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September 1, 2008

The Curse of the Perfection-Oriented


Her name was Brianna. She wanted to work for me, and she seemed perfect. A little too perfect. It wasn’t long before I found out why.


Brianna wore a navy business suit – skirt and matching blazer, with a white blouse underneath and navy pumps on her feet. She stood up, looked me in the eye and shook my hand.


Firmly. Ouch!


Mental note, I thought to myself. Don’t arm-wrestle Brianna for money.


“Mr. Krause, it’s very good to meet you,” she said. “I’ve put in some time preparing for this interview and I’ve really been looking forward to it.”


That’s what she said. You may be wondering what her tone was. Or you may not be. But I’ll tell you anyway. She had no tone. Every word was annunciated clearly and distinctly, with no one word emphasized more than any other.


That was a little weird. Besides, who prepares for meetings?


I invited her to sit down while I took a quick look at my e-mail so I could remember which position she was interviewing for. Oh yes. Account manager. OK.


“Brianna,” I said, “why don’t you tell me why you’re interested in our particular company, and in this particular position?”


“Well,” she said confidently, folding her hands and sitting up very straight, “I know that your mission statement speaks an uncompromising commitment to the creation of customer value. I find that illuminating.”


We have a mission statement? I thought to myself. Mental note: Find out who’s been messing around with our web site.


Brianna continued.


“I also believe that in this particular position, I can exponentialize the power of that value with a combination of my enthusiasm, skill and commensurate commitment to customer value,” she said.


My head was spinning. She was like one of those cybernetic organisms from the Terminator films – probably the last one, with the girl terminator who had dominatrix written all over her. And what the hell did “exponentialize” mean?


“The last time I tried to exponentialize something,” I said, “I ended up needing 14 stitches.”


Ha. I chuckled to myself. I’m so funny. I looked at her. Her hands were still folded.


“I’m sorry, Mr. Krause,” she said. “What were your action steps for addressing that situation?”


“My what?”


“Your action steps for addressing the situation.”


My face scrunched. “That was just a joke,” I said. “I didn’t even know ‘expontentialize’ was a word.”


“Oh, I see,” she said. “I guess I didn’t immediately glean the intended humor, probably because I tend to be perfection-oriented.”


Perfection-oriented? What the hell was that supposed to mean? I considered asking her, but I decided to just think about it myself for a second.


Being perfect, I suppose, means doing everything right – not only right, but the very best it can possibly be done. Every single time you do anything. No one can do that. So if you’re “perfection-oriented,” that would seem to suggest you would try to program yourself to take the perfect actions, to use the perfect words and to choose the perfect responses in each and every situation. You would have no tolerance for imperfection in anyone, least of all yourself. You could be a real pain in the neck to have around.


“Do you think your perfection-orientation could fit in if you worked at a company where the CEO was kind of a doofus and people spend as much time making fun of corporate America as trying to act like it?” I asked.


“Absolutely not,” she said with a smile. “That’s why I’m here seeking employment with your company, Mr. Krause.”


So the first flaw in her perfection was in the research department. If she couldn’t see that I was a doofus, how would she ever pick up on things that were less obvious – like, say, where the floor was?


I didn’t hire Brianna. She was perfect, all right. Too perfect for me. If I start surrounding myself with “perfection-oriented” people, I’ll soon be moving with alacrity toward insanity-orientation – a destination toward which many believe I am already well on my way.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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