Perfectionism is on the rise, especially among young people. A January study published by the American Psychological Association, found that between 1989 and 2016, self-oriented perfectionism — or the need to be perfect — increased by 10 percent. During the same time period, other-oriented perfectionism — placing higher expectations on others — grew by 16 percent.
So, what’s the solution? Surprisingly, expectation management. Intuition says that letting perfectionists, whether self-oriented or other-oriented, set expectations will lead to unrealistic goals. However, trying to keep them from setting high standards isn’t an option because it’s in their nature.
Below we will see how to show perfectionists at all levels within a company how to use their personality type to their advantage:
While most young people flounder to find a career path, perfectionists know exactly what they want. Their perfectionism can lead to great professional goals, as long as the expectations are managed properly. Arrange mentorships between experienced employees and young professionals to discuss their personal goals.
For instance, let’s say an employee wants to become a manager within three years. The more experienced colleague can then explain what it takes to get there and whether or not that timeline is realistic. With that information, the self-oriented perfectionist can create an actionable plan that meets their expectations.
Before an individual even applies for a job, they create expectations. They do research and form an idea of what it would be like to work there. Once hired, they then expect leaders and co-workers to fit into that vision even though it can lead to them being overly critical of others.
Manage these expectations early by explaining that not every employee contributes to the company in the same way. This person was hired to do a specific job, and their success will look different than a co-worker’s.
Make this clear when acknowledging your employees. When you publicly praise an employee, tie their performance to the company mission. This way, perfectionists will see how everyone fits into the big picture. They’ll then be able to form new expectations that reflect each co-worker’s role in the organization.
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali
Self-oriented perfectionism – Managers who are self-oriented perfectionists face a unique dilemma. They want to succeed, but their success is tied to their team. If their employees falter, managers feel like they’ve failed.
As a leader, you need to adjust their perspective. Have managers list what is under their control and what isn’t. For instance, they can set a goal to meet weekly with each employee to discuss performance. However, they can’t blame themselves if an employee doesn’t take their advice. Once they have their list, have them set expectations for themselves — only themselves. Also, make sure there is a clear way to assess their success.
If they want to improve their communication skills, ask them what this would look like. Would it mean receiving fewer clarification questions from their team or would it mean spending more time listening to employees? This will help them form a clear definition of personal success.
When a manager is an other-oriented perfectionist, they can overwhelm their team with high expectations. Nonetheless, when they properly harness their need for perfection, they can motivate their team.
Remind managers that, as a perfectionist, they have a very clear picture of what employees’ success looks like. The trick is getting their team members to buy into these goals. For example, employees may think it’s unrealistic to increase sales by 25 percent in three months. But a manager who’s an other-oriented perfectionist sees a clear road to that milestone.
To ease employee doubts, encourage managers to break down larger expectations with employees. Have them set smaller goals for each individual and clearly explain the unique role they play in achieving these goals. This will turn an other-oriented perfectionist’s goal from overwhelming to motivating.
“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” – Og Mandino
Leaders with self-oriented perfectionism tend to spread themselves too thin. They feel they need to be a part of every aspect of the organization, but this inevitably leads to failure.
Instead of trying to be perfect at everything, take stock of your strengths — and be honest. For instance, if you came from a marketing background, don’t create high expectations for yourself when it comes to product development. Instead, surround yourself with colleagues and employees who make up for those weaknesses.
As a leader, you see endless potential, but sometimes, you can push everyone too far. Avoid this by tracking progress toward each goal. Set smaller expectations to satisfy your perfectionist instincts. Every time a small goal is met, celebrate that success with your team.
Most importantly, be sure that the data you’re tracking is objective. One issue perfectionist leaders face is defining great work. You envision one result, while everyone else imagines something different. Numbers are less subjective and help you maintain a realistic perspective.