While aiming for excellence can lead to breakthroughs, perfectionism can lead to breakdowns and burnout. A key difference between unhealthy perfectionism and healthy striving is being able to define realistic expectations and being able to say, “that’s good enough, let’s move on.”

While perfectionism has long been a problem, in recent years it’s become a good deal more common. In a 2017 a study analysed data from more than forty thousand college students, showing that the majority had significantly higher scores than previous generations on measures of: irrational personal desire to never fail, perceiving excessive expectations from others and placing unrealistic standards on those around them.

Research shows perfectionists often feel a heightened need for positive validation and approval, while dreading any form of negative judgment or criticism. And at work, perfectionism can lead people to put in less effort, not more— with their subconscious leading them to reason: “If I try something and don’t get it right, I’ve failed. Since I’m not going to get this right, I won’t try as hard.” Sometimes, perfectionists do this to hedge their bets. By not investing much effort, they are able to justify failure without diminishing their own capabilities or accepting that they need to grow to succeed. There is also plenty of research to suggest that social media is contributing to this rising fear of failure, pressuring young adults to compare their own work achievements to their peers.

In terms of identifying if someone is a perfectionist on your team at work, these people might seek excessive guidance, seem loath to take any sort of risk and treat every decision as if it were a matter of life and death. It’s a good assumption to make that those displaying perfectionist tendencies have anxiety. Perfectionists tend to become overly defensive when criticized. Healthy achievers, by contrast, tend to take criticism in their stride as they push for superior results. And while achievers tend to bounce back from failures, perfectionists often become preoccupied with their missteps or the mistakes of others.

So, what can a manager do to help these employees? Below are just a few methods that may be helpful in leading those with perfectionist tendencies:

Method 1: Clarify What Good Enough Is
Well-timed gratitude for good work can help everyone feel more confident that they’re doing all they can to help the team. It can also help people learn the boundaries of what counts as acceptable work: when good enough is good enough. If left entirely on their own to determine whether their work is up to snuff, perfectionists are more than likely to overthink and rework, make tweaks, second-guess or even do too much—such as doing inventory for everything in the warehouse instead of only on the products they were asked to count, or handing in War and Peace as a sales report when their boss really wanted an executive summary. We know that most managers have no desire to handhold their people, and they rightfully worry about micromanaging, but with employees who tend toward perfectionism it’s important to guide them clearly through the standards they are looking for.

Method 2: Be Open About Your Own Missteps
It helps with perfectionism when leaders are open about their own mistakes and anxieties. It puts people at ease and gives everyone permission to be human.

Method 3: Treat Failures as Learning Opportunities
Tell your team that blame had no place in your culture. When mistakes occur have a productive discussion about how you go forward to learn and get better. Try brainstorming about potential investments that can help you learn from setbacks.

Method 4: Regularly Check in on Progress
Keep close track of the progress their team members are making. This is especially important with perfectionists. Leaders can help them understand that their work is going just fine and uncover procrastination or wrong turns. The key in making check-ins less anxiety-inducing is to put more control in the hands of employees. Ambiguity creates anxiety, so instead of subjective measures, use individual and team roadmaps to evaluate how people are coming on hitting their goals. Also, make these check-ins regular. When they become an expected part of work life, versus surprise inspections, we find anxiety about reporting-in is reduced substantially. Finally, when managers go out of their way to offer up support with problems or missed deadlines during check-ins—and they come from a place of understanding—it can help create a relationship where people know they will be held accountable, but in positive ways.