Some of us are just born enjoying order and control. We love when everything lines up in neat rows, never miss an appointment, and plan each step of our lives thoroughly and well in advance. It's innate, but it also has its advantages. Conscientious type-A folks often make great students and brilliant trainees, getting an A on every flawlessly executed assignment.
But sometimes, when it comes to the rough and tumble world, of real work, we struggle at first. More collaborative and far less predictable than the classroom, the professional arena often comes as a shock to perfectionists as — despite our best efforts — we just can seem to control everything.
If this all sounds familiar, know you're not alone. It sounds familiar to me too, and it was definitely the experience of career author Alexandra Levit. Writing on Intuit's The Fast Track blog recently, she shared her own story of coming to terms with the chaos of the corporate world despite her own tendencies to plan and control.
“When I entered the business world for the first time, I took my Type-A self with me. I was accustomed to executing, perfectly, everything I wanted to do. The thought of my company having a mind of its own terrified me, but I learned quickly that this was the reality,” she writes. “There was so much about Corporate America that I could not control, and I had a decision to make. Was I going down with a stress-induced stomach ulcer, or was I going to become more comfortable with nonsensical approaches and difficult situations?”
Sensibly, she chose the latter option, and in the post she shares some of the tricks she used to tame her own perfectionist tendencies, including:
1. Go step by step
One of the most effective ways to get over any fear is to face it. But don't give yourself a heart attack, start in very small doses and work your way up. Levit advises choosing one aspect of your career that causes you anxiety and begin working on it incrementally. “For example, if you don't like public speaking but your new job requires it, how about starting by speaking up in a team meeting? While you're doing the test activity, note how you feel and whether anything bad happened as you faced your fear,” she writes.
2. Give up
Yup, that's right. Quitting isn't always a sign of failure. Often it's a sign that you've made a wide and mature decision about how to allocate your scarce resources. “No matter what you do, if you work in an organization with other people, you will not be able to configure your environment to your exact specifications. So, let go of the notion that you are responsible for ridding the company of its issues, its crazy people, etc.,” she suggests.
3. Make a worry list
If the chaos around you has made you a nervous wreck, it's time to take action by evaluating exactly how productive all that stressing actually is. After discussing her anxieties with her grandmother, Levit relates, “I went home and wrote down all of the things I was worried about. A month later, I looked at the list and laughed. The worrisome things that had occurred were already just innocuous memories, and most of the other things never happened period. My grandmother was right. I was curled up in a ball of discomfort for no reason at all!” Could a similar list calm your nerves?
Want more ideas? Check out Levit's complete post.