The Impact of Perfectionism at Work

Are you a perfectionist? Do you have a hard time letting go of a task until it's absolutely perfect? Find out if that's a good or a bad thing!

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What comes to mind when you think about perfectionism? Some people take pride in being perfectionists. Others think it can be a hindrance toward progress. Both are right. There are definitely pros and cons to perfectionism. Today, we break down how it’s defined in the research and how it impacts your wellness.

What is Work-Related Perfectionism?

As always, we may have ideas of what perfectionism means but, in the research, it’s a little different. In the work context, it is made up of two parts – perfectionistic striving and perfectionistic concern. Perfectionistic striving is all about having very high standards for your work. You hold yourself to high expectations. On the other hand, perfectionistic concern is the feeling that you fall short of your standards. You are hard on yourself and feel like you don’t meet your expectations.

As you can see, there is the potential for some positives with perfectionistic striving but perfectionistic concern can be really bad. And, interestingly, the amount of striving or concern you have actually fluctuates from day to day. Why does that matter? Because your levels of perfectionistic striving or concern can actually have a big impact on your well-being.

Perfectionism can create a lot of stress!

The Impact on Wellness

Overall, perfectionism isn’t a good thing. It is linked to higher burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression. When you look at it broadly, if you are constantly trying to be perfect and feeling like you aren’t succeeding, you will feel miserable. Makes a lot of sense.

However, one recent study split apart perfectionism into its two parts and started seeing a more complex story. As expected, perfectionistic concern led to more negative emotions at the end of the work day. And, this lasted through bedtime. In other words, employees that felt like they weren’t meeting their own standards during the day, also felt bad at the end of the day. Obviously, being so hard on yourself is not going to help your well-being.

Interestingly, however, perfectionistic striving wasn’t all bad! When employees had higher levels of striving, they felt more energetic at the end of the work day. Having high levels of vigor is associated with higher well-being, so it’s a win! This research indicates that focusing on doing your best work daily can leave you feeling energized. However, this study does not look at how this perfectionistic striving can impact wellness overtime. When looking at one day, it has some energizing impacts. But we don’t know what happens if this occurs every day. We do want to note that given the broader impacts of perfectionism on things like burnout, it’s probably best to not be constantly in a state of perfectionistic striving. That being said, it can be positive from time to time!

Now that we know the impact, what causes the fluctuation in perfectionism from day-to-day? Check out next week’s article to find out!

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