Perfectionists have high personal standards and are highly self-critical. The personality trait is often associated with conscientiousness (a strong predictor of success), virtue, and high achievement.
However far from giving themselves a competitive edge, it can lead to poorer performance at work.
The trait is also closely associated with burnout – a syndrome associated with chronic stress which manifests as extreme fatigue, perceived reduced accomplishment, and eventual detachment.
I once coached a person who was such a perfectionist and who worked in a PR role for a company that was about to go public. There was a lot of pressure on her so her boss gave her an assistant who was a graduate but had a poor grasp of English grammar and spelling (why does that not surprise me these days?) The result was that she increased her workload double checking all the work done by her new assistant. End result – burnout. She left the company and eventually found satisfaction working as a freelancer.
In work setting where poor performance has negative outcomes perfectionist tendencies can be exacerbated. “Rather than being more productive perfectionists are likely to find the workplace quite difficult and stressful. If they are unable to cope with demands and uncertainty in their workplace they will experience a range of emotional difficulties” said Andrew Hill, associate professor at York St Johns.
His co-researcher at Bath, sports lecturer Thomas Grant, said “As a society we tend to hold perfectionism as a sign of virtue or high achievement. Yet our findings show that perfectionism is a largely destructive trait. Instead diligence, flexibility and perseverance are far better qualities“.
Perfectionists need to have better work-life balance and less pressurised working environments together with a greater acceptance of failure in order to mitigate the negative effects associated with perfectionism.
Recent research suggests that whilst high levels of work engagement ie high levels of energy and involvement in work, are good for the organisation – this might be at the expense of other areas of an employee’s life.
Engaged employees create their own resources, perform better, have a positive impact on colleagues, and have happier clients.
But “over engagement” can have negative consequences creating workaholic behaviour in employees so that they regularly take work home. In a Dutch study work engagement was positively correlated with working overtime. This in turn disrupts work-life balance leading to poor health outcomes.
In some cases the inner drive to work hard, even when the person doesn’t enjoy working overtime, can lead to burnout. People forget to rest or maintain their personal relationships.
So there is definitely a dark side to employee engagement. Research shows that more engaged employees are more likely to experience work-family conflict.
High levels of engagement might also have negative consequences at work over time. Highly engaged employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs may take on additional tasks and it’s well-known that supervisors would rather assign tasks to keen employees.
The end result is that the engaged employee becomes over-loaded and begins to suffer ill-health and job performance declines along with the level of engagement.
Leaders are key influencers in employee engagement and because it is contagious engagement can spread across work teams. So leaders have a responsibility to be considerate and use a more transformational leadership style whilst providing social support and coaching.
Source: European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology V 20 No 1 Feb 2011
Kind bosses are more stressed and likely to burn out, claim psychologists
Overseeing every workplace decision for equality and fairness can be a draining experience for senior executives, the study found
Those suffering the most fatigue were more likely to make mistakes at work and were more likely to engage in ‘deviant’ behaviour, such as theft
Tough bosses could be better for firms than those who try too hard to be fair to workers, according to psychologists.
Sticking to equality rules can put so much stress on a manager it burns them out and lead to them stealing and cheating, said the study.
Overseeing every workplace decision for equality and fairness can be a draining experience for senior executives, said the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers from the Michigan State University monitored 82 bosses twice a day over a period of several weeks and recorded their emotional state and their workplace…
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