Here is my second annual list of things I hate. However, it seems to have morphed into a list of types of people I hate. But this seems fair; no one's animosity should be limited to inanimate objects.

1. Perfectionists.
These are people who have lost perspective and get nothing done.

Of course, you can guess that I am not a perfectionist. In fact, I am a person who painted my own walls and didn't paint near the windows because I didn't want to do the detail work. I am a person who accidentally addresses the envelope upside down and doesn't get a new envelope.

But there is good that comes out of a lack of perfection: I can set a lot of goals for myself because I get them done.

Let me just cut to the chase:
Perfectionists procrastinate because they are scared of not being perfect.
Perfectionists are hypercritical to the point that they cannot support people around them.
Perfectionists can’t finish a project because they can always think of a way to improve it.
Perfectionists are phony because no one is perfect but they can’t handle showing that in themselves.

2. People with messy desks.
I didn't used to hate people with messy desks. I used to just feel sorry for them. Now I have disdain, because after I wrote a column about the University of Texas study that showed that people with messy desks are not creative, all the messy desk people wrote to me. I realized, from the onslaught of mail, that people with messy desks don't think they have a problem. They are in denial. I wrote about a study. They argued with me. They did not do a study. They told me they are proof that the study is wrong. The emails were so disingenuous and defensive that they actually caused me to have less respect for people with messy desks.

3. People who complain their job is not creative.
It's not your job, it's you. Creative people bring creativity to everything they do, no matter what. It is inside them and no job can stifle it. Some people are driven to do art and will do it no matter what their job is: Think Kafka holding down a job as an insurance company drone. But creativity is not just art, it's also problem solving. If you are good at your job you are undoubtedly creative because any form of success requires some sort of creative problem solving.

4. People who think their problems are unique.
Women in finance who think they are the only ones who suffer sex discrimination. People in government who think they have a corner on bitching abut bureaucracy. Teachers who think they are the only people who have to be “on” all day long. If you have ever told people that your job is especially taxing for one reason or another, you are lame. Your job is not special; all jobs are hard for people who have a hard time doing a job. If you can't cope with sex discrimination in your job, you couldn't cope with it in someone else's job, either. If you can't cope with high standards in your job, you wouldn't meet anyone's high standards. Stop thinking your circumstances are unique. I can't think of one situation where that sort of thinking will help further your career.

5. Grammar mavens.
As a person who is not a sticklers for detail, I tire of people who call out a grammar error like they are a second-grade overachiever who will never get picked in kickball.

But, any list of hated things would not be honest unless the author admits that we only hate the things that somehow remind us of ourselves. So, now that I've admitted that, I will tell you my grammar pet peeve: You should not, ever, in any situation in the whole world, say, “and myself” in the workplace. Use “and me” or “and I” instead. The only way to correctly use “and myself” is if you are doing something directly to someone else and to yourself, so it is a grammatical construction that is basically appropriate for nothing except pornography.

18 replies
  1. Lindsay bruce
    Lindsay bruce says:

    Oh dear, what a pity. Another deluded fool who thinks life is about career. Work to live, don’t live to work. In the moments before you die, you really won’t be wishing you’d been able to write another 100 reports, or get that promotion you felt you deserved. You WILL be in agony that you didn’t spend more time with your family and friends enjoying your life rather than spending it behind a desk making money for some equally deluded asshole.

    Sure – I’m a messy desker, and a perfectionist, so you can say I’m in denial, and that’s fine. I’m happy for you to go on believing the corporate bullshit.

    One day you’ll change your mind – the day it’s too late to do anything about it.

    * * * * * *

    Hi, Lindsay. I’m not sure how you landed here, but I have exactly the opposite take on work and l life that you think I have. In fact, my guess is that you and I think very much alike.

    Here are some posts I think you’ll enjoy:

    How much money do you need to be happy: Hint, your sex life matters more

    Make the world better from the job you have right now

    Women who are not my role models


  2. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Though some people do have unique problems.

