Is Being a Perfectionist Ruining Your Career?

Is Being a Perfectionist Ruining Your Career?


By Karin Eldor

Monster Contributing Writer

You have likely been at the receiving end of this classic question in a job interview: “So, what is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?”

And you might have been tempted to rattle off with pride that you are a perfectionist.

Turns out that while attention to detail can be an appreciated skillset, perfectionism can be detrimental to your career and prevent a work life balance. Who knew, right? It might have worked for Steve Jobs, one of the most famous perfectionists, but you need to get out of the perfectionist rut (yes, it is a rut) in order to grow.

Here are some of the reasons why being a next-level perfectionist can actually be stopping you from reaching your full potential.

  1. It prevents you from taking risks.

You might have the outlook that “if something can’t be done right, then why do it at all?” This can be a detrimental attitude – and a career deal breaker.

Whether it means that you’re not taking calculated risks while on the job, or not applying to new jobs because you’re afraid you won’t excel, perfectionism can become your own worst enemy. The need to excel at everything can serve as a false confidence booster, especially for perfectionists who doubt themselves. So you might shy away from making bold moves because you’re unsure that you can rock that new job.

The impact:

This type of perfectionism serves as a barrier to entry for career change and growth. This attitude might also be impacting the current company you work for, since it might be holding you back from taking objective-related risks and thinking big, for fear of failing. Many companies like to see their talent rise to their fullest potential, and if you’re holding yourself back then it’s not to the company’s benefit either.

  1. It makes you inefficient

Perfectionism can lead you to spend too much time on certain tasks and projects while on the job. For starters, the need to be perfect might cause you to agonize and obsess over every tiny detail. But this obsession to ensure every task you work on is perfect does not work in today’s fast-paced landscape. Of course there’s no room for error in most jobs, but the need to obsess over the tasks you work on can cause you to spend more time on a given task than necessary. It might also cause you to procrastinate, because the feeling of perfecting a task becomes so daunting and overwhelming, that you put it off.

The impact:

If you’ve ever worked with a perfectionist, then you might recognize the signs. They won’t let you look at anything that’s a “work in progress” until it’s final and complete (this might cause them to hoard information and work; not a collaborative habit). They might also take longer than expected to finish every task, as they agonize over every detail – which causes them to hold up on processes and become a “cog in the organization’s wheel.”

  1. It’s exhausting, alienating and leads to workaholism

Can you imagine what it’s like to feel this need for perfection, on the daily? For starters, it likely causes you to be robotic at work. You may want all your correspondence with coworkers to be structured and strict. You may also give off bad vibes because you walk around the office thinking no one else can do a certain task better than you. But succeeding at work and in life requires a light-hearted attitude, spontaneity and the ability to delegate.

This type of perfectionism might also cause you to bring work home with you and think about it all the time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

The impact:

Now, while this level of seriousness may be any boss’s dream, it might cause you to be a social nightmare at work. No one likes to collaborate with someone who is a next-level perfectionist, especially if you don’t know when and how to let go.

How to overcome this:

  • Break out of your comfort zone and take on new hobbies for the first time.
  • Just breathe. Whether you do 5 minutes of mindful meditation or remind yourself to do some deep breathing throughout the day, you will eventually learn to relax and “let go.” You will also likely become more optimistic.
  • Celebrate small wins. Perfectionists tend to not feel joy in their achievements, so get used to recognizing even the smallest accomplishments.
  • If the perfectionism is starting to take over your life as an obsessive-compulsive anxiety issue, consider some therapy sessions.

The good news is: you can overcome perfectionism. This might be something you do in baby steps and acceptance is the first step. So while being a perfectionist might have worked for Michaelangelo, many of the world’s greatest achievements came to light by trial and error.