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Conscientiousness and a passion for excellence are highly prized qualities in the workplace today. In a highly competitive world we need to avoid mistakes and achieve the highest standards. So a perfectionist working style can be a real asset. But what happens when this strength is overplayed? Perfectionism can become maladaptive and lead to unwanted results.



The project proposal needs to be perfect. You could do it this way, but that might not be the best way. Or maybe like this. How can it possibly be better than John’s last proposal? So you keep researching, waiting for the perfect inspiration so you can get started….. and the deadline flies by.

Low productivity 

You’ve got the 95% solution to problem number 1, but you could improve it. The trouble is that the last 5% of refinment can take as long as creating the first 95% Meanwhile, problem number 2 goes unaddressed.

All or nothing

It’s appraisal time. You get excellent scores in four out of five key competences, but score only average in the fifth. It’s a disaster, your company obviously thinks you’re worthless.


It’s all got to be right and the only way to do that is to take the time….evenings, weekends, holidays. Meanwhile your wife and child forget what you look like.


Transactional Analysis recognises “Be Perfect” as one of 5 common drivers. These are unconscious motivations to act in a certain way so that you can feel “OK.” If you become aware of this driver you can subject it to some scrutiny and ask yourself the following questions


How good is good enough?

What does perfect cost me? Is it a good bargain?


Finding the right answers moves you from “be perfect or else you’re not ok” to balancing a functional drive for perfection with your other needs, desires and responsibilites.



It’s usually better to produce something than nothing. If time is ticking by and you haven’t started, start something. Inspiration more often comes out of modifying what you have than from a blank sheet of paper.

Low productivity

Ask yourself what the last 5% polish will really give you. Is 95% of two problems better than 100% of one and 0% of another?

All or nothing

Is the belief that you’re worthless because one out of five scores is not perfect logical? Where is the evidence? Are you placing appropriate weight on what is there and what is missing? A functional use of imperfections is to see them as inducements to learning or change in a specific domain rather resulting in making the whole of you tainted.


In the drive for perfection it can be hard to see beyond the task you’re working on. Take the time out to consider your other goals in life. Is perfect work performance worth you jeopardising your health or your family life? Could a revised target of good enough give you space to get other elements of your life in balance?



If you’re a “be perfect” person, it can be hard to shift behaviours that are well practised. Working with a coach can help you make positive changes. Contact me for a no obligation discussion where we can discuss your needs and you can find out how coaching could help you.



Relevant Reading:

Stewart I. and Joines V. (1987) TA Today, Lifespace Publishing, Nottingham