Dear Karen

December 2020

Ask PQ’s very own agony aunt Karen Young when you need advice from a real expert. Email your dilemma to, and he will pass on the best ones to Karen.


I like my manager but increasingly feel stressed about not being able to meet their high expectations. The pressure of getting everything perfect is draining – any tips on how to tackle this?


Working for someone who is a ‘perfectionist’ can be exhausting and knock your confidence. If it’s any consolation, it can be just as difficult for the person with this trait as it is for those working with them.

As a start, ask your manager to be clear about the priority of each task they set you. This helps you know where to place your efforts and how to manage your time, so you avoid feeling drained.

Setting and communicating clear boundaries should also help. Your manager might get caught up in fine details and lose sight of how everyone’s role contributes to the bigger picture.

Be clear about your role and capabilities so your manager knows how much to expect from you. As well as this, set your own personal goals which are achievable. Try to do this each day so you finish work with a sense of satisfaction and less stress overall.

It’s also important to stop any negative self-talk. Begin each task by thinking ‘I will do my best’. If you make a mistake, reframe it as an opportunity to learn something new and improve your capabilities.

Finally, try to create a constructive feedback process between yourself and your manager. If feedback is negative, ask them to specify what they would like done differently or how you could improve for next time. Remember that you’re allowed to disagree if your opinions differ.

Your manager will want to help you learn and grow in your role, so if you don’t get this impression from them then it’s important to address this. Remember that your manager is also learning, so in doing so you might help them improve their abilities as a manager.

• Karen Young is a director at Hays. She is passionate about helping people to find the right job, and companies to find the right person.