Dangers Of Being A Perfectionist At Work


I am working with a client who is having difficulties getting his work done as a manager.  As we began to dissect why, it became clear that he was doing tasks that could be delegated to other staff members.

As we discussed this further, he would say things like, “It is just easier to do it myself” or “I feel like I would be dumping on my staff” and the best reason “I really like doing that task.”

As I began to add up the time he would spend during the day doing these tasks that should be done by his staff he began to realize where his time was going and why he was not able to complete all of his work.

When it came down to it, there were two reasons why he was having problems:

1. He did not know how to empower and delegate to his staff.

2. He is a perfectionist.

Harvard Business School professor Thomas Delong says that perfectionists “actually believe no one can do it better” and “they will focus on the last two per cent excessively when 94 per cent is good enough.”

Perfectionists have difficulty in delegating work because of this.  They also have a high tendency to micromanage their staff forcing them to do things exactly their way.

According to L.A. Times writer, Donna Walters, a 10-year study of over 9,000 managers has found that perfectionism causes illness, most commonly cardiovascular disease, headaches, high blood pressure and migraines.  In addition, even though companies value the competence, commitment and intelligence of perfectionists, they can ruin the job satisfaction of other employees, delay decisions and harm businesses financially in the end.  Perfectionists are so concerned with their own needs that they lack compassion and empathy.

Not all perfectionists go to the extreme as in the paragraph above.  For my client, his perfectionism is beginning to have a bad affect on his job, which he really likes.  Learning how to control his perfectionism and delegate to others at work will be necessary for him to be able to function in his position and to retain his job.

The links below are to good articles about being a perfectionist and working with a perfectionist.

14 signs your perfectionism has gotten out of control

Perfectionist in the workplace

5 thoughts on “Dangers Of Being A Perfectionist At Work

    • I think so Stu. I find that people do become obsessed with being the only one who can do certain tasks at work, they say because they are the only one who can do them. In reality they want to be the only one who can do them to feel good and to have job security.

      • Totally. I always try to be irreplaceable by over delivering as standard. There will always be someone else that can do what you do, but will they have the same commitment to getting it done? I always do whatever needs to be done – that’s my way of creating job/work security. We all have our crutches, right? 🙂

  1. IMO, while much of this is true, there is also the entrepreneurial factor of having handled soup to nuts of the business in the startup phase, and waiting too long to acquire help as the business grew. It’s a big leap in the midst of growth to delegate. Harder still to take the time to segregate the task priorities. But delegation is key to growth. Good post.

    • Hi Hania

      Thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your comment. Delegation is a difficult task, it task practice and someone in leadership to help you learn to do it correctly. Once you have it down it makes a manager or supervisor’s work much easier.

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