It’s a Fact: Your Perfectionism Isn’t Helping Your Performance at Work

Results showed that performance and perfectionism were not related to each other – perfectionists are not better or worse performers than others.

Eakachai Leesin / EyeEm / Getty Images
Eakachai Leesin / EyeEm / Getty Images

Perfectionists, heal thyself. Your excellence-chasing isn’t helping your performance in the workplace.

Harvard Business Review went through four decades of studies on perfectionism – encompassing almost 25,000 people – in order to find an answer to this question: “Are perfectionists better performers at work?”

The answer was no. In fact, perfectionism, they found, was a significant weakness at work. (Just like the coy answer to the classic job interview question).

There are still positives about perfectionists: they strive to produce the highest level of work, put in longer hours, and they’re more motivated and engaged.

However, perfectionism comes with a boatload of negatives. Perfectionists have a higher likelihood to be inflexible, they set unreasonably high standards, posses an overly critical self-assessment of themselves, take a black-and-white view about their performance, and have a tendency to tie their self worth to their performance.

Moreover, they also have higher levels of “stress, burnout, and anxiety,” according to studies.

There are two types of perfectionists, identified by research. Excellence-seeking perfectionists demand high standards not only for themselves, but for the people around them. Those with this type tend to get more of the positive effects of perfectionism.

Failure-avoiding perfectionists, on the other hands, are more motivated by the idea that they are not good enough, and that they will lose face if they aren’t perfect. Those types tend to inherit more of the negative aspects of perfectionism. Of course, the two types can overlap in one person.

Most interestingly, however, “results showed that performance and perfectionism were not related to each other —perfectionists are not better or worse performers than non-perfectionists. Even employees high in excellence-seeking perfectionism were not better performers.”

So since nothing you can do will make a real difference, feel free to chill out – and take some steps to curb your toxic perfectionism before it takes over your life.

Originally published on The Ladders.

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