    Some are required to drive different routes to deter ambushes and work in constant fear of their safety. Others handle toxic chemicals that could kill just by splashing their leg. How about women violently forced into prostitution? Kind of a far cry from sex discrimination and bureaucracy. Many jobs have problems, but not many jobs are life threatening.

    It’s easy for you to say that we all have “choices,” but many people in many parts of the world do not, and have not in the past.

    * * * * * *

    Hi, Daniel.
    Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right. I don’t think, though, that I could ever give career advice to people in these jobs. I think very little of what I write would apply to these people. They probably don’t need career advice. They need other stuff much more. Giving and taking career advice is sort of a luxury. Something we do when we can afford to fine-tune our happiness.


  3. Darren
    Darren says:

    This post really rubbed me the wrong way.

    There is a place (a very large place, actually) in this world for people who have a strong need to see a job well done. I don’t particularly want you or anyone like you designing my airplane or my elevator (or doing my medical diagnosis), I don’t even want you to paint my apartment.
    …. and I really don’t care how quickly you get those tasks (half) done.

    Also, I think that when people have been saying “I have a serious problem”, you’ve been hearing “I have a unique problem”. I cannot imagine a teacher who thinks that *they* have the only career where one needs to be “on” all the time, but it is a fact that teaching requires this to a large degree, and if it’s a problem then it’s a problem… I fail to see how explicitly acknowledging that the problem is not unique makes it less of a problem.

  4. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    Penelope is one of those people who thinks she knows everything, therefore, feels like giving an advice (wrong advice) and insulting people that are not like her.
    Perfectionists are the “backbone of society”, and anything they do, they do it right. That makes other people jealous, those that are just not capable of doing things right, so all they can do is just insult, talk and give wrong advoice.

  5. Alexa
    Alexa says:

    I think this post deserves a comment by someone who was in no way offended by it. The perfectionists that I have worked with always seems to be running behind, and they blame what they consider to be an impressive quality about themselves. “Sorry this is late, I’m just such a perfectionist!” Messy deskers always claim that they know where everything is. This logic may have worked at 13 when you were arguing with your parents about a messy bedroom, but does not sound too great at work. If I need a file you have been working on, I don’t find it amusing when you joke about your “filing system” while you make me wait while you dig through piles of work. Am I over-generalizing? Yes. This does not apply to every perfectionist and messy desker that I know. The title of this post was “Things I Hate,” not “Things I Hate, and I Hope I’m not Offending Anyone.”

  6. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    There is no faster way to make someone hate you than to correct their grammar… unless, of course, you happen to be in the minority who thinks linguistic rights and wrongs make fascinating conversation. Unfortunately, I’m one of the latter, but I’ve been able to keep my grammatical corrections directed toward editing, which is my job, and helping my interns become better writers, which is abuse they signed up for. And, OK, I pester my boyfriend when he uses a pronoun like “he” after referring to three different men.

  7. AB
    AB says:

    People with messy desks aren’t creative? Sounds counterintuitive. But you cited a study, so I checked it out. Funnily enough, the words “creative” or “creativity” were nowhere to be found in the study – instead it discussed “conscientiousness” and “organization”. That’s not exactly the same thing, Penelope…

    In fact, the study didn’t even go so far as to say that a messy workspace definitely means the worker isn’t conscientious or organized – it is far more focused on PERCEPTIONS of that worker by others in the work place. (It did assert that such perceptions have “some” validity.) Your original post acknowledged this subtlety, even as it jammed creativity into the mix, but the reference to the study in this posting does no such thing. I believe you overstated the claims made by this study in your original post, and obscured them altogether in this post. Sloppy.

    By the way, I keep my desk clean at work for exactly the reason the study suggests you should – to project an image of conscientiousness and organization.

  8. dblanchard
    dblanchard says:

    I suspect you’ll hate this, but I’m surprised that in three years no one has commented on not using “and myself.”

