Perfectionism at Work and Ways of Handling It

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla – M. Phil (Psychology)
Last updated date : March 20, 2023

A perfectionist is someone who tries to do everything excellently. Some qualities of a perfectionist are fixing mistakes till the task seems perfect, controlling situations, and focusing on mistakes of oneself or others. Perfectionists complete each task equally well no matter how impossible that seems. In this article, we will talk about perfectionism at work and will find out whether perfectionists are stressed out at work.

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Chapter 1:

Features of a Perfectionist

All or None Thinking:

Perfectionism at work can be seen when a person makes big goals for themselves and makes every effort to accomplish them as correctly as possible. They accept excellence in their work and they do not leave out even the slightest mistakes.

Fear of Failure

Such people push toward their goals for a fear of not reaching them. They also see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure.

Have Unrealistic Expectations:

Perfectionists are stressed at work because their goals are not always reasonable and achievable by them.

Focus on Results:

They focus on achieving their goals rather than learning new things along the way.

Delay in Work:

This might sound unusual, but perfectionism at work also leads to delays. They will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they fail to do anything at all. This is related to their fear of failing.

Low Self Esteem:

They are very critical of themselves and rarely compliment their work. This leads to low self esteem and under confidence.

Chapter 2:

Problems with Perfectionism at Work

Perfectionism is mostly seen at work as compared to other areas of life. There are some reasons for that. The workplace is where the performance is evaluated and many things depend on this assessment like salary, promotion, etc. But this quality is not all bad. These people are very dedicated and careful about their work. But this quality is that it leads to mental health difficulties like stress and burnout.

There are two types of perfectionists. One type is a person who expects the best performance from himself or herself. These persons have high standards for themselves. The second is the type of person who believes that others should give their best to him or her. This is not related to their performance.

Another way of understanding this quality in people is by seeing them as excellence seeking or failure avoiding. Some people try to aim for excellence in their work and will not accept anything less than that. While others are more fearful that they will fail and lose face in the workplace. These people are more concerned about how others see them.

Chapter 3:

How to Control Perfectionism at Work

Make Small Changes:

Approach any new task in a slow manner rather than diving right in. By taking it slow, you can be mindful when you are becoming too occupied with improving small details. This is the first step in controlling perfectionism at work.

Create Realistic Goals:

They make very high goals for themselves. And sticking to goals can help them be on the track. But it is important to set realistic goals you can achieve to avoid stress.

Adjust Your Expectations:

One reason why perfectionists are stressed at work is conflicts with colleagues. When you are working in an office where others do not share this quality. You will have to adjust your expectations when you are seeing their work.

Say No When Necessary:

Many perfectionists embrace every opportunity that comes their way. But agreeing to every opportunity can overwhelm them with too much work. Turn down extra tasks to control the workload. Perfectionism at work is seen when the person is unable to refuse work that is more than he can handle.


Giving work to others is an effective way to help you loosen your control over tasks so you can focus on the work you care about most. Trust your colleagues to deliver good work.

Ask for Opinions:

Talk to your trusted coworker for feedback on your performance so that they give you points to work on. Use their inputs to improve your behavior.

Take Some Time off Work:

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. One can observe perfectionism at work when all a person can think about all day is work and work-life balance takes a backseat. Recognize the importance of taking out time for things you love. Separate yourself from the office for a day or two to focus on your passions and hobbies. When you return to work, see how the company could continue to operate well even when you focused on your well-being.


Acknowledge your behavior and then take appropriate action to not go over small details again and again. A perfectionist also has a strong work ethic and the desire to do well. But, this can cause them to overwork themselves. Working too hard and doing more than your job requires can lead to burnout. You have to understand and admit you’re focusing on achieving perfectionism. Next, you have to do something about it, and that can involve asking others for help.

Signs of burnout include:
  • Feeling tired at or about work

  • Feeling anxiety or sadness at or about work

  • Having trouble focusing on one thing

  • Feeling detached from work or coworkers

  • Feeling critical toward your job

  • Decreased work performance due to feeling overwhelmed or hopeless

Ask yourself- Am I using my time wisely? Am I being productive? Try not to entangle yourself in small details and Focus on improving the impact of your work. By shifting your mindset you are going to be less perfect about some things, so you can concentrate on what’s important. Like so much in life there’s a balance to achieve, a level of output quality that you can live with and that those around you are happy with.

If you want to read more on this quality we recommend enrolling in our carefully curated course Perfectionism.

"Structured and engaging course" Joan

69 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount