Stop Expecting Perfection: Decide What’s Important

In elementary school, I struggled with handwriting.

My letters were always way out of proportion.  It wasn’t pretty.  I felt it created a negative perception of me and my capabilities.

I was vindicated at around 4th grade when the TV show, Laverne and Shirley, became popular.  Laverne DeFazio used a script “L” on her shirts, which basically broke all the rules of elementary school handwriting.

Since my maiden name was Lile, I adopted the Laverne “L” as part of my signature.  Whenever my teacher would complain, all I would have to do is point out that “L.” It became my trademark.  It was cool and I was proud of it.

Even today, there are lots of things I do that do not fulfill the notion of “fitting within the lines.”  That crisp “hospital corners” type of finish on most things eludes me.  I realized this the other day when I went to make the bed at home.  No bouncing quarters here. I just can’t make the corners fit neatly into the pre-made slots. And folding fitted sheets neatly, forget about it!  Thank goodness for big fluffy comforters that hide the wrinkles!

Strangely, there are times when I am envious of those who can be crisp about their work routines.

I know that I frustrate payroll professionals in particular, who by virtue of their trade, are generally very good at keeping completed documents in proper order, on brads and in the right sub-folders.  Their staples are always exactly in the right place too, and all the correct information is neatly set out on forms.  I’m not going to win a 5S award anytime soon.  I’m just comfortable when the right documents are in the right folders (so that they are handy when I am looking for them), and don’t get too fussed about the order.  And, to quote one of my favorite lines from the movie, Office Space, I have been admonished several times in my career for “failing to put a cover sheet on my TPS report”!

Reflecting on this, it has occurred to me that the notion that there is only one perfect way of doing things is a dangerous habit for an HR professional.  In practical terms, it isn’t possible in most cases, and also it promotes a level of uniformity about things that may result in stymied creativity.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for some level of polish, but it does mean we should have a meaningful discussion about the cost of the pressure of uniformity.  What stylized “L” might we miss?

My grandmother always ironed the sheets, and underwear for that matter, and spent the better part of a day each week doing it.  I thought it was silly but it was a socialized norm for someone of her generation.

I think it comes back to that old adage about figuring out what is important and focusing on that.  We should stop expecting perfection on things that don’t need to be perfect.

About the Author

Bonni Titgemeyer

Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.


Andrea Ballard

Great post, Bonni. You probably don’t even use handwriting much these days, do you? Imagine all that time you might have wasted trying to develop the perfect penmanship!


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