Being a Perfectionist: Why It’s Bad for Your Career

Why Being a Perfectionist is Holding You Back in Your Career

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. There are both pros and cons to being a perfectionist. It can motivate to achieve high results, but at the same time, be a serious obstacle to success. Why? How to take control of the situation? Let’s figure it out.

What is the Essence of Being a Perfectionist?

Perfectionism is the pursuit of the ideal. In 1978, psychotherapist Donald Hamacek suggested dividing it into healthy and neurotic (adaptive and maladaptive). Occasional presentation of excessive demands on oneself and other people is the norm. A person soberly evaluates own abilities, sets realistic goals, and knows how to learn from the mistakes of the past. Being a perfectionist of this type, people recognize and accept the fact that it is unreal to achieve the complete ideal. Instead, they strive to perform their tasks as well as possible, and this makes them truly indispensable specialists. This can be considered as one of the main benefits of being a perfectionist.

Being a perfectionist of the maladaptive type suggests a not-so-healthy attitude toward success. Such people blame themselves for not meeting their expectations and standards. What’s more, being a maladaptive perfectionist is often associated with anxiety and depression. Like their adaptive “associates”, neurotic perfectionists long for high standards, but the inability to reach these goals is more stressful for them. They are inclined to take on so difficult tasks that failure often turns out to be inevitable, which leads to self-doubt. If being a perfectionist of the first type helps to reach career heights, then the second is destructive for both the worker and the team.

Negative Effects of Being a Perfectionist at Work

Getting over being a perfectionist is not possible unless you appreciate its implications for your career. So let’s look at the downsides of over-striving for the ideal. These are:

Missed opportunities

Being a perfectionist, you do not grasp the opportunities that open up to you. Managers of other companies react to market developments faster than you do. Rivals have already introduced ideas or products on which you have just started to work. While you countercheck the work of your team members, you lose a good opportunity for the company’s development.

This principle works with all spheres of life. You’ve probably heard of Tinder. Do you know why this service achieved such success and became one of the best dating sites in the world? Because the developers seized on every opportunity to become better and came up with a product that is distinguished not by its perfection but efficiency and ease of use.

Constant deadline extension

In their pursuit of being ideal, perfectionists do not succeed in anything. Such a seemingly close result is constantly slipping away somewhere beyond the horizon. Now now, just a little more, we will correct it here, check it again, make changes, and everything will be great! Then new flaws appear, and the perfectionist cannot afford to allow them. It’s one thing if these details were important, but no. Either all or nothing. Therefore, one can consider being a perfectionist as a weakness.

Perfectionists enjoy the refinement process itself and can protract it indefinitely. They get bogged down in details and drown in them. Accordingly, being a perfectionist, you do not have time for anything. The belief that the pursuit of excellence fully justifies the failure to meet the deadline greatly interferes with the work.

Unhealthy atmosphere in the team

Perfectionism, or the intrusive pursuit of flawlessness, is accompanied not only by anxiety and constant fear of failure but also by nagging everyone around. Being a perfectionist at work, you poison your success as well as create problems in relations with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates.

Emotional burnout

Overstressing, loss of joy, trouble sleeping – burnout symptoms inevitably overtake the perfectionist. In addition, being a perfectionist is fraught with frequent bad moods. This is why such people are often grumpy. A good result does not suit them, and perfection always slips away.


Being a perfectionist, you check every move of your employees, and it diminishes their motivation and productivity. There is the same problem with being insecure in others and avoiding delegation. If your employees do not receive new captivating tasks, the workflow turns into an everlasting set of actions.

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist

Many people wonder, “Is being a perfectionist a mental disorder?”. While not called a disease, perfectionism is a serious problem that can cause profound psychological harm. It’s not easy to stop being a perfectionist, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your craving for excellence and eventually get rid of it entirely.

  • Periodically ask employees to evaluate your work. Don’t argue – just listen! The ability to appreciate different points of view while being a perfectionist will help you to treat the results of your work more adequately. You will notice that the world around you does not collapse even from frankly negative comments.
  • Imagine the worst outcome of the situation. If you don’t have time to perfect all the details of the product before the deadline, try to think over: what is the worst thing that can happen if the project appears to the boss not as perfect as you would like? Admit it, and they are unlikely to fire you or begin to mock you. So calm down and try being a perfectionist by 80% – no one will notice the absence of the other 20%.
  • Limit yourself in time. This will help you stop being a perfectionist. In order not to sit late at night working on a project, set a limit: if you decide to work two hours, work exactly two hours. Start with the essentials – prioritization can save you a significant amount of resources.
  • Appreciate any achievement. Being a perfectionist, you don’t notice small victories. Taking pride in every little success can give you more satisfaction than spending years preparing for a “real” feat.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. The first thing you should do to quit being a perfectionist is understand that no one in this world is perfect. Including you, and that’s absolutely normal! Otherwise, we would all have already lived in a utopia. Being a perfectionist makes you neither worse nor better than others.
  • Allow yourself to rest. Being a perfectionist leads to physical and mental exhaustion, and this, in turn, prevents you from reaching new heights. Take a break, turn off your inner critic, and spend the day the way you like it. This kind of reboot will give you strength and new creative ideas.

Remember Success is not Linear

The failures we face are temporary. They are needed so that we can improve the current state of affairs. Being a perfectionist is a weakness that prevents you from living life to the fullest. Keep in mind: the best is the enemy of the good. Let yourself be not perfect, but “good enough”. You know, it really works! Have you already managed to quit being a perfectionist? Share your experience in the comments.

Author’s Bio

Sherry Kimball likes to write articles with advice that help couples to improve their relationships.

Sherry enjoys researching, discussing, and writing on the topics of relationships, weddings, and dating.

She is passionate about yoga in her free time.