How to Deal With a Perfectionist at Work

Professional perfectionism can be an asset or a liability.

Professional perfectionism can be an asset or a liability.

Working with a perfectionist can be a huge gift -- or a major nightmare. Her commitment to quality means her work is impeccable, but the quest for perfection just might be keeping her from getting work done on time -- and driving you crazy at the same time. Learning to effectively deal with a perfectionist can be challenging, but the reward of a lower-stress work environment is worth the effort.

Identify the boundaries of your professional relationship with the perfectionist by reviewing an organizational chart. Determine what level of candor and direction is appropriate before you communicate with her, because you wouldn't handle a perfectionist boss in the same manner as you would handle a perfectionist peer.

Ask the perfectionist for training. Perfectionists have a hard time delegating or asking for help because they worry other people won't be able to complete the task at the same level that they would. After the perfectionist shows you how to complete a task, show her that you will follow the method to the letter -- even if you know an easier or faster way to complete the task. Whether the perfectionist is a boss or a peer, she may be more comfortable giving control to you in the future if she sees that you appreciate her tendencies.

Regularly focus positive attention on a perfectionist's work product when she has completed a task in a timely, low-stress fashion. Perfectionists are concerned with doing things the "right" way and adhering to expectations. Take advantage of every opportunity to reinforce your expectations of your co-worker's work style.

Do not allow the rigidity of the perfectionist to obstruct your productivity. Even with regular praise and a sense of workplace security, a perfectionist might become agitated and snap at others or walk away from the group. Do not concern yourself with consoling or reasoning with the individual. Your role as a team member to a perfectionist is to try to bring out the best in her without enabling unacceptable behavior.

 

About the Author

Nacie Carson is a professional development speaker and author who focuses on career evolution, entrepreneurship and the Millennial work experience. Carson's writing has been featured in "Entrepreneur," "Fast Company," "Monster" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Her book on adapting your career to the changing job market, "The Finch Effect," was published with Jossey-Bass in May 2012.

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