Is your boss a perfectionist?

We often hear people refer to their boss or mentor as a “perfectionist” and they usually do so in a positive light. No doubt, they are one in a million geniuses out there whose attention to detail and perfectionism is why they got to where they are. But, even the most naturally talented geniuses had to start somewhere and learn from someone. There are exceptional cases, no doubt, that also have a positive impact on the people they work with and mentor. But, in many cases, being a perfectionist is really just a convenient excuse for what can be some pretty terrible behaviour and management techniques.

The questions you need to ask yourself are (a) do you want to work for a perfectionist? And (b) is this the optimal environment for you to learn and develop professionally?

There is no question that perfectionists are strongly driven towards success and career objectives. But, on the flip side, they can find themselves severely limited in other areas. They are often terrible in other areas, particularly when it comes to fostering a positive work environment and embracing a culture of learning. They are more familiar with what to think than how to think. As a result, they are often challenged in other areas of their lives. They have invested so much of themselves in maintaining this standard of perfection that they simply don't think about how it may be limiting them. They are also far more fearful of failure and just learn fewer of the very valuable lessons that one can only learn by failing.

Working for a perfectionist who loves to whip out the red pen and dissect your carefully drafted work will often simply be in the habit of doing this, regardless of who you are. It's a tool to assert their authority and dominance in the workplace. They have been known to make people feel inferior through criticism and they revel in this relative position of authority.

Let's face it, at the professional level, we are all perfectionists in one way or another. Some learn quicker than others and achieve their goals more quickly. One reason why some are more successful than others is due to work environment in which they operate. Those perfectionist bosses who are overly negative with their feedback discourage even the curious ones from asking questions and seeking guidance. So, their learning is stifled and they quickly lose interest in the work.

Quite simply, perfectionists resist being challenged. They are terrified of failure, which is why they prefer not to step outside their comfort zone - or even outside their zone of dominance. As a result, they don't have nearly as much perspective as those who have tried and failed. We learn more from our failures than our successes, but perfectionists can be too afraid to fail and so their learning curve is flatter.

What you want is a boss who fosters an open and collaborative environment. One who seeks out the best people to question him or her and provide input on their work. This will ensure you learn quickly, have more freedom in your approach to work and are also recognised for your contributions. This is a far better work environment as you are encouraged to be critical, you will ask more questions and as a result, you will get more direction. You will actively seek out guidance because you know it's the quickest and surest way for you to attain the knowledge you need to be successful.

Above all, you don't have a fear of failing or looking stupid, so you are free to develop as quickly or as slowly as you chose.

Feeling stuck, lost or directionless in your career?

Do you wish you could map out a clear career path that aligns with your goals, values and dreams?