Avoiding a Meltdown: When Something Has To Give & You Fear It’s You


I’m a perfectionist. I like doing things right the first time.

Short staffing; changing priorities

The challenges of COVID and short staffing have made this impossible. My priorities change daily and occasionally hourly. As soon as I start on one project I’m told to switch to another project with a short deadline and to leave my half-completed work to another day or to others.

If I don’t immediately stop the project in which I’ve already invested planning time, I won’t make the new project’s deadline. Because I’m forced to work unreasonably fast, I make dozens of mistakes. I agonize over these, but my high-demand, high expectation supervisor always says, “Just keep moving fast.”

Unremitting stress

I’m stressed out all the time. My supervisor tells me I’m doing great, that no one could expect more. I worry that she doesn’t realize how many mistakes I’m actually making and will one day tell me she’s laying me off because I don’t measure up.

I can’t work any faster. I’m afraid something’s got to give and I’m afraid it’s me.


Avoid a meltdown

If you want to avoid a meltdown, you need to understand the truth of your position and not manufacture additional, unneeded pressure.

You’re a starter

You appear to occupy a triage position in which you regularly start projects and leave secondary work to others. During massive emergencies, primary doctors take care of the most crucial emergencies and leave non-life-threatening medical issues to others. These primary physicians can’t afford the time it takes to set broken legs if it delays their saving another person from bleeding out. If this first-responder, triage description fits your reality, stop beating yourself up for not completing every project. You’re the “starter.”

Let perfectionism go

Next, let perfectionism go. Perfect takes time you don’t have and gets in the way of fast, good enough and done.

Along with this, stop second-guessing your supervisor’s assessment. When a high-expectation supervisor says you’re doing great, you probably are. If you fear she’s hiding her true feelings, just say, “Hey boss, you can be honest. I want to do the best possible job. I’m making mistakes.”

Let your supervisor know before you crack

Finally, let her know you’re at over-capacity. One common mistake otherwise terrific employees make is accepting more and more assignments until they ultimately crash. Don’t let that happen to you.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at lynnewriter10@gmail.com, visit her @ www.communicationworks.net or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

One thought on “Avoiding a Meltdown: When Something Has To Give & You Fear It’s You

  1. Inspiring! Let’s hope our friend is able to nip it in the bud and that the boss listens when she/he tells the boss they’re at over-capacity. There is a lot of stress out there, even in better times, and especially now.

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