In a professional context, perfectionism might not seem like the worst thing in the world.
Striving for perfection and holding yourself to crazy high standards actually sounds like a great path to success, right?
David Foster Wallace wrote that perfectionism was “dangerous,” as it kills both productivity and creativity.
Perfectionists can actually ruin their careers by failing to prioritise, overestimating their own abilities, acting fake, and becoming too rigid.
Now, imagine working for someone who fits that description. Perfectionist managers don’t just hurt themselves — they can bring down their entire team with their ridiculous standards and inability to lead.
Here are a handful of signs that your boss is a perfectionist:
1. They go crazy about small details
This is textbook perfectionist behaviour. If your boss berates you about tiny mistakes and constantly misses the forest for the trees, that’s a sign you have a perfectionist on your hands.
2. They’re defensive
Perfectionists don’t like getting called out. As Brown University’s Counseling and Psychological Services note, perfectionists might lash out or get defensive when criticised. So if your manager can’t take constructive criticism or suggestions, that’s a red flag.
3. They don’t delegate
Perfectionists feel like they can’t trust anyone to do the job as well as them. This makes it incredibly hard for perfectionist managers to delegate tasks.
4. They’re easily stressed
When things don’t turn out right, it’s normal for your boss to be disappointed — even angry, if we’re talking about some major project. However, perfectionists tend to overreact to even the smallest of setbacks, like a missed routine or a misunderstood conversation, as Dr. Alice Boyes wrote in Psychology Today.
5. They correct everyone around them
Boyes also notes that, unsurprisingly, perfectionists correct others at every opportunity. They’re not trying to be obnoxious, necessarily, they’re actually nearly compelled to correct mistakes.
6. They’re very organised
As Dr. Adrian Furnham wrote in Psychology Today, perfectionists tend to be sticklers for neatness.
7. They’re unrealistic
Perfectionist bosses ask you to go above and beyond — beyond what’s even possible, that is.
It’s great to have a leader that dreams big. However, there’s ambition and innovation, and then there’s flat out unrealistic.
Your manager’s crazy expectations may be driven by their innate perfectionism.
8. They don’t tolerate mistakes
No one likes to make mistakes, of course. However, in a healthy work environment, making mistakes can be a part of experimenting to see what methods work best.
That’s not the case in any office ruled by a perfectionist boss. They don’t tolerate any errors — no matter how trivial. This only chills creativity and innovation.
9. They’re indecisive
Boyes writes that perfectionists grapple with even relatively simple decisions. If your manager keeps going back and forth — or can’t seem to make up their mind, ever — that’s a bad sign.
10. They say ‘no’ a lot
Perfectionist bosses can be pretty risk adverse. If they’re worried that a project might not succeed, they will nip it in the bud. This makes them less likely to seek out new innovations.
11. They’re not productive
Perfectionists aren’t terribly productive. They’re so hung up on achieving perfection and picking small details that they simply don’t have it in them to prioritise.
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