How Business Owners Can Control Perfectionism and Improve Workplace Culture
Updated: Jun 13
Do you have an employee who tends to take over a project or task from another? Or they shutdown when given feedback? Or corrects others in mid sentence? If so, you most likely have an issue controlling perfection in your business and it could be effecting the work culture. Or has it already? By understanding the habits and antics of a perfectionist you, as a business owner, can take control and improve the workplace culture. The alternative is to employ someone who will cause delays in productivity, add stress to other employees, and upset team dynamics.
The Cost to Your Workplace Culture When You Don't Control Perfectionism
When you think of a perfectionist, usually you'll visualize someone in your life who has it all together, reliable, and can be trusted to produce flawless results, because they're perfect. At least that's the way they want to come across as.
What if I told you that the cost of keeping a perfectionist on the payroll maybe more than their contribution is worth.
Their behaviour can cause delays in productivity by taking more time to make it perfect.
Their constant need to point out flaws can disrupt creative processes, and thus, throw up barriers to moving forward.
They can also upset the team dynamics by correcting and controlling other employees.
This fuels a negative work environment, and can result in a loss of business and/or other valuable employees.
Another concern is that work may not get done in a timely manner, or not at all.
According to James Clear in Atomic Habits, "The problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all."
And this creates issues with your business when tasks are abandoned because they can't be done to their unrealistic expectations.
How to Understand the Mind of a Perfectionist
Perfectionists can be an awesome asset if you understand how they think and respond to external factors. Once you learn this you can positively utilize this person in your company and have them be a valuable employee.
Perfectionism is an unattainable way of being that is made up of habitual responses to protect a perfect, self-created story. And within this story there's no room for failure. Because of this it affects one's personal and professional life by attempting to live up to that story. There's an immense amount of stress and pressure on someone to maintain this existence. So if anyone judges or criticizes their work, it initiates the need to try even harder to live up to that story of being perfect.
"People who struggle with perfectionism avoid their emotions and face increased risk of sadness. To seem perfect we have to dismiss our reasonable feelings and limits, to worry more about how we perform than how we truly feel." Clinical Pychologist Dr. Jennifer L Taitz in her book How to Be Single and Happy.
When working with a perfectionist type employee keep in mind that whatever they produce, whether a project or a simple email, they feel that it's a reflection of themselves. They think that whenever they, or their work can be seen, it exposes them to being judged and criticized. If a perfectionist gets too caught up in their fear this creates personal problems that affect their work performance. Not only that, their presence creates a negative work culture that makes it challenging for others.
Perfectionist have a constant need to prove they're perfect, since this is how they identify themselves as. It's like a badge of honour. That's why they have the tendency to openly correct others and take over projects, because they want to illustrate their ability to produce a flawless way of being. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of others. If they don't produce something that's perfect, they see this as a failure. And failures, they'll do everything in their power to hide or deny. And that's not good for your business.
How Business Owners Can Control Perfectionism
Make Clear The Expectations Of Everyone's Role At Work
If the objective and the desired outcome are not clear, then people will structure the group the way they see fit. And when a perfectionist is involved they naturally want to control the group.
At the beginning of a team project, brainstorming takes much exploring where ideas are freely expressed and considered. A perfectionist assumes that their role is to evaluate ideas as they come up and highlight the flaws. This causes a stall in the creative process.
"Perfectionism can be a roadblock to new ideas; it is a full stop, whereas imperfection can lead somewhere unexpected," Author and creativity expert, Rod Judkins as quoted in Time Magazine The Science of Creativity
Allow For An Environment Where Mistakes Are Seen As A Learning Opportunity
Undoing the story they hold onto, that everything has to be done perfectly, relieves the pressure of living up to an unattainable goal. They need to know that they won't be judged for not being perfect. To support them during this change show them, through examples with others, that mistakes are an opportunity to learn. Engage with them and make them feel safe about being imperfect.
I was once very much a perfectionist, and it took a lot of courage to let go of the idea that failure is a mark on my character—but instead, an area to learn from.
Promote A Consistent Flow Of Feedback
By promoting consistent feedback, from all members of your business, you're able to take care of issues as they come up and not when they become a problem. If there's tension amongst your employees, you want to learn about it as soon as possible. This means having regular conversations to address what can be done better and more efficiently. You don't want problems to fester. That's when the good employees walk and the system fails.
As a business owner, the first step to getting full value out of any team is to understand the dynamics of it and where the strengths and areas of improvement are within the group. This creates a workplace culture that you and your employees will love to work in.
If you know someone who may benefit from this info, please share! Christine Hourd, ACC is a certified success and leadership life coach in Calgary, Alberta who works with business owners and professionals to create more opportunities by improving relationships with employees. You'll find her techniques and strategies help remove barriers and pave a clearer path to success. Contact Christine to find out how Leadership Coaching can help you achieve your professional goals.