This is the person I deal with every day: A boss who plans the details of every small event, spends an afternoon directing exactly where to place balloons or strings of lights for a colleague’s farewell, arranges every single chair before a meeting, takes a day to oversee re-painting lines in the parking lot or kicks up a big fuss with vendors about minor details. You know this person?
Worse part is, this person is not even my boss – just someone I have to tolerate (through gritted teeth). My blood pressure rises with every encounter and I leave with hands trembling out of frustration. Yes, this person nit-picks every document, every email, and every irrelevant, trivial detail. A red pen is this person’s best friend – every word, choice of layout, font style, size and alignment has to be corrected one way or another. The real irony of it all is that this person will even correct his/her own changes if I feed them back a second time. So, something that can be done in 5 minutes usually takes a day. Frankly, this person thinks no one is quite as good at anything as he/she is.
They fly in sporadically, squawk a lot, leave a mess and fly off to squawk about something else. This person is not too dissimilar. This person spends their 9 to 5, wait…9 to 8, correcting every minor detail or matters of personal taste and style without having enough time to do his/her real job. This person is wholly consumed by negativity, sarcasm and treats anyone he/she can condescendingly. I pity this person’s team members because they have to endure this treatment and regularly succumb to this fusspot demands.
Does it really matter?
Of course everyone wants to make sure things are always right, and there are times when details matter….BUT really – is this person simply just noticing that someone else has decided to do things a bit differently than he/she does, which is bound to happen? It’s not like over this ‘mistake’ someone had driven the business to the ground, had lost a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity or had negatively impacted someone or something else. Simply put, nobody died. No war was started. The business is not bankrupt. Not over an honest-to-God typoo, or a difference in 10 vs. 11 font size. Hehe, get it?
What I find most amusing (yes, I really do), is that this person is ultimately a walking ‘oxy-moron’. By being so worried about stuff that doesn’t truly matter, this person is essentially wasting his/her time and everyone else’s to prioritise matters that actually need attention. The constant faffing around – tweak this, tweak that, results in the big stuff never getting done. But boy, all the small stuff always gets delivered (even if there’s a two week delay in its development). In the big picture, the small stuff never gets acknowledged or appreciated. I can imagine how stressful this can be for a senior manager trying to get the Executives’ attention. Aww, Poo.
Glass half empty
There are days when I encounter this person and I just tell myself that this person needs to have sex. Release that tension and just have sex. I often wonder whether this person is just channelling some kind of pent up frustration in his/her own personal life. Then again, it could just be simply an underlying psychological disorder that is deep-seated and inherently resistant to change. This person channels so much negative energy that I find so sad. How can one be so resentful, so distrusting and so much in doubt? There is this obsessive-compulsive desire to fix every irrelevant detail, but most of the time it isn’t likely to make an iota of difference to anything in the real world – anything that matters, anyway. But what an utterly unfulfilled, miserable life to lead! There is an obvious line between critique and criticism. I appreciate any honest critique, especially if it is value-adding and suggesting for an improvement. Not just for the sake of it – to give this person a false sense of control. This person probably claims him/herself to be a perfectionist, but truth be told, I just find this person utterly irritating. Breathe. Live a little.
Dealing with someone who is so detail-oriented and focused on specifics, I often assume there is some strategic thought process. No, I assure you there isn’t. This person can spend weeks, months, looking for and in search of the ‘perfect solution’ to a simple task; invariably comparing and contrasting, resulting in his/her own conflicts of thought – “What about this one?” or “What about that one?” In this state of illogical thought, this person has blinkers on and is unable to see past a challenge, adapt or refocus his/her efforts to achieve the ultimate goal. As a conspired participant in this ridiculous spectacle, I often watch in horror what’s unfolding in front of my eyes. I watch as time just drift away, time in which I could have used productively, never to be regained. Just do SOMETHING, I repeat over and over again in my mind. I find myself becoming as psychotic as this person in front of me. You may find me utterly moronic, but I think doing SOMETHING is always better than talking about it in circles for weeks on end whilst losing sight of the purpose of the task.
If you have read this far: grammatical mistakes and all, yet you still understand me, does it really matter?
If you suddenly feel the desire to nit-pick, please I do ask you make those corrections in your own head. 🙂
Time to let go.
A useful rule of thumb I follow is, details should be turned into useful insights and action plans – and these are the things that should be moving up the organisation. It is the value you bring that will make progress. Keep the nitty gritty for your own entertainment. By nit-picking, instead of increasing the capabilities of people around you, you are restricting them from focusing on the desired outcome. That is, focusing at a more strategic level.
Disclaimer: This article does not represent a specific individual in mind and no persons were punched in the making of this article. It is up to you, the reader, to relate as you see fit. I can’t guarantee however, a few bruised egos from self-reflection.