Friday, May 23, 2008

The Best is the Enemy of the Good

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the expression, “The best is the enemy of the good.” Just exactly what does it mean? I think it describes the tendency of some jerks to criticize any new or innovative idea that is not perfect. It is like saying, “Sure we are dealing with a crappy situation but your solution isn’t perfect and I don’t think we should settle for anything less than perfect.”

This allows the critic to take a position of moral superiority and yet not offer anything of value. I am often amazed how often people put up with this sort of jerkdom. Someone offers a good solution and our jerk takes the opportunity to raise their eyebrow, dip their chin and say, “It’s not perfect and I can’t agree.” Most often we as an audience say “Gee, I guess you could be right.”

This is a subtle form of jerkiness, and I think it may hide an inferiority complex. I suppose I should be more sympathetic but I choose a tranquil workplace over psychological tolerance. I am reminded of an episode of “MASH” where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman described Frank Burns and his problems by saying, “He is such a walking sack of fertilizer that it is hard to care.” Now I’m not totally unsympathetic. For example I would probably chastise the wag who said of someone with an inferiority complex, “It’s not a complex.”

Each of us must decide to what extent jerk behavior should be tolerated, but all of it has its cost. See http://www.workplaceattitudes.com/.

1 comment:

Jon said...

You're right of course, that attitude has to hide an inferiority complex. Interesting take on that saying...