4 Tips for Managing (And Surviving) the Perfectionist at the Workplace!

4 Tips for Managing (And Surviving) the Perfectionist at the Workplace!

All organisations look for focused, committed employees who can get the work done. While there is no margin for error where work is concerned, employees who set unrealistically high standards for work can have quite the opposite impact. We are talking about someone who is excessively critical of his/her, or another’s work, has a tough time delegating, and is so busy fretting over making mistakes, that he/she ends up disturbing the rest of the team as well. Or, someone who’s called a ‘perfectionist’! 

Let’s understand the finer details of perfectionism, and then move on to how you can deal with a perfectionist at the workplace.

Identifying a Perfectionist at the Workplace!

In order to know how to manage a perfectionist, we first need to know the things that define one. 

Who is a Perfectionist?

A perfectionist is someone who sets very high standards for himself/herself, and is highly critical of himself/herself, and in some instances, of his/her colleagues too. If a person or a situation is different from the ‘perfect’ version that they have envisioned, they start feeling dissatisfied and on edge. This chronic dissatisfaction results in perfection being more of a vice than a virtue for the whole team. 

However, it is important to identify the difference between harmful perfectionism and what is referred to as ‘adaptive perfectionism’. Adaptive perfectionists are people who continuously work upon themselves to improve, find pleasure in their work, feel content with what they achieve and most importantly, know when to stop stressing about it.

On the contrary, ‘maladaptive perfectionists’ are always unhappy and possess a fear of failing. They are anxious and almost obsessed with achieving perfection in everything, so much so that their work takes forever to get completed. 

As a company, you need to identify the maladaptive perfectionists on the team and follow the below-mentioned tips to handle them effectively, before too much perfection starts to affect their or their team’s performance negatively.

Tips to Manage A Perfectionist At The Workplace!

Help Perfectionists Delegate

1. Make Them Consciously Aware of the Situations:

One of the major reasons maladaptive perfectionists continue to behave the way they do is because they may be unaware of how their behaviour is affecting the bigger picture.

Something as simple as not realising how much they may be upsetting their colleagues with their obsessive behaviour or how often they continue to miss on their deadlines; which is why it’s essential to help perfectionists develop self-awareness.

An honest conversation will go a long way, helping you to communicate openly with them. Bring up specific instances where their behaviour might not only have affected their own performance but their colleagues’ performance too. 

However, it is important to maintain a level of sensitivity while addressing these issues because perfectionists place a lot of value on the quality of their work. Point out how their presence on the team has been an added bonus in difficult situations, as perfectionists often tend to look into details, which the others may have missed out on. 

While doing so, keep reminding them about the important task at hand, whenever you find them going too deep into a project when it’s not really needed. 

Do commend their focus and determination, but press on the fact that it’s time to move on. Expose them to new situations or experiences, which will help a perfectionist become fully self-aware and learn something new about themselves. 

2. Help Them Delegate:

Delegating work to their team can seem like a huge task to a perfectionist. As a manager, it should be one of your duties to help the perfectionist on your team delegate tasks to others. Feel free to give your opinion about a particular team member and how he or she can be great at some task. 

Help them understand how delegating work not only helps get the work done quickly but also improves the productivity of the team. If you still notice them micromanaging other’s work, communicate to them the importance of helping others learn to work on their own and see them grow.

3. Ensure They Find the Right Role:

You need to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of a perfectionist. While their weaknesses are clearly pointed out above, their biggest strength is their eye for details. This is why perfectionists should not be assigned tasks where they need to manage a large team or put in charge of large projects

This is in no way because they lack the ability to complete the task at hand, but rather because their obsession with perfection can create unnecessary delays. Make sure that they are given roles that maximise their strengths, roles which require detailing. 

This will help them feel more secure and confident in the work that they do, and is a win-win for both the organisation and the perfectionists!

4. Help Them Overcome the Fear of Failure:

Fear of failure can haunt a perfectionist to a level where they may refuse to work on any new challenge unless they are sure they will be able to complete it successfully. 

Managers should encourage them to confront this fear of failure and let go even if things don’t go their way. Help them understand that mistakes are part and parcel of everyday learning and personal growth and should not become a reason to shy away from projects that come their way. 

It may hinder them from reaching their full potential, both personally and professionally, if they keep worrying about the outcome and not focus on the task at hand.

Help Perfectionists Overcome The Fear Of Failure

Perfectionism is in no way a completely negative trait. In fact, it can help a company tide over some really tough times because of the attention to detail and quality involved. 

It turns unfavourable when the perfectionist starts placing more importance on themselves, rather than the company as a whole. With proper coping strategies, it is possible to harness the strengths of your perfectionists and bring out the best in them!


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