Having high expectations is certainly not a bad thing. However, when high expectations translate into nitpicking, it is a problem. When you or your employees are detailed-obsessed perfectionists, it puts unrealistic demands on everyone else, it wastes time, slows progress and leaves people feeling overwhelmed, annoyed or even defeated.
If you are a nitpicking boss, you could be crushing employees’ morale. Every time you pick apart an employees’ work, they’ll think “Man, I can’t do anything right,” and they may give up trying to meet your unrealistic expectations. It’s demoralizing to work hard on something, only to have the boss disregard the effort and positive qualities and focus on some trivial detail.
Here’s a perfect example: An employee, we’ll call him Mitch, worked incredibly hard to create a fantastic sales presentation for a meeting. Rather than commend him for what he did well, his supervisor, we’ll call her Lisa, complained about an image the employee included in the PowerPoint presentation. Mitch walked away demoralized and uncertain of how to make his boss happy.
If you are a nitpicker boss, knock it off. Seriously. You don’t need to find fault with employees’ work to do your job. Not everything needs to be dissected, revised or corrected. While you should maintain high standards, realize that great work is great work, and it’s not necessary for employees to do everything exactly the way you would. And while you should offer negative feedback to improve performance and results, make sure that you’re offering praise too. Most employees, whether they’ll admit it or not, want a pat on the back (rather literally or figuratively) from time to time.
Now, what if you are dealing with a nitpicking employee or coworker? You know, those people who question everything, edit everyone’s ideas, correct everyone’s work, and are so fixated on details that they completely stall progress?
Some nitpickers are just highly arrogant types who think they know what’s best for everyone. Others are actually anxious and worrisome, and they nitpick because they need to feel some sense of control. Others believe that they are offering the team a valuable contribution by over-analyzing everything. Regardless the type, follow these steps to manage the behavior:
- Tap into their strengths. While the nitpickers’ actions can be frustrating, their attention to detail and focus can also be a positive for the team. Offer them assignments that require them to dig into and analyze details, find problems and report them back to the team.
- Keep them on track. When they bog down brainstorming meetings with minutiae, reel them in by saying “We have time to sort out all the details; right now, we are focusing on generating big ideas.”
- Make them see the big picture. Progress often stalls when nitpickers need all the answers upfront or want to focus on planning, rather than taking the first step to move forward. When that happens, remind them what the overall goals are, and ask “Can we still hit those goals if we don’t address that right now/don’t take that step/don’t do that?”
- Take away their power. The nitpickers on your team shouldn’t be criticizing you or your coworkers’ work. If they nitpick your work, say “Thanks for your input, but I’ve got this.” And if you see them nitpick someone else, say “Thanks for your help, but this is Carrie’s assignment and she knows what she’s doing.” Plus, if a nitpicker ever “tattles” to you about someone else’s work, don’t allow it. Say, “While I appreciate that you care about this, it’s not your responsibility, and I will take care of any issues that I see.” If the nitpicker doesn’t catch on, be more direct and tell him or her exactly what behaviors you want to see end.
Tell us: Do you agree with our take that you should put an end to nitpicking? If not, tell us why in the comments section.
Photo Credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/loupe-1237390