Fostering positive interpersonal relationships.

At the core, perfectionists strive to gain others’ validation. While perfectionism predisposes individuals to more conflict with others, studies demonstrate that support from peers buffers the negative consequences of perfectionism. For example, perfectionistic managers with access to social support from family and friends cope better in stressful situations because of the advice, esteem, and encouragement they receive.

To develop more positive social experiences, perfectionists need to remember that not all social interactions are about problem-solving and winning — rather, they need to focus on empathy instead of competing with others and giving unsolicited advice. One study suggests that perfectionists who channel their competitive spirits into helping others finish their work enable them to foster positive interactions with others. The ensuing positive social experiences with peers can help reduce anxiety, depression, and overall stress arising from perfectionistic endeavors. This will further enhance their social skills and help them see others as collaborators instead of rivals.

Managing emotions.

Managers who consistently demand perfection from their subordinates may unknowingly express intense anger, irritability, and frustration. As such, they might benefit from developing emotions-based strategies to communicate their high performance standards in a sensitive and empathic manner.

In emotionally charged situations, managers can avoid overreacting by stepping back from the situation and reframing the situation using a more positive lens. For example, when a subordinate falls short of their performance goals, perfectionistic managers can highlight the new knowledge, skills, and experience that the subordinate has gained. Reframing performance in this manner instead of absolute failures can direct subordinates to focus on improving future performance.

Finally, they can also dampen negative emotions such as frustration and dissatisfaction by using humor when their perfectionistic standards are threatened. As Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys recounted, “I was a real perfectionist, and the guys respected that. But we always used humor to lighten the load.”

Key Takeaway: Reconsider Work that Is Good Enough.

Intense competition and low tolerance for errors in modern workplaces have forced managers to set exceedingly demanding performance standards. Although some may claim that combining high performance expectations with rigid patterns of evaluations may raise performance, the infatuation with perfection can derail engagement, relationships, and satisfaction with work and life. Ultimately, we tend to perform better at work — and can even be happier — when we are consistently “good enough” instead of sporadically perfect.

By Anna Carmella G. Ocampo, Jun Gu, and Mariano Heyden