How to handle a perfectionist boss
Publish Date: Sep 28, 2008
Newvision Archive
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By Fred Ouma

Working for a perfectionist can be draining. You feel that nothing that you do is good enough. But have you ever thought that they (perfectionists) may be enhancing your experience and setting your career on a solid footing?

Using the opportunity and learning from your boss is a much more rewarding way to deal with working for someone that likes perfection.

According to career experts, perfectionists are orderly, neat and have a more clear-cut approach to work than you actually imagine.
So if you are wondering how to go about working for one, read on:

Nurse his/her ego
Although perfectionists are usually competitive, they are also ironically insecure about themselves and others, too. They are always worried about not being the best and will sometimes not do things or attempt new things just to avoid the possibility of failure.

To get along well with such a boss, Sarah Namirembe of Career Services suggests throwing a sincere compliment their way now and then.

“Perfectionists often need a lot of outside reassurance to feel that they are actually as capable as they think they need to be,” she says.

“Your boss may be overly critical of you as well, but try not to take it personally. It is more a reflection of their own inner insecurity than a reflection of your abilities or lack of them, thereof.”

Therefore, give praise where praise is due. This will do wonders both towards his/her attitude towards you, and your attitude towards him/her as your employer.

“When you begin to appreciate what they are teaching you, it actually enhances the work experience. You begin to see that the road to success is learning rather than being critical or afraid of their perfectionism,” explains Namirembe.

Be punctual
You must be on time for
work, be early for meetings, and meet your deadlines. Take your designated lunches and breaks and no more. Stay a few minutes after quitting time to really look like a committed employee.

However, experts advise against overdoing it as your boss would expect more dedication from you leading you to setting the bar too high for yourself.

Rev up your engine
Perfectionists are usually highly motivated and achievement-oriented. If you are a very laid-back, go-with-the-flow kind of employee, you may not stand out in your perfectionist boss’s eyes and prove to be irritating, too.

Silvia Nandera advises employees to “rev up the engines -pull your act together- and become a go-getter or at least a fairly motivated, on-the-ball employee” to get along with this sort of boss.

Ask for deadlines
Some perfectionists turn out to be big procrastinators as well. They are so concerned about things turning out or not turning out well that they put off important decisions and actions to avoid failure. Of course, this is a recipe for failure.

If you get along with the boss well enough, Namirembe says, you may step up and ask for some deadlines or even suggest some in order to keep the boss on track. “Most will appreciate this move if done subtly,” she adds.

Have an eye for detail
Perfectionists often get dragged down by the details. Instead of seeing the big picture, they might obsess about the printer using the wrong colour on your brochures. A good employee will be able to steer things back to the bigger picture, perhaps offering to resolve whatever minute concerns have arisen that are slowing things down.

Patrick Okee, a workplace researcher says this sort of boss will appreciate your eye for detail and your willingness to be a doer and a problem solver.

Perfectionists love feedback, because by their
very nature they will always strive for improvement. Feedback appreciating the lessons that a perfectionist gives you means that they are indeed communicating in a way workers do not only appreciate, but also improve the efficiency of the workplace. These improvements will always please a perfectionist.

“What perfectionists do have which small minded bosses don’t is the ability to absorb ideas that improve the working environment,” says Okee.

“They like to stretch their staff to the limit in order to achieve. And one of the greatest aspects of this is that it allows the employee the luxury of being able to suggest well founded ideas to improve the work practice.”

Learning and advancing
Susan Nalubega worked for a perfectionist. She was a typist in a legal office where the quality of the documents typed was paramount. In other offices where she has worked since, that same work ethic under bosses with lower standards to her is inferior work.

“My boss taught me that documents should be flawless,” she says.

“There should be no typing errors. He was wise in his perfectionism, although at the time, I didn’t appreciate it.”

Listen to the perfectionist, because by their very nature, they will in turn listen to you when you have valid suggestions to make.

Fagil Mandy, a leadership consultant, notes: “If you work under one (perfectionist), just change your attitude and see him/her as a mentor. She/he is enhancing your career prospects as everything works to your advantage.”

“You may even become one yourself.”

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