How many detail-oriented people do you know?


I mean genuinely detail oriented people, not just friends or co-workers who claim to be. Ironically, almost every job posting contains some version of detail-oriented, attention to detail, or detailed  as a requirement, but how many legitimately detail-oriented people do you know?

Whatever the statistics are on the ratio of ‘big-picture’ people vs. the detail-oriented, in my experience it’s at least 10 to 1, and those who can’t help but immerse themselves in minutia are often under-utilized, under-appreciated, and sometimes even subject to the hostilities of others.

The detail-oriented person in your work environment is the one who is asking “Where are we on this project?” while placing a painstakingly crafted Excel spreadsheet calendar containing every project and every deadline for the next six months in front of you – on a daily basis. It’s the person who keeps lists, of lists, of lists on Post-it notes stuck all over their workspace in a multitude of bright colors (each color represents a different category, people). It’s the person most likely to come in a little early, or stay a little late going over checklists, reviewing presentations, double and triple-checking that orders have been placed, approvals have been signed-off on, e-mails have been read and responded to, and who ensures there are exactly 25 bottles of water chilling in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s executive meeting – even though there are only 20 people scheduled to attend.

I have often heard these people who revel in minutia described as annoying, overwhelming, disorganized, time wasters, pollyannas, ass-kissers and pain-in-the-asses, but rarely have I heard someone sing their praises, thank them, or even recognize what an asset they are, in a world where primarily only ‘big-picture’ people are revered and rewarded.

The truth is, the detail-oriented person is annoying, because they are a constant reminder that you have a to-do list you are procrastinating on, or a deadline looming, and they will hold you accountable for your part. They are overwhelming because they spend every waking moment thinking of every possible scenario, from every possible angle, trying to determine what the best course of action might be, which most people just aren’t capable of doing.

They are anything but disorganized time wasters, in fact, if you did a productivity survey of any work environment, you would find that the detail-oriented have significantly higher productivity, greater efficiency, and higher rates of accuracy, which actually save companies a remarkable amount of time and money in a whole host of ways. They are perceived as pollyannas and pain-in-the-asses because they are doing 3 times the work of those around them, in half the time, and are not complaining about it. In fact, they aren’t complaining about much at all, because they’re too busy trying to think of ways to make their own lives – as well as the lives of those around them – more productive, less stressful, and generally, all-around better. Detail-oriented people make everyone else’s life easier by quietly attending to all the little details no one else thinks of, or wants to be bothered with.

So the next time you catch yourself (or someone else), complaining about, trying to ignore, or otherwise negatively reacting to the detail-oriented people in your life, take a moment to assimilate that everything they are handling, accomplishing, or paying a ridiculous amount of attention to – is something you don’t have to worry about (or do), but will likely benefit from at some point. Then smile and thank them for it.  ✻