    I spilled water on him and myself.
    I find too many differences of opinion between him and myself.
    I’ll get bagels for you and myself.

    I do agree though, that misuse is very annoying.


  9. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Penelope, I found your blog quite interesting. I also realized that I am guilty of each trait you listed. What you stated about perfectionists describes me so well. I couldn’t have said it better myself (I hope I used the word “myself” correctly, heehee). I also remember while working at the corporate offices of ExxonMobil in Houston, Texas my office was so messy that my supervisor even spoke to me about it. The thing is, I have always had a serious problem with disorganization. I also suffer from severe depression and emotional problems. I wanted to ask you if you think that the traits you listed are connected somehow with depression and any mental disorders. I also am quite easily distracted from whatever I may be doing or trying to do. To put it simply, life has been difficult for me. I never did finish college and have difficulty finishing anything for that matter. I have never had a career and now I am very close to being 40. I was eventually laid off from ExxonMobil, but not due to sloppiness. I am on disability now for depression and I think about ending my life since it is so difficult and painful to live like this. I am a failure, plain and simple. I hate my life and I don’t think there is any way to “fix” it except bring it to an end. I don’t even know what to do with my life anyway so I just exist for the sake of existing. I should be a millionaire but I am not. I am nothing and just want it to end. Thanks for your insight. I always felt my perfectionism was getting in my way of getting anything done.

  10. Jean
    Jean says:

    I. Love. This. Post.

    The common denominator between each archetype that you listed seems to be an excess of self-involvement, and consequently, loss of big-picture perspective. Of course, the world needs both macro- and microcosmic thinking, but it’s good to at least figure out in which camp you tend to stake your tent.

    To the cranky people who got defensive: bear in mind that defensiveness is the first affirmation of addiction.

    I will admit to enjoying proper grammar. It makes me feel like there might be order in the universe somewhere.


  11. Mike
    Mike says:

    i believe that the idea of people being defined by their career might be in fact part of the cause of my depression. since i am on disability and not working right now, i would then be considered nothing.

    to be honest, i have never been anything. i have had hundreds (maybe thousands) of jobs and not one was satisfying. if you have assumed that i have a problem holding jobs, that would be correct. i am a human resources worst nightmare times 100.

    perhaps i don’t even want to work, ever, again. right now it is just easier for me to stay on disability which is for my deep depression (i say DEEP depression because of the fact that i do contemplate suicide AND if given the opportunity i would blow my brains out).

    i would say that messiness is probably the least of my problems, yet disorganization does interfere in my life. i wouldn’t say that my position in life was a result of choices i made, simply because, i didn’t choose depression. who in their right mind would ever do such a thing? that is of course if it was even possible to choose to have depression. any choices i made as a result of distorted thinking due to my depression, simply would not count since these actions were as a result of depression.

    i wish that the US government would offer more support such as having all working folk contribute more money from their pay checks to help those who are unable to work. I say that the more fortunate need to give more money to help others simply because if they have been blessed with good fortune, it is best to spread this good fortune and wealth to others as well. it is good karma, as they say.

  12. Holly
    Holly says:

    @ Mike:
    Read your comments (above)…

    Just want to let you know that I care about how you are feeling…and many more people out there care as well. Even though I do not know you personally, I am hoping that you realize that you don’t need to be perfect — that’s impossible. And you are right, we need a better, more responsive community…better able to evaluate and treat depression. We, as a society, need to be able to express our troubles and get the proper help.

    Take some time to accept a helping hand…reach out and find someone who will listen–please!!!! Thanks for reaching out to us. There truly are people who want to listen and offer help.

  13. bun
    bun says:

    I like this post!!! I used to be all of the above, and also think of myself as a victim all the time but I’ve seen the futility of my ways & am now trying to be a better person to be around…and I am happier too, to let go of the ‘high standards’ I used to have…

    Grear post!

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