All of our personality traits, when they become rigid or exaggerated, are painful for us and those around us.
From the outside, this company looks successful. It has everything going for it: an average of more than 12,000 kg of milk a year, shiny tractors and machinery, well-managed fields and a spotless barn. However, nothing is going well for Luc anymore. He’s exhausted and frustrated with other people’s attitudes: his partner, his parents, his wife and his children. “They’re irresponsible and don’t have high enough standards. You could say that I’m the only one who wants to succeed and make any effort. If I weren’t so demanding, our farm wouldn’t be so productive and in the black.”
In fact, when I met those close to him, it was obvious that Luc has much higher standards than everyone else, and it is true that, without his standards, the farm probably would not have attained the level that it has. Luc sees himself as careful, ambitious, attentive to detail and possessing high professional objectives: high performance and quality standards, high moral principles and a great sense of responsibility. In fact, it seems that he possesses crucial traits for attaining success.
However, what Luc perceives as crucial qualities are perceived by those around him in a different way: they see him as rigid, stubborn, strict, intolerant, tense, never satisfied, hung up on details, always serious, incapable of delegating and of expressing joy or any other positive sentiment.
“No one can ever do enough,” his wife says. “It’s never good enough, or it’s not the right thing.” “If you get to the barn at 5:10 instead of 5:00, it’s a big drama,” his brother adds. “If the place is not swept perfectly, more drama. If the team is satisfied with production, it’s because we don’t have enough ambition. He calls us all ‘losers.’ He wants to control everything. There’s a lot of employee turnover because they never get positive feedback, only criticism. They get discouraged and quit the business to go work on another farm.”
Therefore, we can see that our personality traits, when they become rigid and exaggerated, without any nuance and flexibility depending on the context, are painful for us and those around us.
Take the example of our crops: the harvest represents our objectives and the fertilizer our personality traits. To have an abundant harvest, you have to add fertilizer (perseverance, attention to detail, high objectives, thoroughness, etc.) because, with no fertilizer, you’ll have a very mediocre yield. However, if you fertilize too much, you are wasting your money (or your energy). And if you do it excessively, you won’t harvest anything either (other people will get discouraged, rebel, become apathetic, exhausted, or they will quit).
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you have the right dose of fertilizer:
- Are your expectations or standards realistic considering existing resources (skills, interest, time and material resources, yours and others’)?
- Are the people around you stimulated and committed or exhausted and discouraged by the objectives?
- Is the climate positive, or is everyone walking on eggshells?
Know how to find just the right amount of fertilizer, or you could have a barren field for harvesting in the fall. A prosperous businessman confided in me one day: “I have learned two lessons in my life. The first one is that when you try to control everything you end up controlling nothing. The second one is that too much is the same as not enough!”
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach