Perfectionism at Work
in the beginning, expectations are normal for a new employee. By excelling, the employee builds goodwill, and immunizes self from criticism and accompanying shame. However, as time goes on, expectations rise until they first reach, and then exceed, the level of the employee's performance. This may be due to demands from multiple sources that are unaware of each other. It may also come about as completed projects add a layer of ongoing, and growing, maintenance. At this point, perceived criticism of the employee's performance occurs. Depending on the employee's potential for shame, which is likely high due to his/her use of this perfectionist defense, this criticism triggers shame, which then results in an avoiding (withdrawal, quitting) or controlling (secondary anger, irritability) defensive response. Alternatively, the employee may choose effective action, setting boundaries and beginning to address the shame directly, separating it from performance.