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Dealing with Perfectionists at Work

If you’re ever had to work with a perfectionist, you know how frustrating an experience it can be. Someone who continually strives for perfection, and expects everyone around them to do the same, can be a constant drain on patience, productivity, and the sanity of those who they have to work with.

Here are some tips for how to deal with a perfectionist in a way that will allow you to keep your head on straight while getting things done.

Recognize the Problem and Try to Understand

The first step to resolving any problem is understanding what is going on. You have to identify the problem before you do anything else.

Perfectionists didn’t just become that way. They were either created by parents who were never satisfied, or became that way due to some other traumatic experience in their life. It is a psychological issue that has to be resolved with a professional. In the meantime, now that you know that they have a problem, maybe you can find some sympathy for them as you continue to deal with them. Know that no, you are not crazy, there is definitely something seriously wrong with wanting to always be 100% perfect all of the time. It is impossible to achieve, which is why most perfectionists are tormented.

Be Firm and Decisive

Since a perfectionist may not be the most decisive person, it is your job to take on that role in a project. For example, if you are working on a project at your place of employment with a known perfectionist, don’t play into their game. You may allow them a few times to go back and forth with their ideas and rounds of changes, but at some point (preferably sooner than later) you must be firm in your assertions and explain that while we all would love to have the project turn out 100% perfect, there is a deadline to meet, and there is always room for error. If necessary, things can be updated and taken note of for future projects. Then, take the reigns and say something like, “This is our final round of changes, do you see any last minute details you’d like to complete.”

Allow Them to Throw Their Tantrum-Walk Away

If the person chooses to become unreasonable at your assertions to wrap the project and decides that they want to continue to working through change after change, even well into the night to meet a deadline, you must take a deep breath and remain reasonable. Perform the changes that you feel are necessary, make a copy of your documents as you would see it fit, and then leave the perfectionist to his or her task. They may end up staying at work until two or three in the morning making ridiculous, unnecessary updates to the project, but that is not your problem. As long as you did your job to the fullest of your ability and have proof of such, you are not required to be a part of this perfectionists’ madness.

If the situation becomes a serious problem, or you feel that the perfectionist may try to throw you under the bus, definitely express your concerns in a non-confrontational way with your boss or project leader. More than likely, they will be able to relate if the perfectionist is notorious around the office for his or her behavior.

By using this process and keeping a clear, level head, you can avoid conflicts with perfectionists. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to suffer because of this person’s problem-misery loves company.

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