Why being a perfectionist can backfire

Why being a perfectionist can backfire

All leaders want their work to reflect their capabilities in the best manner and rightly so - job satisfaction is positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, and the quality of output and service, according to research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

But what if someone struggles to attain job satisfaction because they find anything short of flawless work is unacceptable and tantamount to failure?

We spoke to Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services for AXA PPP healthcare, who said whilst perfectionists produce quality work, there is another side to their personality in which self-criticism and strong feelings of frustration and despair prevail.

Apparently, psychologists categorise perfectionists into two groups – adaptive and maladaptive.

“Adaptive perfectionism is more ‘flexible’ and associated with helpfulness and usefulness where, in the context of work, employees will endeavour to take care and attention to detail in order to be precise in their work and, most importantly, they’ll know when it’s right to move on, thereby avoiding excessive and unproductive effort,” Winwood explains.

“Maladaptive perfectionism, on the other hand, is more rigid and associated with difficulty in knowing when to stop. Behaviours of maladaptive perfectionists can include pushing themselves to the brink, failing to delegate tasks and missing deadlines as a need to get things absolutely right prevails. Maladaptive perfectionists will often struggle with feelings of hopelessness and distress, which are strongly linked to anxiety and depression. They can feel that failing at one thing means total failure.”

On the next page, Winwood identifies ways to identify perfectionists. 

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