In the past month, we wrote about habits that were holding us back in the workplace. These include a number of behaviors, from failing to recognize other people’s contributions to simply focusing too often on our own positive results (even when they don’t matter). But we rarely stop to think about positive habits that are still self-sabotaging. Wanting to please everyone, as well as falling into the perfection trap are both excellent examples.
In the book How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job, career coaches Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen go into detail about how these self-sabotaging habits manifest among women in leadership positions and offer advice on the best way to tackle them.
The need to be perfect
First and foremost, they point out that both of these behaviors are encouraged in girls’ upbringing. And the idea is not new. Multiple studies have shown that girls are raised in a way that encourages perfectionism. Boys are taught to be brave, take risks, and aim high. Yet, we’re teaching girls to strive for something that is, ultimately, impossible. It is apparent in school, it shows in their approach to body image, and it can have negative impacts on their careers as well.
According to Goldsmith and Helgesen, the perfection trap has several ways of affecting career prospects and work performance. For one, perfectionists have a harder time delegating, mainly due to the fact that delegation itself takes away from their ability to control the way in which a job is done. Secondly, perfectionists can have difficulties setting priorities. When trying to make everything flawless, we take time and energy away from focusing on the things that matter the most.
The self-sabotaging habit of working too much (on everything)
While perfectionism can take its toll on relationships within the workplace, it can also have a seriously negative effect on productivity. According to the 80/20 rule, 20% of the work we do will have an impact on 80% of the results. We spend the rest of our hours on the remaining 20% of the effects.
But, when we’re trying to be perfect, we’re spending equal amounts of energy on everything. We’re spreading ourselves too thin instead of prioritizing tasks.
A great way to tackle perfectionism that might be getting in your way of moving forward professionally is to divide your to-do list into sections:
- Things that are a high priority, that only you can do
- Tasks that are important, but don’t necessarily have to be done by you
- Things you’re doing, but which are not in your job description / aren’t contributing to you or your company
Then you can add another section – the projects you wish you were working on and ideas you wish you were bringing into reality, but don’t have the time for them.
This approach can, in just a few steps, show you all the time-wasters taking away from your focus and energy. Cross off unimportant items, delegate tasks, and allow yourself to focus on what will have a real impact.
Trying to please everyone
Closely related to perfectionism is women’s, seemingly intrinsic, need to please and nurture. The inability to say no, apologizing for expressing an opinion, even just keeping quiet in order not to ruffle any feathers are all self-sabotaging habits that are often instilled through our upbringing.
Trying to be everyone’s friend at work, or looking for approval at all costs can have serious negative consequences. But the problem arises through the very fact that we often don’t know how to position ourselves at a new job. Instead of nurturing positive behaviors, we revert to habits such as being too approachable, too hardworking, or too relatable. Ultimately, this can only lead to dissatisfaction with our job and position. Yes, people will think of us in a more “positive” light. But the result of that image won’t be doing us any favors (and definitely won’t help us make progress).
Overcoming negative behaviors
The first step towards ending your self-sabotaging habits of perfectionism and trying to please everyone is to recognize how they’re affecting your professional (and private) life. Take the time to think about these characteristics. Then, come up with a list of ways they may be holding you back.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing something really well. Neither is it a bad thing to have a great relationship with your colleagues. But, there are better ways to position yourself and build relationships in the workplace. And in the end, paying attention to your habits can only result in a happier, more satisfied you.
If you recognize these self-sabotaging habits in your own behavior and feel like you could benefit from a session with a business coach, you can schedule an appointment with me by clicking HERE. The first session is free, so no excuse not to give coaching a try.