To Be A Better Manager, Don't Strive For Perfection

Perfectionism among managers can be especially harmful to themselves and their subordinates.

Thinking that a perfect performance equals a perfect outcome is not necessarily true, and thinking that anything less than perfection is always necessary often leads to dissatisfaction. Studies have found that having a perfectionist outlook at work often leads managers and employees to question their purpose and makes it difficult to find meaning in their work.

There are several categories of perfectionist management styles.

Three styles of perfectionist management are:

The self-oriented perfectionist: one who has a belief system that one must be perfect to get positive outcomes. This includes a great deal of negative self-evaluation when performance "falls short of their idealistic standards."

The socially prescribed perfectionist: one who adheres to the premise that they must be perfect for as that is what is expected of them by others. This is most often an inaccurate assumption which often leads to physical stress and can manifest into headaches, loss of sleep and depression.

The other-oriented perfectionist: one who places high and unrealistic expectations on subordinates for performance and ultimately the manager's own success. This often leads to emotional, heated exchanges when employees do not meet their manager's goals.

Work is competitive, and it is natural to want to be a success, but often that very competition can go too far and damage an organization, its employees, and even a reputation in the marketplace. Managers and employees perform better when they are happier and have meaning in their work rather than constantly striving for perfection. Anna Carmella G. Ocampo, Jun Gu, and Mariano Heyden "The Costs of Being a Perfectionist Manager" (Sep. 07, 2022).




Review your expectations and actions as a manager. No one is perfect, and trying to be that way undermines goals.

To establish yourself, begin with asking your workers what they need from you. It may not be what you think, and most likely is not “perfection”. 

You may be surprised that they suggest something as simple as making your goals and the milestones to achieve them clear and do-able. Or, they may suggest you recognize their efforts more often.

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