In this activity, you will watch a video clip and work through a number of scenarios which might occur with students during field placements. This activity finishes with a reading and a discussion about how to deal with perfectionist students.
Video Clip: Student Motivation
ExercisesMotivation Scenarios (pdf)
Motivation Scenarios Answer Key (pdf)
Reading for Reflection: Supervising Perfectionist Students
Text adapted by Lise Dupont, of the Université de Montréal. Adapted from Noël, K. (1999). “Comment gérer vos employés perfectionnistes,” Journal Les Affaires, February (document #990206ZL087).
These are often the students who fall apart, drop out and eventually burn out.
These perfectionists work like maniacs and are never satisfied. Although ultra-performing and often highly talented, they are convinced of being unequal to the task. They are obsessive perfectionists. Supervising these students is often as difficult as motivating the lackadaisical ones.
Little has been written or learned about this area. In 1998, Aon Consulting reports, 53 per cent of workers complained of professional burnout. Although no profiles were established, the number of type A personalities, super-workers subject to cardiovascular disease, had apparently grown by 10 per cent within that group.
These extremely quality-conscious workers are often the ones who fall apart, drop out and eventually burn out. Business employers just love them, but should realize that perfectionism becomes counterproductive at a certain point, explains psychologist Anne-Geneviève Girard, of Melanson Girard Maletto, industrial psychology and organizational development consultants.
There is a thin line between extreme perfectionism and a passion for work. Still, there are telltale signs of individuals who set the bar too high. They are frantic rather than energetic and less self-assured than they seem. Perfectionists are eternally dissatisfied, and their efforts are incommensurate with the expected outcome. When effort is augmented by 80 per cent and the result by merely 5 per cent, it is no longer a matter of performance or efficiency. This is morbid perfectionism, the psychologist explains.
Here are a few pointers for supervising perfectionists. First, realize their fragility, self-evaluation issues and addiction to feedback. Indeed, they crave continual, frequent, highly detailed feedback.
Enlightened supervisors should keep a student from performing a task when they believe the student is already doing too much. Naturally, the student also has a part to play and is responsible for divulging his or her problem.
The supervisor can measure a perfectionist’s stress tolerance by watching for the following: Does she go in for sports? Does he have any interests besides the placement activities? Does she have personal relationships elsewhere? In addition, the supervisor may need to revise a student’s performance objectives. According to industrial psychologist François Boulard, perfectionists have a hard time easing up on work quality to meet quantity or efficiency requirements. They have trouble adapting. Informed supervisors should also look for any signs of acute perfectionism in themselves, for they too are subject to this problem.
Students with a healthy concern for performance get stable results on a continuing basis. In an emergency, they are able to give more. But perfectionists walk around on quicksand. Ms. Girard explains that their busyness expresses a need to prove themselves, not healthy vim and vigour.
In sum, perfectionism and efficiency do not necessarily go hand by hand. The former sometimes stifles the latter.
© 2004-05 CNFS – University of Ottawa component
What would you do? Indicate how you would address this situation in supervision.
Have you ever experienced a perfectionist student? Share your experiences.