Stress Management and Perfectionism in the Workplace

By Stephanie Goddard

Perfectionism is a problem so common in the workplace. It often sabotages our stress management skills and ability to reduce workplace stress. Perfectionism is a common cause of workplace stress. What can we do about it in a world that expects the most of us each and every day?

Perfectionism and workplace stress always go hand in hand.
Perfection can be a standard to shoot for, but becomes unhealthy when it is the only standard accepted. Some people take the goal of perfection too far and there is a price to pay. True perfectionists are never satisfied. Chronic or daily attempts to achieve perfection are driven by feelings of inferiority and self-hatred. This not only impacts the person and their health, it seriously damages the morale of their co-workers as well as our ability to strengthen our stress management capability.

Perfectionism has not received enough attention in stress management programs. It can be one of the most destructive traits to both the individual and to others motivation and worker self esteem. It is the leading cause of procrastination, which is ironic, as the tendency to procrastinate creates even more self loathing and the cycle continues. I have seen few personality traits as problematic as the need for perfection. If you would like to improve your stress management skills in this areas let’s first make sure if you are indeed a perfectionist.

Are you a perfectionist?

  • Do you find yourself becoming frustrated because you feel that you aren’t as far along as others?
  • Do you feel others (even loved ones) are always assessing you? From your clothing choice to your word choice, that you are regularly being scrutinized by the people in your life?
  • Do you criticize yourself even when you are learning something new?
  • Do you expect yourself to do everything well at all times?
  • Do you find yourself taking part in activities in which you have little interest to gain approval?
  • Do you find that when you do something that satisfies you, it is short lived (for example, the next day you are back to trying to accomplish perfection again?)
  • Have you been told by the people around you that you focus on the problems in life and, even if everything is okay, you find something that bothers you?
  • With most tasks, do you feel that there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to do them and you are uncomfortable with alternative ways of getting them done?

If you answered “yes” to more than a couple of these, it is most likely that your workplace stress management will be adversely affected. I would suggest starting to work on your need for perfection. Perfection can be achieved, it just can’t be the standard for everyday performance. I can honestly think of fewer reasons for work related stress (and ultimately hating your job) then demanding perfection from others or having it demanded upon you on a daily basis.

It’s really that simple.

Perfectionism Repaired
It is time to start improving your workplace stress management but when you set perfection as the standard for all of your objectives, you are being unnecessarily harsh on yourself and will derail your stress management skills. You deny yourself the reality that you can only become better when you are allowed to try new things, take risks, and make mistakes. The necessity of self acceptance becomes impossible and this lack of acceptance is used as a barometer for other’s performance as well. If you are deeply ingrained in the perfectionist mindset, then this information is probably being discounted by you as you read this. I urge you to just notice the possibility that you may be causing yourself unnecessary wear and tear by striving to achieve a standard that no one but you insists on.

Read the following suggestions that will help in your workplace stress management and select one to keep in mind for the following week:

  • Remember that you have a distinct and unique contribution. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Develop your own style and preferences instead of following another person’s way.
  • Stop analysing every interaction/conversation you have with important others.
  • Accept the fact that sometimes you will make poor decisions and that you will learn from them.

Research shows that people who take risks and create new and exciting progress will make, on average, two big mistakes a year. Those who stay in their comfort zone and never try anything new? They will make two big mistakes a year. Why not achieve and stretch and get excited about something instead of staying in the rut of autopilot, albeit perfectly handled?

Remember: Perfection is not possible for humans! So take another view that will help you become more at ease and reduce workplace stress and increase emotional wellbeing.

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