Personality Matters When Employees Are on Vacation

For once, researchers and employees agree—it is absolutely necessary to take a vacation. If employees are not given breaks from work, they experience physical and mental fatigue, which puts them at risk for a variety of other more serious health problems. Vacations offer many important benefits to employees, such as the ability to recharge their batteries and increase their happiness. These effects have also been found to carry over into the subsequent work-weeks following vacations. However, it has recently been found that not everybody is able to reap these same lingering benefits that vacations have to offer.


If you are a self-critical perfectionist (i.e. somebody who sets overly high goals and evaluates yourself in an extremely critical manner), the data suggest that you will not properly enjoy your vacation. While self-critical perfectionists are able to relax and be as happy as non-perfectionists during the vacation period (possibly, because they are not engaged in activities that allow for self-criticism while on vacation), they almost immediately return to their pre-vacation stress-levels after returning to work. Researchers found that this difference is caused by the tendency that many of these perfectionists share of ruminating about past errors and worrying about future errors.


So, what does this research mean for the self-critical perfectionists of the world? They certainly shouldn’t worry about worrying too much. Researchers have proposed that the solution lies in mindfulness interventions that teach employees how to identify and reduce their anxiety-producing thoughts and stop repetitively worrying and ruminating about performance based tasks. As always, more research is needed to determine if these interventions could be effective.


Flaxman, P. E., Menard, J., Bond, F. W., & Kinman, G. (2012). Academics’ experiences of a respite from work: Effects of self-critical perfectionism and perseverative cognition on postrespite well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 854-65.