top of page
  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

What’s wrong with high standards?

I’ve always had very high standards. And while it was ok when they were directed to myself, it became problematic when I wanted others to jump the high hoops I set for myself.

In my short experience, I’ve worked in 5 different teams (that’s 4 different roles and 6 line managers). I’ve always believed that if you do not do your best, then you are not making a difference in the world. And if your best is not good enough, then I should not waste my time with you. Sounds harsh, right? Until one day I realised all the damage this kind of thinking caused. And it wasn’t something extraordinary that happened, just built up over several different experiences. So below I’ve compiled some of the lessons learnt around why high standards are not always the best policy:

  • Stifles creativity. Usually standards means rules and criteria. Almost like the walls of a box. Imagine judging each new idea during the initial stages of a brainstorming sessions – you will end up with nothing to show for it and very likely a room full of angry people.

  • Stunts growth. To learn to walk, children need to start crawling first and then fall down a lot before they can stand up on their own two feet. To become better and better in each new task, you need to fall… a lot! Constantly reminding of the high standards or expectations does not facilitate the process.

  • Breaks relationships. If you’re not assertive when enforcing the standards, you’re likely aggressive. And let’s face it, no one likes a know-it-all who makes sure you know they think they are better than you.

  • Disintegrates trust. The more you show someone they are no good, the more they will shy away from working with you. And while they may still hold you in high regard for your knowledge, it will be unlikely they will trust you with projects that are important for them.

Having said this, I do not support tolerating low performance. Every new experience we learn from has brought us outside our comfort zones and to a breaking point, without actually breaking us. Having high standards also has a lot of great advantages – staying motivated, pushing through hard times, encouraging others and striving for more. But just like everything else, there needs to be a balance.

Have you ever worked with a someone like that? What were the good, the bad and the ugly traits you’ve noticed? How did you handle it?

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page