Last week, we talked about the impact of perfectionism on wellness. Today, we want to share some research that describes what can cause influxes of perfectionism – particularly perfectionistic concern – and how to stop it!
Recap of Perfectionism
Last week, we defined perfectionistic striving and concern. As a recap, perfectionistic striving is about having high standards and perfectionistic concern is feeling that you fall short of those standards. Day to day, having more perfectionistic concern is bad for your wellness. When you feel like you aren’t meeting your standards at work, you also feel more negative emotions – both at work and at home.
Unfortunately, perfectionistic concern doesn’t only happen to perfectionists. Everyone fluctuates daily in how much they experience this type of concern. And, on the days where they have higher concern, they are all more likely to have these negative impacts on their wellness. So, what causes these fluctuations? Luckily, some research has started to answer that question for us!
How to Stop Perfectionistic Concern
The research looked at two specific causes of perfectionism – time pressure and destructive criticism.
Time pressure refers to situations where employees have too many tasks to accomplish in too little time. You can imagine those days where you have 10 things on your to-do list but there’s really only time in your day to do 7. Those days are extremely stressful. However, sometimes, they make you focus intensely and you get a lot done.
Time pressure increases both perfectionistic striving and concern. It makes you work harder and put energy toward your work, but it also makes you feel a little bit like a failure. This combination of striving and concern somewhat cancel each other out. Striving makes you feel more energized at the end of the day but concern makes your negative emotions higher. We recommend you limit the amount of times you are in a high time pressure situation. Sometimes it isn’t in your control but talk to your leaders if these days become a pattern. And, as a leader, do what you can to ensure your team members are not constantly facing these types of pressures. How can you prioritize effectively to reduce the task load on hectic days? This will also help other potential problems, like burnout, as well!
Destructive criticism shouldn’t just be limited, but eliminated entirely. Unlike constructive criticism, destructive criticism is unkind, inconsiderate in style, and often attributes the issue to a personal failing. Because of this, destructive criticism only leads to perfectionistic concern. It does not result in striving. This type of criticism only makes the individual feel like they have failed. It creates a negative spiral for the individual receiving the feedback that impacts their well-being.
As an employee, it can be hard to avoid destructive criticism in tough situations if someone on the team provides feedback in this way. It’s not helpful and can be hard not to take personally. However, it’s important to contextualize the criticism. If the person is making it personal, try to remind yourself that’s not actually about you. It’s their area of opportunity to learn how to be more effective when giving feedback.
If you are leader (or anyone giving feedback), remember to be constructive. Make sure your feedback is given in a way that highlights the challenge but leaves room for the person to grow. Don’t put the person down. Think about how you would want to hear the feedback and phrase it in that gentler way. Being careful and intentional in how you provide feedback can save your team members from experiencing perfectionistic concern. You can avoid hurting their wellness!