16 Signs You’re a Toxic Perfectionist

You’re a toxic perfectionist if:

  1. You’re stingy with gratitude.
  2. Giving compliments is like pulling teeth.
  3. No one’s work is good enough.
  4. Mistakes are proof you’re a loser.
  5. Pointing out errors is a sport.
  6. Celebrating success is for babies.
  7. You never admit mistakes.
  8. You don’t apologize.
  9. Weakness is something other people have.
  10. Avoiding mistakes describes your attitude.
  11. You always fall short of your expectations.
  12. If you can’t be perfect you don’t try.
  13. Everything is either/or for you.
  14. It’s not about progress. The only thing that matters is results.
  15. Blame is your first response, because you can’t bear the thought that YOU fell short.
  16. Everything has to be done your way.

Bonus: Evaluate perfectionism by using this assessment: Perfectionism Scale.

you're a toxic perfectionist if you're stingy with gratitude


Why perfectionist leaders are toxic blood-suckers:

  1. You can’t try and learn. There is only try and succeed.
  2. You can’t learn from mistakes because you don’t make mistakes.
  3. You suck the joy out of making progress because progress is never good enough.
  4. You can’t affirm imperfect people and everyone is imperfect.
  5. You always see what’s wrong and minimize what’s right.
  6. You expect people to get it right the first time.
  7. You fix people and no one enjoys being fixed.

7 suggestions for perfectionist leaders:

  1. Celebrate learning, both yours and others. Put it on your calendar. 15 minutes to walk around asking people what they’re learning? (What are you learning walk-about.)
  2. Support someone else when they lead.
  3. Talk with your team about the difference between high standards and perfectionism.
  4. Start saying, “Let’s try it,” or, “Go for it.”
  5. To stay involved, say, “Come back and tell me what you learned.”
  6. Set an end of day progress-goal for projects that take more than a day. Celebrate progress.
  7. Learn from a high achieving leader who actually enjoys leading.

How might leaders navigate tensions between the pursuit of excellence and toxic perfectionism?