. 

However, before you can be forgiven for your mistakes, you must learn from them. Therefore, atonement also involves thinking carefully about what you did wrong, determining why you did it and how you hurt people with that deed, and overcoming the temptation to do it again. 

Atonement, Forgiveness, and Healing

Yom Kippur—and, therefore, business practices based on it—require more than privately reflecting on mistakes and asking for God’s forgiveness. It also requires Jews to face the people they’ve wronged and seek their forgiveness. This extra step produces feelings of shame and discomfort that could make the person less likely to repeat their misdeeds. 

Some modern psychology research seems to align with the teachings of Yom Kippur. It suggests that a direct conversation helps both parties—the transgressor and the one who was wronged—to heal and move on from the hurtful event. 

Atoning and seeking forgiveness can also be a healthy and healing business practice. It’ll help you maintain a good reputation in the face of the mistakes you’ll inevitably make during your career—mistakes that may hurt your customers, employees, or both.
Perfectionism at Work: Why It Can’t Be Achieved

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.