Is perfectionism at workplace killing us?
Who does not want to be perfect? Which boss does not want the ‘Perfect’ presentation? Which employee does not want to submit the ‘Perfect’ report? However, it is important to ask at what cost are we aiming for perfectionism in our personal and professional lives? Is it as good as we fantasize or is that a myth?
Perfectionism is a complex, multi-dimensional personality construct (Hewitt & Flett 2002). The early accounts of perfectionistic subjects embraced their unusually high and unyielding standards for performance, fear of failure, meeting others expectations, excessive self-criticism and the inability to derive satisfaction from their achievements (Azevedo et al. 2010). Shafran & Mansell (2001) contemplates that perfectionism originates as constructive, but over time becomes destructive for various reasons.
Extremely disturbing results have been found from a study done by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill, of the University of Bath and York St John University. Their study results have shown that perfectionism is associated with a wide range of mental illnesses, including depression, social anxiety, agoraphobia, anorexia, insomnia, and even self-harm, and suicidal ideation. They also found that rates of perfectionism are increasing, especially among young people and even children.
At this perfectionist race we do not realize that the whole idea of achieving something that has zero error and is supremely great can actually lead us to a life that is physically and mentally unhealthy. It is important to realize that the need to be perfect at all times, is a weakness rather than a strength. The unrelenting standards can lead to unnecessary stress, conflict and missed deadlines. It is important that we all work hard at our respective fields but not at the cost of ‘Burn out’. This would eventually not lead to productivity but instead hamper the creativity and growth. Burnout is characterized by feelings of emotional and physical exhaustion, cynicism and decreased personal efficacy. A study by Andrew Hill also found that perfectionism was very likely to lead to burnout in the workplace because perfectionists seems to enjoy less social support and clearly defined goals as compared to at school or play.
Meritocracy places a strong need specifically for millennial to strive bigger, perform better and achieve ‘More’ in modern life (Curran). It is important to understand that perfectionism as a trait is self-destructive and employees feel entrapped in such a situation because they constantly fear under-performance and are not able to be content with their work no matter how hard they work as they are constantly self-critical. The effect of perfectionism on the mental health of employees is rising at an alarming rate and it will only proceed for the worst if not managed immediately.
The 24*7 corporate culture in today’s times is affecting employee’s mental health in more ways than one. Experts have also said the need to be constantly available on various devices and respond to work calls and messages is not healthy for the brain. The workplace culture needs to be changed and people need to be more ‘effective’ and less ‘perfectionist’. The issue in hand is that perfectionism is adaptive and functional till a certain level, but after that it becomes maladaptive which is distressing not just to the person but also to the people around them.
It is important to make mistakes and learn from them. That is how one grows and understands their work better and not constantly aiming for a standard that is utopian and maladaptive.