Tips for Coaching a Perfectionist at Work

Business-minded people admire perfectionists because they have discipline, are highly motivated, and do good work. But are we as leaders creating dysfunctional teammates by not helping our perfectionist employees find a balance?

Perfectionism seems like a great trait in theory, but in practice, perfectionism in the workplace can lead to unrealistic standards and high levels of stress. The truth is that being a perfectionist at work carries its own set of burdens that we don’t always see on the surface.

Perfection at Work: Benefits and Drawbacks

Tips for coaching a perfectionist at work

In business leaders, I have seen perfectionist traits concentrated in people that are detail- and task-oriented. These employees tend to be deliberate, guarded, precise, highly analytical, and driven to seek knowledge.

However, on the flip side, perfectionists are so driven to be correct that they fear to be wrong and frequently appear to be afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes happen to every employee, regardless of skill level or rank in the company. The sooner our perfectionist employees can accept this, the easier their lives will become.

Studies have shown that being a perfectionist at work leads to anxiety and depression. It’s essential that you help your employees manage these perfectionist tendencies for the sake of their mental health.

4 Tips for Working with a Perfectionist

General George S. Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” This philosophy can help your perfectionist employees come to terms with the fact that sometimes “done” is better than “perfect.” Here are a few tips to help you coach them through their perfectionist tendencies.

  1. Be clear with them about your priorities. If you need a project done quickly, tell them that. On the other hand, if there is a project that does require precision, let them know. Help them learn the difference between jobs that need to be “good and done” versus tasks that need their strict attention to detail.
  2. When mistakes do happen, be mindful of your feedback. Being a perfectionist at work means living in fear of the consequences of an error. These employees require gentle coaching to nurture them out of their perfectionist habits. Consistent positive feedback for their excellent work is vital so when there is constructive feedback, it will appear less harsh.
  3. When an employee is a perfectionist at work, you will have to help them accept that imperfection is a natural outcome of starting any project. Obsessiveness is the enemy of efficiency.  You can help your perfectionists see that their tendencies are holding back projects. They might be able to loosen up when they see the light.
  4. Help them realize their triggers. Does their perfectionism tend to rear its head when they’re stressed? Do tight deadlines help, or make things worse? Are there specific projects that cause extreme perfectionism? When your employees become aware of their perfectionist habits, they’ll have an easier time navigating without your help.

Your goal is to help your employees see that continuous improvement sometimes means putting an idea to work first, then tweaking it for revision later. With a little coaching, they’ll get there.


Being a perfectionist at work can be a curse. Fill out my contact form, and I can help you develop the leadership skills you need to shape, mold, and nurture your perfectionist employees.


Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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