There is a big difference between caring about quality and being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is not a positive trait in the workplace. In fact, it can stand in the way of career success. If you have perfectionist tendencies, the sooner you learn to get them under control, the better for your career. It’s critical to find a balance between doing great work and holding yourself -- and those around you -- to unreasonable standards of perfection.
Enough is Enough
While you shouldn’t complete a job without making sure your work is top notch, there's a difference between work that is absolutely perfect and work that is good enough to meet, or even exceed, what is expected of you. Clarify the expectations and standards for quality work to help recognize when it’s time to finish what you are doing and move on. Strive for balance while avoiding inferior work, but learning to recognize when you have accomplished the goals of your project or task.
Rely On Deadlines
Deadlines often pose a challenge for perfectionists who tend to want to keep working until there is no room remaining for improvement. However, meeting deadlines in a timely manner is a critical factor in the workplace. No matter how outstanding your work is, your performance will be seen as sub-standard if you don’t turn it in on time. Use deadlines to manage your progress, setting goals and establishing milestones to ensure that you are progressing as needed.
Establish reasonable expectations for yourself and others. Recognize that you and your co-workers are human beings. People aren’t perfect, and setting unrealistic standards of professionalism only sets the stage for disappointment, as well as creates unnecessary stress and conflict in the workplace.
Consider the impact of your perfectionist tendencies on others and realize that they can keep you from being able to build positive workplace relationships. If you hold yourself and your co-workers to unreasonable standards of professionalism, you’ll likely end up being an unpopular staff member who is treated as an outsider.
Consider the importance of your professional image to your long-term career goals and act accordingly. If you develop the reputation of being an unrelenting perfectionist, your image will not be positive. If your standards are too high, your co-workers will come to resent you rather than respecting you and they won’t see you as a team player. Instead, you’ll be seen as a negative force in the workplace, something that can stand in the way of career advancement.
Perfectionism and low self-esteem often go hand in hand. If your perfectionism is driven by a fear that you’re not good enough, this is something that you need to work on. Remind yourself that you wouldn’t have been hired if your boss didn't see you as being competent. You may find that positive self-talk helps you get your perfectionist tendencies under control, or you may need to seek assistance from a mental health professional. Either way, learning to silence the self-doubt that leads to perfectionist tendencies can go a long way toward helping you have a successful career.
Mary White is professional trainer and human-resources consultant with more than 20 years of experience. She is also the author of two nonfiction books and has worked as a writer since 2007. White holds Master of Arts in communication and certification as a senior professional in human resources.