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How to use perfectionism properly at work?

  • March 13rd, 2019

A perfectionist is a person who constantly tries to improve his work and never considers it finished. Although it may sound positive beforehand in a work environment, the truth is that is does not always has positive results for us. 

In UVempleo we have interviewed the organisational psychologist and coach Francesc Quer. He is the Vice-president of the section of Psychology of Organizaciones y Trabajo del Colegio Oficial de Psicología de Cataluña and an expert advisor in organisation and human resources of the Catalan Government.

During this meeting, Francesc helped us to clarify the concept of “perfectionism at work”, providing us the tools to detect those cases in which it is harmful for our labour performance and our personal comfort.

1. - What is “perfectionism at work”? Is there a healthy and a unhealthy perfectionism?
In Psychology, perfectionism is an individual’s belief of reaching perfection. Actually, this belief encourages people to improve on a daily basis. Nonetheless, if excessive, it can limit the individual and arise thoughts of self-dissatisfaction. It becomes a pathological belief when the individual considers that anything below his ideal of perfection is unacceptable.

2.    What originates harmful perfectionism?

Perfectionism, understood as the desire to make things right, does not oppose to the desire of achieving welfare, looking challenges and reaching them.

The issue takes place when people think that they cannot and should not enjoy an accomplished goal, because he does not deserve and do not has the right to do it. The personal experience that results from the family, education and the society will make the individual to think that way. Nonetheless, with the available situation nowadays, we know that happiness is not natural but it is learnt. Each one’s decisions will come out as different degrees of welfare that change over time as happiness does.

3.    Is there a relationship between stress, anxiety and perfectionism? 

Nowadays, the degree of professionalism in the companies and organisations is very high. Companies try to do the most with the minimum resources. Therefore, workers tend to have loads of intense work, which causes anxiety and stress. When the straw breaks the camel’s back, the worker needs a work absence for stress. This 21st century labour outbreak will increase unfortunately.
When someone’s limits of stress are exceeded, new symptoms will appear and they will lead to a work absence. They will need treatment (not necessarily pharmacological). Workers should know themselves, their limits, habits, thoughts and behaviours that have brought him about this situation. When they overcome it, they feel satisfied.

4.    How can we spot a person who is too perfectionist
Perfectionism in its pathological modality will cause sooner or later high levels of stress that will make the subject not to know how to cope with his professional, personal and family life. He will need to redirect his life with the aid of experts.
People who are extremely perfectionists with their job are well known by their workmates. It depends to a great extent to the degree of rigorousness and tolerance to accept mistakes. We will probably not tolerate a mistake in the case of a surgeon or an air controller. However, we could give a mistake in a receipt a pass.

5.    What advice would you give ot them?

We have to learn to be happy. We know more about how sadness has an impact on us than about the mechanisms of happiness. What we do know is that solidary people are happier to those who put their work ahead of everything else. This suggests focusing primary education in these types of values. Then, when those children become adults, they will be happier.

Happiness are emotions, positive relationships, commitments, sense and success. We can measure these indicators to know the degree of welfare of the workers of a company.

6.    Do you have any advice for promoting labour practices that put an end to harmful perfectionism?

According to recent studies, a new social reality is emerging. Companies and organisations want to have a different image and combine financial benefits with the necessity to respect the environment. Currently, companies are judged for the relationships between its workers, clients and the environment. This is a new responsibility that will be promoted in the new business practices. For example, 86% of millennials consider that business success should not only be sorted by the financial performance.

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