Is Being a Perfectionist a Strength or a Weakness?

Do you find yourself feeling uneasy when you lose control over a task? Do you often find faults with yourself and others? Do you have an “all or nothing” mindset? For example, you feel bad after eating one cookie when you are on a diet because you think you have blown your whole plan for the day.

It is often debated whether this is a trait that is highly valued in an organization, a bane, or whether the answer lies somewhere in the grey area between. Perhaps first we should decide the premise of it all which lies with the definition of a “perfectionist”. This is tricky as perfectionists are shapeshifter (like Pokémons) and could take many forms, varying in intensity and frequency. 

However, we can all agree that moderation is key and you know its time for “Mayday” in blazing red signals when it impedes your ability to function and your happiness. Read on to find out what our mentors think!


1. A perfectionist is an asset to the organization


“Being a perfectionist is a strength. It reduces the need for a superior to look into nitty gritty matters. For instance, I am known by my company for my somehow advantageous ‘OCD’ traits.” Kuhan says.

“I am particular when it comes to engineering precision, report formatting and presentation styles – yes, even to the extent of consistency in font types and sizes! As such, it reduces the need of multiple reviews which in return reduces man hours. I rather have one perfectionist working with me than ten complacent engineers,” he says.


2. It depends on the situation


However, Thatchu gives a balanced opinion by noting that being a perfectionist could either work for you or against you, depending on the situation. As a team leader, being a perfectionist could lead you to get too much into the detail of tasks, causing you to lose the vision of the whole exercise and team. This can cost time and effort that could have been better utilised.

On the contrary, a perfectionist could be a strong trait when the situation requires it. As a task doer, a perfectionist would allow a very effective job to be completed. Here, he or she would tend to not only ensure all loopholes are covered when solving a problem but also create a culture of striving for the best and not making mistakes.

Vijayakumar sums it up by delineating two camps when a perfectionist is in team – upsides and downsides. The upside is that the quality of deliverable is generally good and less unanticipated delays. This gives a sample of goodness to drive appropriate behavior and shaping culture. The downsides are the opportunity cost of delayed time and the tendency to be stuck in an analysis paralysis. Perfectionists are more likely to be stuck in a grove becuase they are unable to move forward until it is “perfect”. This is a highly dangerous zone!


3. A weakness disguised as a strength (at best!)


As Voltaire once declared, “perfect is the enemy of good”.

“Perfection stifles innovation. Nowhere is that more true than in today’s rapidly evolving world driven by our unabated hunger for more convenience, speed, apps, variety, gizmos, glitz and kicks.” says Jeff, a consultant. 


“That said, I would surely want my heart surgeon to be a perfectionist,” he jokes.

Sirhajwan also agrees that being a perfectionist is a limitation as they tend to strictly follow a set of specific standards, criteria and expectations with little room for flexibility, creativity and uniqueness. It serves as a hindrance for something original and new to manifest.


4. Both a strength and a weakness


Kristyn Gan, who juggles two hats as a corporate finance manager in BDO and manages an educational start-up called Guruu, thinks that perfectionism is a double-edged sword. It is both a strength AND a weakness!

“The weakness being that perfectionists tend to overthink things and may waste time on getting something perfectly right. Is anything ever ‘perfect’? Aside from Ryan Gosling, of course,” she quips.

However, if I had to pick a side it would be that being a perfectionist is more of a strength as it helps you develop an acute attention to detail, improving both quality and efficiency of your work,” Kristyn says.

To counter the weaknesses, her advice is to be aware when you’re going overboard on a project. Set timely and realistic goals and will yourself to move on when you run out of time! Be a productive perfectionist.



5. Aim for excellence instead


Daryll Tan, co-founder and digital consultant at OpenMinds, thinks that there is no such thing as “perfect” within the human capability. A perfectionist is somewhat of a myth.

“One thinks he or she is a perfectionist simply due to him or her being highly meticulous and is often too caught up with a single task that is indirectly causing the un-optimised use of time and effort. In short, being a ‘perfectionist’ is a weakness. It drains the life, fun and performance out of a person,” Daryll says.

The greater, more achievable personality to embrace is to be excellent. Perfection versus excellence is separated by one thin line of magic.  Excellence allows for quicker sprints at work or tasks while perfection only delivers at the very last minute (sometimes due to the lack of choice). Excellence is about “doing the right thing at the right time” while perfection focuses on “doing it right“. Nothing wrong with that, but most of the time, we try to do it “right” at the expense of time and the lack of accountability from others.

Daryll’s advice was to strive to be excellent at whatever you do. Being a perfectionist can potentially ruin your self-esteem as you will never achieve perfection. In all things, go through the seasons and every responsibility with enthusiasm, wisdom, and good character and produce outstanding work.


As Condoleezza Rice puts it, “people who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” Doing something you love will eventually leave to excellence, and that is what we should be striving for instead of perfectionism. 


Do you think that being a perfectionist is a boon or an Achilles’ Heel? Join the discussion by commenting below!