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The imperfections of being a perfectionest

in Editor Pick/Work Psychology by

Are you addicted to getting that font colour just right? Do you see errors in everyone’s work? Do you sometimes feel like the only reason something failed was because you weren’t involved?We’ve all worked with perfectionists. We’ve probably all been perfectionists ourselves from time to time.

The trouble is that being a perfectionist has some unfortunate drawbacks. Imperfections perhaps. Studies show that individuals who are perceived as having greater self-discipline and control are also more likely to be assigned extra work.

These perfectionists then feel that they have made regular sacrifices for their co-workers only to be burdened by the extra workload.Unfortunately for the perfectionists, their fellow workers don’t perceive them to be burdened. That is, because they are perceived as being so disciplined, others think the perfectionists don’t have to work as hard.

You can immediately see how this could play out. A perfectionist can’t help putting in the extra hours and effort. Others see this happening and think they are the best candidate to take on more work. The perfectionist puts in even more time and effort, perpetuating the endless build-up of work.

All this might be ok if the extra effort led to better outcomes.

However, perfectionism can also lead to excessive attention to working hard under the misguided notion that the more effort that’s expended, the higher its quality. Psychologists refer to this as the effort ‘heuristic’.

It reminds me of when children keep mixing different paints hoping to get the most amazing colour only to discover that it produces a muddied brown or grey.

I also think about all those cooking shows where the contestants want to wow the judges with more and more sophisticated flavours and combinations until the dish is no longer edible.

Being a perfectionist might just lead to you working really hard for not a lot of extra gain.

And now time to wrap up this blog. I won’t try and wrap it all up nicely because I’m not a perfectionist.

It’s not easy being lean

in Work Psychology by



Every day, we’re bombarded with lean celebrities and weight loss programs. Now even the new buzzword in organisations is ‘lean’. It’s all about an obsessive focus on delivering the product or service to customers with minimal waste and resources.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? In less prosperous times organisations often pursue efforts to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

So, if you don’t want to read through this wasteful and bloated blog, I’ve also prepared a ‘lean’ summary here.

Still here? Ok, let me take you back in time, a long time ago in 2014. I attended a lean leadership training program where the ‘lean’ expert (he actually was quite trim) led us through a lean 100+ page training book over a lean two days.

He even provided the odd YouTube video showing random slapstick antics, which I’m sure was some clever method to help maintain acute focus on the objectives of the training program. Right?

But excuse my sarcasm, which doesn’t belong in this new lean world…

Research recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has challenged the notion that we need to rid our offices of waste and ‘distractions’.

Across three studies, the researchers examined the performance of employees in a lean workplace environment versus a ‘green’ one. The lean environment maintained the standard office set-up. The green environment was surrounded by ‘wasteful’ plant life.

Employees who worked in the green environment reported increased job satisfaction and perceived the air to be cleaner. More importantly, their productivity improved. That is, they were more efficient in the green environment.

It isn’t quite understood why plant life seems to boost performance. For example, one idea is that the plants reduce carbon dioxide, thus improving air quality and concentration. The other idea is leaner. Employees simply feel more motivated to know that their managers care about their work environment.

Regardless of the reason, perhaps the message from this research is that people aren’t simply more efficient if they work in efficiently designed environments. They may even prefer to digress from time to time. After all, if you’re reading this, you chose not to jump to the lean summary, right?

Christmas can boost workplace performance?

in Work Psychology by


That tinsel might be the x-factor that will catapult your office to success! The plastic office Christmas tree might be your secret weapon to promote teamwork and cooperation! That mistletoe is…well…still inappropriate for the workplace.

What’s Dr Duck pushing on you this time (see blog on talking to yourself in the third person)? 

Christmas is a time of tradition and pulling out the old decorations, reflecting on the year passed, and celebration. In short, it’s a time to be all nostalgic.

Research shows that these nostalgic feelings might function as a way we obtain meaning and connection. Because we are more likely to feel connected with our past, we tend to form stronger social connections. 

Think about all the coffee catch-ups, breakfasts and Christmas drinks that usually coincide with the end of year wrap-up. These connections are likely to promote alignment and camaraderie amongst colleagues who are about to enter the New Year.

Nostalgia also promotes self-esteem and resilience by making individuals more sensitive to their positive personal qualities. The positive reflections that are associated with nostalgia seem to contaminate the thoughts and feelings people have about themselves too.

There are also benefits of nostalgia in reducing boredom and redirecting individuals to pursue more meaningful and relevant goals. The connection with the past re-ignites efforts to connect with goals in the future.

So perhaps those office Christmas decorations are doing more than slavishly conforming to tradition. They may be indirectly boosting the co-operation, self-esteem and resilience, and motivation of employees.

Interestingly, alcohol at office Christmas parties has been shown to do the complete opposite the following day.

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