How Formality Informs Management Style


High Formality Management

I’ve recently had a number of clients call to discuss challenges in managing their teams.  In discussing the issues they were having, most stemmed from differences in the management style of the manager vs. the work style of the employees being managed, specifically with regard to Formality (D Factor).  The managers were managing all of their people the way they like to be managed, instead of adapting their style to the individual employee's needs.




High Formality (High D) Manager

This person tends to manage their people closely, check in more frequently and tends to be more rigid about the way things are done.  


Complimentary Style

High D employees tend to appreciate this style.  Since they like certainty, don’t like to make mistakes and tend to be more sensitive to criticism, frequently check-ins satisfy their needs and make them feel safe.  They know they can’t go too far down the wrong track without their boss catching a misstep.  To the High D employee, a High D manager looks like a “real manager”.


Contrasting Style

Low D employees, who are adaptable, flexible and more big-picture focused tend to like to be told what to do, but not how to do it.  The High D management style makes them feel suffocated, not trusted or just plain annoyed.  They wish their boss would just “back off” and let them do their job.  To the Low D employee, the High D manager looks like a “micro-manager”.


Coaching for the Contrasting Style

High D Managers should sit down with their Low D employees and discuss the differences in styles.  The manager should admit that they have a need for more check-ins and may be more rigid about the “right way” to do things.  They should discuss strategies to make sure that both parties get their needs met.  Some suggestions: 

  • Schedule regular check-ins at intervals that are agreeable to both people.  The High D manager may want it to be daily, while the Low D employee may want it to be just weekly.  Compromise and agree on check-ins on Tues. and Thurs.
  • Assuming it is true, reassure the employee that the frequent check-ins are more about the manager’s needs and not about the performance of the employee (“It’s me, not you”).  Emphasize that it doesn’t mean the employee is not trusted.  Sometimes the awareness of the fact that the behavior is not personal makes the employee more accepting of the manager’s style and even can make them more willing to proactively share information and progress to satisfy the manager’s needs.
  • Allow the employee to have more leeway with the “how”.  If they manager wants something done and the employee wants to take a different approach, the manager should allow it, assuming the outcome is acceptable.  The employee will feel more empowered and the manager may discover a better or more efficient way of getting the job done.
  • Check back after a month of implementing these strategies to see what is working and what may need to be tweaked.  Open communication about differences in styles leads to more productivity.