How to Help a Perfectionist

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help a perfectionist

How to Help a Perfectionist

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Many people might quickly agree that the drive to do things right is a good quality to have. Can it go too far? How do you help a perfectionist?

Many psychological studies have found that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Interesting stuff, but for the most part I’ll leave that to the professionals in that field.

Perfectionist at Work

Perfectionism is an interesting part of our workplace. While it is almost always important to strive for exceptional quality we are also challenged with time, efficiency, and meeting the demands of the bottom line.

Perhaps the hardest part for the perfectionist is letting go. At least that might be the presenting problem. The real problem though might be overcoming fear.

Here are three common problems for workplace professionals and perfectionism:

  • Productivity. Time management is often out of balance for the perfectionist. They spend so much time perfecting the work that they lose track of the delicate balance of exceptional quality and speed.
  • New Projects. Often there is a reluctance to start new projects. Not only does the perfectionist feel a loss of control over the work, but they are extremely fearful that the outcomes might not be good enough.
  • Delegation. When they recognize how hard they have to work to produce the quality they feel is required, they might feel certain others won’t measure up.

Help a Perfectionist

Helping a perfectionist has its challenges. Getting them to let go is important but it is not the act of letting go that has to be overcome. It might be quelling their fears about negative outcomes.

Try illustrating these points:

  • Sometimes there is value to releasing work for additional feedback. This is most helpful before spending hours on something that might be rejected, or worse no longer needed. Think draft.
  • Professional growth often doesn’t come from just from their individual contribution but more from replication and team efforts. Others can learn to do the work. Teach them.
  • Encourage them to consider that perfect is more about creating exceptional results in minimal time. Therefore, mastering the balance of quality and time is the true perfection. Release more work.

Sometimes the best way to help a perfectionist in the workplace is to give them something different to focus on.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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May 1, 2017at 7:50 am

Great post but don’t leave out that sometimes perfectionism can be the result of that person’s background and falls under that fear based catagory.

    Dennis Gilbert

    May 1, 2017at 10:17 am

    Thanks Sandra. Yes, absolutely!!

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