Perfectionism Can Lead to Burnout in High Performers

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Perfectionists, we all know them. They are the "A" students who take every task to the extreme, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. But while they strive for excellence, they often overlook the consequences that come with that level of dedication—namely burnout. That's right; high performers who are perfectionistic are more susceptible to burnout than those who are content with their work and performance. Let’s take a look at why this is and what managers can do about it.

The Why Behind It All

Perfectionists tend to be incredibly hard on themselves and expect results that are far beyond most people's expectations—even their own. This can lead them down a path of overworking themselves and not allowing for any flexibility when it comes to mistakes or failure.

I remember when my daughter was studying to be a nurse. Like a lot of students, she would leave things to the last minute (I always wondered if this was due to procrastination or a fear of not getting it right - perfectionism?).  She’d pull an all-nighter to ensure she had everything just right.  Upon submission of her essay or assignment, she would then beat herself up and worry that she wasn’t going to get a good grade.  When in reality she always got top marks.

This type of mindset usually leads to people working long hours, taking on too many tasks at once, and having an unrealistic view of what their job entails in terms of time commitments and productivity. As you can imagine, this type of pressure is unsustainable and eventually leads to burnout. 

In addition, perfectionists rarely ask for help or delegate tasks because they feel like they should be able to take care of everything by themselves due to their self-imposed standards. This inability to ask for help or delegate tasks also contributes to burnout as well as feelings of loneliness because perfectionists don't feel like anyone else understands their situation or could possibly do a better job than they could do themselves.

What Managers Can Do About It

What you need to know is perfectionism is a learnt skill, we weren’t born like this!  Perfectionism is inherited by observing others or having lived with or been around someone with extremely high expectations in our early years.  As adults we rarely check if such a trait is of value and benefit to us, or notice that it can hinder us in the workplace.  Because we created this, it can be uncreated, you just need to know how to do this.

While it may seem like there is no solution for perfectionist high performers this isn’t actually the case.  Employees can seek support to help them modify their expectations and behaviour, therapy such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy are great ways to bust perfectionism.

There are steps that managers can take in order to prevent burnout from happening in the first place. The most important step is simply being aware that these employees need extra support when it comes to managing their workloads and expectations. Managers should encourage employees who exhibit signs of perfectionism (long hours, micromanaging) by setting realistic expectations and deadlines as well as providing positive reinforcement when goals are achieved—no matter how minor those goals may seem at first glance. Additionally, managers should provide resources such as one-on-one coaching sessions or workshops on effective communication skills so that employees can learn how best to manage their workloads without trying to do it all alone. Doing so will allow them to make use of existing resources rather than continually relying on themselves only which can lead them down a path towards overworking themselves into oblivion (aka burnout).

High performers who are also perfectionists have a tendency towards overworking themselves which can lead them towards burnout quickly if left unchecked. While this seems unavoidable at times, managers should be mindful of these tendencies in order to counteract them with realistic expectations and deadlines as well as providing positive reinforcement when goals are met—no matter how small they seem at first glance! By doing this, businesses will ensure that their high-performing employees remain productive instead of burning out due to excessive pressure put upon them by themselves or others within the organisation.

If you feel like you need extra support in making these changes, don't hesitate to reach out. Book in a time to chat with Hana or follow her on: Facebook  Instagram or LinkedIn

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