Wed. Aug 3rd, 2022

Perfectionist boss, imperfect worker — can this working relationship be saved?

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Meeting the expectations of a boss — no matter the job at hand — is an integral component of career success.

Yet if a manager is a perfectionist, this can raise the bar of expectations higher, which can cause extra stress and anxiety and put a person’s job performance, future job reviews — and, yes, even pay on the line.

Fox News Digital reached out to workplace experts about how to manage a results-oriented boss who may have very, very high standards. 

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If you’re not a perfectionist but the boss is, here are tips on how to understand more about the dynamics that are at work.

Understand a leader’s perfectionism

If your boss expects perfection from you on daily tasks, reports, proposals and dynamic projects — yet you don’t meet expectations — it’s very likely this will cause added tension in a probably already high-stress workplace.

A worker meets with a manager. "Perfectionist bosses come in degrees," said a senior performance consultant. 

A worker meets with a manager. “Perfectionist bosses come in degrees,” said a senior performance consultant. 
(iStock)

Understanding the scope of a manager’s expectations can help.

“Perfectionist bosses come in degrees,” explained Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant at national HR service provider Insperity in Houston, Texas. 

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At the more reasonable end of the spectrum, Chapman said, perfectionists know their weaknesses — and they welcome feedback so that they can get closer to being a truly great leader.

There are several strategies employees can use to work effectively under the most perfectionist of bosses.

Yet “at the far end are those who have a fear of making errors, so they set very high standards — sometimes unrealistic standards — that cause them to micromanage, in an effort to control every detail about a project,” Chapman said.

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For both extremes — as well as for those in the middle — there are several strategies employees can use to work effectively under the most perfectionist of bosses, Chapman said.

Know what sets a manager off

To begin with, if things or actions are particularly irksome to a boss, Chapman advises that people figure out how to avoid doing those things. 

“For example, if typos really get under your the manager’s skin, carefully proofread everything before sending it,” she suggested. 

Office workers interacting on a project. Always try to beat deadlines, said a performance adviser. 

Office workers interacting on a project. Always try to beat deadlines, said a performance adviser. 

Or, if being late to work is a sore spot, then do your very best to arrive a few minutes early at the office and for meetings. 

And always, always, try to beat deadlines, Chapman said. 

Share feedback with a boss before problems arise

If expectations are unrealistic and you both agree a new project is the priority, inform the boss if or why you will not be able to accomplish the demands precisely as the person requests — and offer some realistic trade-offs, advised Chapman. 

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“For example, suggest asking another team member to perform the daily financial report for the next two days while you focus on completing the new project,” she said. 

You want to demonstrate that you can be proactive in getting ahead of potential issues — and that you are dedicated to getting the job done accurately and on time. 

You want to demonstrate that you can be proactive in getting ahead of potential issues — and that you are dedicated to getting the job done accurately and on time. 

A useful strategy is to let your boss know what could be done to ensure the deadline is met. 

This will help demonstrate that you can be proactive in getting ahead of potential issues — and that you are dedicated to getting the job done accurately and on time, Chapman explained.

Tread carefully with contradiction

If you disagree with your boss on an issue, you must be prepared to present an opinion that brings something of value to the discussion, said Chapman.

“Always maintain a professional manner and never speak or act on emotions.”

That way, you are exhibiting the expertise for which you were hired — and underlining how you can contribute to the best outcome, she noted. 

“Always maintain a professional manner and never speak or act on emotions,” continued Chapman. 

Aligning your work ethic with a manager's high standards may be a step in the right direction. 

Aligning your work ethic with a manager’s high standards may be a step in the right direction. 
(iStock)

“This is especially important to neutralize the effects of working with an extreme perfectionist who thrives on drama.”

Be motivated to improve your performance

Aligning your work ethic with a manager’s high standards may be a step in the right direction. 

“See if it’s possible to learn from the perfectionism,” said Dave Fisch, CEO at Ladders, a job site that connects professionals to hiring teams and recruiters for jobs with annual salaries of $100,000 or more. 

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“Ask yourself if you ever feel more satisfaction from a finished piece of work or project because you were pushed.” 

Your acquired positive work habits could set the lasting foundation for added career success.   



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