Perfectionism in the Workplace Isn't a Virtue

Perfectionism in the workplace is one of those traits that people admire, for the most part. However, perfectionists don't necessarily enjoy it as they feel slaves of their own eagerness for avoiding mistakes and hiding their shortcomings.
Perfectionism in the Workplace Isn't a Virtue

Last update: 11 June, 2020

Perfectionism in the workplace is often considered a virtue. In fact, many people proudly mention this ability during job interviews. However, their attitude demands control over every little detail, which is why this desire for excellence is actually a flaw.

It’s clear how this ability has more negative aspects than positive ones when a perfectionist begins to work. They won’t meet their deadlines, for example.

The study “Work addiction: An organizational behavior as well as an addictive behavior? considers perfectionism a psychological addiction and says that the fear of failure imposes strict control, a high level of demands, and intolerance to mistakes. In today’s article, you’ll learn the truth behind this trait.

Perfectionism in the workplace isn’t healthy

A man with a computer.

An important facet of workers who are perfectionists is that they often end up with health problems. Anxiety and stress are frequent among them, but there’s more:

  • They can’t delegate their work to others. This translates into a greater burden of responsibilities that require more of their time to fulfill them.
  • These types of people are unable to solve the problems effectively due to the lack of mental clarity that stems from work overload.
  • They need to make a greater effort during their interactions with others because their job occupies most of their time (typical of a perfectionist) and negatively affects their social skills.
  • These people are quite intolerant of mistakes and review every detail over and over again to try to make it perfect (although it’s impossible).

Many other problems can derive from perfectionism. For instance, a work overload due to an inability to delegate that doesn’t let them enjoy their social interactions is just a small part of the reason why they end up stressed out and highly anxious.

In addition to these emotions, let’s add how perfectionists can’t enjoy their leisure time because work is always in their minds. As a result, they may become impatient and irritable due to the notable lack of attention to their own needs, according to the article we mentioned above.

Perfectionists don’t sleep enough, don’t exercise enough, and seldom eat well.

Depression due to control

According to the article “The pros and cons of perfectionism, according to research” extreme perfectionism can lead to indecisions and rigid and controlling behavior patterns and could also lead to depression.

Even though perfectionism at work is often linked to ambitious people with a desire to achieve high goals, these people always believe they need to do overtime. Thus, this is a rather harmful behavior.

Mistake intolerance could lead to self-esteem problems; while a very high self-demand could also lead to depression.

Mistake intolerance only frustrates a perfectionist. In addition, they tend to seek the approval of others, even though they’re mostly subjective. For example_

Imagine that a person is a wooden door manufacturing and installation expert and they’ve been doing it for many years. This person is a perfectionist who focuses on every minimal detail and can’t meet deadlines because they want to make sure the door is perfect. But then, they come across someone who doesn’t like the result. This is when all that self-demand skyrockets together with the feeling of maladjustment.

A frustrated woman due to perfectionism at the workplace.

Can you stop being a perfectionist?

Perhaps we’ve reached the most important point. Is it possible to mitigate perfectionism at work and minimize its consequences? Yes, it’s possible. To do so, you must seek help and, above all, be aware that it’s not a virtue but a flaw.

A perfectionist must seek professional advice as soon as they begin to deal with the consequences of being one. The counselor will develop an appropriate intervention. For the most part, they’ll focus on any feelings of inadequacy that may be perpetuating this obsession. This is because a person who needs to be in control and seeks perfection usually has very low self-esteem.

Thus, perfectionists have tools with which to relax and reduce their wear and anxiety. Especially in those planes where this trait manifests itself with more force. As you can see, a perfectionist can feel better with patience and hard work. Are you dealing with perfectionism in the workplace? How is it impacting your sanity?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Caputto, Ileana, Cordero, Soledad, Keegan, Eduardo, & Arana, Fernán. (2015). Perfeccionismo y esquemas desadaptativos tempranos: un estudio con estudiantes universitarios. Ciencias Psicológicas9(2), 245-257. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from
  • Remorini, C. (2010). Contribuciones y proyecciones de la Etnografía en el estudio interdisciplinario del desarrollo infantil. Perspectivas en Psicología, (13).
  • Scotti, D., Sansalone, P. A., & Borda, T. (2011). Autoestima, miedo a la evaluación negativa y perfeccionismo: un estudio comparativo en población clínica y en población general. In III Congreso Internacional de Investigación y Práctica Profesional en Psicología XVIII Jornadas de Investigación Séptimo Encuentro de Investigadores en Psicología del MERCOSUR. Facultad de Psicología-Universidad de Buenos Aires.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.