Perfectionism Can Negatively Impact Businesses

When it comes to personality traits, few people would likely put perfectionism in the negative category. Surely being a perfectionist is better than being lazy, careless, or apathetic. Right?

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The Problems with Perfection

Being a perfectionist isn’t always something to be proud of or to try to achieve. In fact, there are some potential negatives about this personality trait.

Some experts say that yes, perfectionists strive to produce flawless work, and they also have higher levels of motivation and conscientiousness than nonperfectionists.

However, they are also more likely to:

  • Set inflexible and excessively high standards,
  • Evaluate their behavior overly critically,
  • Hold an “all-or-nothing” mind-set about their performance (“my work is either perfect or a total failure”), and
  • Believe their self-worth is contingent on performing perfectly.

Studies have also found that perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety.

Empirical Data

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors looked at 4 decades of study on perfectionism to answer the question: Are perfectionists better performers at work?

The authors utilized a meta-analysis of 95 studies, conducted from the 1980s to the present, that analyzed the relationship between perfectionism and factors that impact employees’ effectiveness. This broad range gave them access to a lot of data. The studies the authors reviewed included close to 25,000 working-age individuals.

So, what was the verdict on the merits of perfectionism?

As the title suggests, there are pros and cons. The authors write that the results of their analysis of the various studies affirms that perfectionism “meaningfully and consistently predicts several ‘beneficial’ workplace outcomes.”

At the same time, the authors found something likely surprising to many—that, in addition to these beneficial workplace outcomes, “perfectionism is a much bigger weakness than job applicants and interviewers probably assume.”

There are two sides to every coin. This is true, it would seem, for being a perfectionist. This conclusion reached by the authors may be surprising to some. In a follow-up post, we’ll look more closely at some of the specific findings behind this conclusion.