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Is being a perfectionist harming your career?


21 April 2022 at 2:36 pm
Maggie Coggan
According to the experts, it might be


Maggie Coggan | 21 April 2022 at 2:36 pm


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Is being a perfectionist harming your career?
21 April 2022 at 2:36 pm

According to the experts, it might be

At surface level, being a perfectionist in your work doesn’t sound so bad. If it means picking up on little mistakes, being thorough and delivering excellent results, why would it? 

However, extensive research on the topic indicates that it’s a little more complicated than that. 

While perfectionists tend to be more motivated and conscientious than their non-perfectionist peers, they are also more likely to burn out faster, be more anxious and more stressed. 

This is because perfectionists set extremely high and inflexible standards for their work, and when they don’t achieve that, they see themselves as complete failures, even though that’s not the case.

If you’re someone that strives for perfection, you’re not alone. As reported in Forbes, a study of over 41,000 people found perfectionism has increased over time, partly because people are comparing themselves to others thanks to social media, and partly because of the competitive environments that colleagues and employers are increasingly creating.

What are the signs you are a perfectionist?

Of course, just like everything in life, there is a fine line to tread when it comes to perfectionism. Checking over your work to pick up spelling and grammar mistakes is definitely not a bad thing, and setting high standards for your work can push you to not stagnate in your career. 

But, if you find that a task that should probably take you 20 minutes is taking a few hours because of how carefully you’re going over every single detail, or you’re receiving constant feedback that your work contains irrelevant information, it could be a sign that you’re suffering from unhealthy perfectionism. 

If you find yourself avoiding certain opportunities because you feel the demands will be too high, or you find yourself often debating the contents of a relatively unimportant internal email then, again, this could be a sign of unhealthy perfectionism.

What can you do if you think being a perfectionist is getting in your way?

If you are noticing these perfectionist tendencies are starting to get the better of you, approach your manager about how to harness your critical eye for good. 

There are steps managers can take to mitigate any anxiety you’re feeling. Managers could encourage you to set goals for rejuvenating, non-work recovery activities – ones that could help mitigate stress and burnout.

Managers can also clearly detail their expectations and communicate tolerance for some mistakes.

And if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or burnt out, take some time to do things you enjoy that don’t involve work such as exercising, spending time with loved ones or digging your teeth into a new hobby.


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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