For Women in Law By Women in Law

Dear LiL – I am having difficulty meeting the expectations of my practice group leader – she is the dreaded “perfectionist”. Any suggestions? Signed ~ Reaching My Limit

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Dear Reaching My Limit:

I remember a question I would invariably be asked during job interviews was, “what is your worst quality?”. I would answer that I am a perfectionist. To me, it conveyed that I pay attention to detail and take pride in my work, which I do; and hey, that’s not so bad is it?

I have realized; however, that I am not a “true perfectionist”.  In the real world, when you are actually working for, or with, a true perfectionist, one who obsessives over everything, it can be challenging.

The first thing to remember when working for such an individual is that it is who they are, and it is not personal. My best advice if you find yourself working for someone with these traits is to appreciate the positives and try to see if you can manage the negatives. That is to say, you can learn a great deal from perfectionists; their eye for detail, how they process and organize strategy on a file and their commitment to excellence. I also think that if you can understand their requirements and pet peeves it can go a long way in helping you manage their expectations. For example, do you and this person disagree over the use of the Oxford comma? In the grand scheme of things, is it really important for you to change the perfectionist’s preference on this point? I suggest you pick your battles.

Another upside to working with a perfectionist is that any strategy you develop to stay sane while working with them, is a transferable skill in and of itself, that you can adapt and apply to all sorts of situations and people, including clients.

Lastly, as your professional relationship grows and your perfectionist comes to the realization that you are competent and trustworthy, you may see the micromanaging noose begin to loosen. At the end of the day, your perfectionist might be that way out of necessity. But when you can prove that you are trustworthy and will get the job done correctly (which comes with trust and time), I think you might witness the adage “old dogs can learn new tricks” come into play.

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