Thriving with High Formality Colleagues featured image

Thriving with High Formality Colleagues

By: Hero Frenzel

~ 5 minute read

Have you ever found yourself working alongside a colleague who seems to have a laser focus on details? Perhaps you’ve wondered how to bridge the gap between their meticulous approach and your more laid-back style. In this blog post, we’re diving deep into the world of high formality co-workers. We’ll explore what high formality means at work, debunk some common misconceptions, and discover how to work harmoniously with these detail-oriented individuals.

What is Formality in the Workplace?

Formality, in the context of workplace behavior, is the need for structure in order to do the work. In the Predictive Index Formality is a key workplace driver and is called the “D Factor”.  Everyone has some level of formality in their work style, but those with higher formality (high D) are driven to avoid mistakes and tend to be very serious about the work they do. These individuals place a strong emphasis on structure, precision, and attention to detail. They’re the ones who ensure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed. They want to follow a process rather than just wing it, in an effort to get to the most successful outcomes.

On the other hand, low formality (low D) individuals need freedom from structure and do their best work when they don’t have to follow a particular structure. These individuals are more comfortable going with the flow and following loose guidelines rather than rigid processes. Low formality is comfortable with ambiguity and great at pushing forward through uncertainty to achieve their outcomes.

Now, let’s tackle some misconceptions about high formality that often lead to misunderstandings in the workplace:

Misconceptions About High Formality

  • High Formality is Resistant to New Ideas: One common misconception is that high formality individuals resist new ideas. However, their meticulous approach is driven by a desire for successful outcomes. They invest time in understanding the details to ensure everything runs smoothly. Embrace their knowledge and recognize that their attention to detail isn’t a sign of resistance but a commitment to excellence. When it comes to their own work, perfection-seeking employees are sometimes perceived as “powerhouses” who want to do everything themselves. While they may excel at self-reliance, they also appreciate insights, suggestions, and assistance from others when needed. Don’t hesitate to offer your ideas and support—it’s a collaborative effort.
  • High Formality Slows Work Down: Highly detail-oriented employees are often seen as asking too many questions, dwelling on nitpicky details, and getting caught “in the weeds”. In reality, they ask questions to gain a better understanding and ensure accurate comprehension of information. Rather than dismissing their inquiries, engage in constructive conversations to clarify goals, outcomes, and timelines. If information, data, and clarity on what success looks like is provided at the upfront, your high formality team members can work with great efficiency and accuracy.
  • High Formality Prefers Micromanagement: Some people think that high formality workers have a penchant for micromanagement (either to be micromanagers or preferring to be micromanaged, themselves). However, their desire for clarity of expectations and for a structure to follow is fueled by a genuine desire to produce the high quality work, not to be hand-held along the way. In addition, high formality employees are often devoted to details and may check-in with management often, because they understand how attention to detail makes a final product successful and they want to avoid mistakes along the way to success. Invite them into planning conversations, set clear goals, and show your support for any organizational processes– then turn them loose! 

What Your High Formality Colleagues Want You to Know

To build a successful partnership with high formality colleagues, here’s what they’d like you to keep in mind:

High Formality is the Voice of Reason. When a high formality colleague raises questions or highlights potential issues, it’s not to rain on your parade. They are the voice of reason and want to ensure successful outcomes. Instead of dismissing their concerns, engage in a constructive dialogue, outline goals, and understand their perspective. So, if it appears your super serious coworker is throwing up a roadblock, it’s not about derailing the project, undermining authority, or asserting superiority—it’s about contributing to a collective effort to find the best solutions and avoid mistakes.

Balance Matters. While they appreciate detail, they also value efficiency. They want valuable information that helps move things forward. Paying attention to the smallest details may seem picky, but it’s crucial for maintaining smooth operations and ensuring safety and satisfaction for everyone involved. Strive to provide the details they need without overwhelming them with unnecessary information.

Communication is Key. This old adage is especially true for high formality employees who want to be “in the know” and need clarity of expectations to do their job well. Provide a thorough walkthrough of what’s needed, including expectations, and timelines. Avoid leaving things open-ended and communicate if priorities or expectations change. Create an environment where they feel comfortable asking questions and seek to understand the requirements fully. This reduces the need for them to figure everything out independently. 

How to Help High Formality Employees Thrive

For high formality workers to excel in their roles, consider adapting your own behavior. When you make a few small changes, you’ll not only create a more inclusive and collaborative work environment, but also tap into the productivity and accuracy your colleagues have to offer.

  1. Encourage Questions & Acknowledge Concerns

Don’t dismiss high formality workers or complain about their meticulous approach. Unproductive language like “they don’t have a growth mindset” or “this will take forever” hinders collaboration. While these dedicated workers appreciate efficiency, they also value attention to detail. Rushing through conversations or overlooking essential details can cause frustration. Acknowledge their concerns instead of dismissing them as trivial. Addressing these worries promptly and effectively is vital for their peace of mind and productivity. Take the time to ensure accuracy and completeness. And responding with “don’t worry” is a surefire way to cause a high formality employee to do just that.

  1. Be Punctual

If meetings are scheduled at a specific time, be on time. Communicate if there are any delays or the need to reschedule as far in advance as possible. High formality workers can accommodate the need for flexibility and change, but they would prefer a heads up. Respect their commitment to schedules and deadlines.

  1. Respond Timely and Thoroughly

When responding to their emails or requests, read thoroughly before replying (What, read the email? Yes, please!). Provide the requested details and avoid vague responses like “let’s figure it out later.” This only puts your formal workers on edge and could cause them to wait before moving forward. Communicate plans promptly. Precision-seeking employees rely on timely information to make informed decisions and take appropriate action. When details and expectations are provided late, your high formality team members experience conflict at having to re-do work or re-plan their workday. Avoid springing last-minute surprises, when possible.

Managing Differences in Formality

Managing employees with different formality factors can be challenging but the yin and yang of high and low formality can produce a powerhouse team. Here are some considerations:

Clarify What Success Looks Like: Ensure everyone understands what a successful outcome looks like. Share the end goal, involved parties, moving parts, deadlines, and any other details critical to the work. If there is not a set structure or process in place, describe any non-negotiables and ask your high formality employees to weigh in and build any needed process, playbook, or other structures they would find helpful to achieve the end goal. 

Set Expectations: High formality employees want their work to be perfect, but that’s not always achievable, or even expected. Define what’s acceptable not to be perfect and what aspects must go well. For example, sometimes it is more important to respond to inquiries quickly than to have a full answer, so the expectation is to respond within 24-hours with “I’m looking into that” or “here is what I know now, I will get more details next week” rather than waiting a week to obtain the detailed, correct answer. Establish clear expectations for resources and support. Let them know you have their back, especially when things don’t go as planned.

Ask Questions: Be sure to ask questions such as “What else do you need to know to get started?” or “What questions do you have before moving forward?” This will create a comfortable and inclusive environment as well provide space for collecting accurate information in order to produce quality work. 


In conclusion, high formality colleagues bring a valuable perspective to the workplace. By embracing their meticulous nature and recognizing their commitment to success, you can foster a harmonious and productive work environment. Remember, it’s all about finding the right balance and appreciating the unique strengths each team member brings to the table.

So, the next time you find yourself collaborating with a high formality colleague, approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Together, we can achieve great results.

Navigate Team Relationships

Optimize strengths by leveraging the insights from the Predictive Index® for your team with these quick videos.

Hero Frenzel

Glue of MindWire with a flair for education, media creation, and team building. Baker, actress, family woman, and aspiring beach dweller fueled by coffee, tea, and joy.