Pick Your Battles in the Workplace

I am not a fighter by nature. But I am a perfectionist. And people like me can be sticklers for doing things our way.

This got me into trouble in my time as an intern. I felt strongly about the need to do certain things (writing, grammar, style) the right way, but my manager somehow couldn’t see the light (*sarcasm at my own expense*).

Maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’re a perfectionist. Maybe you don’t like being controlled. Maybe you are sensitive to feedback.

In any case, people like us have lots of chances to go to battle for our idea of how things should be. We often overdo it.

Every battle you fight in the workplace burns some social capital. Every battle you fight takes someone else’s time and adds some roadblock to someone else’s agenda. If you follow your impulse to battle over the small details (as we perfectionists do), you’ll find yourself jobless, or else working with employees who can hardly tolerate you. And with every fight you start, your fights become worth less as a signal of real intent and concern and truth.

If you want to win in the long term (for whatever cause you have), you need to play the long game. As my manager told me (relatively) long ago, you need to pick your battles.

Your battles will be worth more if you aren’t fighting over every point of grammar in a piece. You want your battle side to come up when someone is making a bad decision that will affect the company. Your battles will be worth more if people don’t see you as a complainer – someone who talks but doesn’t take action.

Plus, you won’t burn everyone out with arguing and bickering.

Remember in the end that it may often take surrendering a few pieces and losing a few battles in order to win a chess game. Let your battle opportunities pass more often than not, and use your real battles well. If you do, you’ll be a winner in the end.

Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash


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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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