Professional And Management: Are You A Perfectionist Boss Or Perfectionist Employee
Wed 22nd June 2011
In the past, I have worked for a perfectionist boss: This is one of the hardest types of people to work for as rarely will anything be good enough. There will be a set way of doing things which must be adhered to and everything must run according to the most stringent plans.
Perfectionist bosses may place some pretty high expectations upon employees which could make life at the office extremely stressful. Because they become so engrossed in every detail, they actually lose insight to what is deemed reasonable or appropriate for their subordinates and will make some pretty heavy demands upon them. In fact, this level of pickiness on a constant daily basis could actually erode staff morale and they could drown in a sea of negativity and criticism.
Perfectionists actually run on fear...fear that they will fail. This puts up all of their defences and they hasten to leave no stone unturned in their bid to get it right. If anything should interrupt their routine, they start to lose control and will lash out at anyone whom they deem responsible. They have an all or nothing approach to tasks and if something has not been completed to perfection, they will not take any of the credit, even if the required results have been achieved.
Perfectionist bosses are highly critical of both themselves and their team and will go through every detail with a fine tooth comb, looking for tiny errors and flaws in the work of staff and their own efforts. When tiny mistakes are spotted, they will hone in on them and become completely immersed in putting them right...even to the detriment of everything else.
A perfectionist boss has a very low self-esteem and will make enemies simply by being too rigid and nit-picky. This person will associate perfectionism with success and fail to see that success is a product of energy, talent and commitment which can also happen without perfectionism.
There is nothing worse than a boss who is constantly looking over the shoulder of employees, even if this behaviour appears to be helpful. This continued over bearing presence wreaks havoc on the nerves of staff and sends stress levels through the roof. As a result, work performance will drop as stress levels continue to rise. Ironically, a perfectionist boss will actually lose members of a team who were the most productive as staff will find it impossible to work in such a pressurized environment.
Perfectionism can be learned from all kinds of situations, sometimes it is a by-product of a toxic upbringing or simply inherited through genetic predisposition. In some instances it is acquired by modelling the behaviour of a managing director or another staff member at senior level!
So as an employee, how would you deal with a perfectionist boss? The easiest way would be to look for another job as this person is never going to change. However, your job is your means of survival and until something better comes along, there has to be a way to work with a superior who is stuck in a rut and fighting strong inner battles.
A tactful approach to helping your boss see things from a less than perfect angle is to shrewdly influence the decisions which are made. For example, if you are given a task which you feel is unnecessary you could say "I will certainly do that but it will mean that I will have less time to perfect the other task that you assigned me" This may prompt your boss into accepting your suggestion without compromising on rigid beliefs. It is also a great way to help this person prioritize as a perfectionist is so preoccupied with minor irrelevant details that it is impossible to delegate tasks according to their importance or urgency.
Another way of dealing with such a boss is to show that your approach to work may not be as methodical but still obtains excellent results. Document all the times that your colleagues have praised you, outline in detail how you spend your day and harp on your accomplishments. With this information neatly typed out before your superior, you stand a better chance of remaining part of the workforce rather than being sacked for appearing to make too many mistakes. This can also help to boost your own self-esteem when you are constantly being ridiculed for your 'so called' errors.
It is also a good idea to gather all of the facts. A perfectionist boss will not criticize you for wanting to get it right and will happily run through a process time and time again so as you have a thorough understanding of what is required. This gives you the opportunity to clarify the way forward so as you limit your chances of being criticized. It also gives you a fighting chance of actually being able to complete a task to highly detailed requirements.
If all else fails, you can always hope that your boss will realise that perfectionism can make life just too darned difficult and hope that this individual will either learn the art of compromise or end up taking three months sick leave due to the pressures which have been self imposed.
On the other end of the scale, you could be a boss who is coping with a perfectionist employee. Whilst there is nothing wrong with having someone within the team who likes to do a job and do it well, the time spent deliberating over every move, and working through tasks at snail pace could bring productivity to a standstill and affect the progress of others in the process. Whenever a task is completed with perfectionism, this only reinforces the same kind of behaviour, so it is difficult to praise or reprimand such an employee.
Luckily, it is much easier to cope with a perfectionist employee than a perfectionist boss. An employee will react passionately to negative feedback and do everything possible to reverse the process. Praise should be administered sporadically along with a structured list of priorities and clearly outlined details as to how tasks should be carried out. The best way to cope with a perfectionist employee is to hone in on those obsessive behaviours and use them where they can be most beneficial. For example, by explaining that there are three tasks which need to be carried out but project X is more important and needs more attention to detail than the others, a perfectionist will be naturally drawn to carry out the task which requires more time.
Remember, whilst one team member may be hesitating and feeling inferior, another will be making mistakes and becoming superior. Ensure that all of your team are working as one by understanding your perfectionist employees and assisting them in blending in with the rest of the team.
Original article appears here: