ILLUSTRATION BY GWENDA KACZOR
The demand for highly sensitive employees has never been stronger in a commercial environment characterized by automation, digitization, and rising incivility. According to one survey, those who score the highest on sensitivity are not just the most stressed, but also the best evaluated by supervisors. This emphasizes the reality that people with sensitivity, when managed properly, can be among your workplace's most valuable assets.
However, most managers are not only unaware of the trait, but also lack the tools necessary to appropriately supervise, nurture, and retain their sensitive leaders. Managing a highly sensitive person (HSP) requires some adjustment, but here's how to maximize what they have to give your team and company.
See sensitivity as a strength, not a shortcoming.
Neurodiversity (various mental processing patterns, such as high sensitivity) results in better outcomes. But, all too frequently, HSPs are viewed as frail, excessively emotional employees who require a lot of hand-holding. This antiquated viewpoint overlooks the distinct abilities that HSPs offer to the workplace, such as creativity, problem-solving, and empathy.
Managers must alter their mindset to see that sensitivity is a natural difference in personality, not a weakness, in order to effectively lead and manage HSPs. Rather than perceiving sensitivity as a flaw, explore the qualities your sensitive employees bring to the table and how they may be used. For example:
HSPs are adept at seeing patterns, reading between the lines, and detecting subtle indications, making them well-suited to identifying possibilities or threats that others overlook.
HSPs can be skilled persuaders, influencers, and negotiators, as well as specialists at building teamwork and camaraderie, because they are sensitive to the emotions and needs of others.
HSPs listen to many points of view and seek common ground, which can be quite useful during conflict resolution.
Highly sensitive individuals are hardwired to seek out danger. This attentiveness was useful in prehistoric times and can be useful in recognizing threats that endanger the safety and security of the team or business. However, in the face of ambiguity, it might lead to excessive worry and overthinking.
It's no secret that today's leaders must be able to function in unparalleled unpredictability and instability. HSPs flourish in environments that provide order and clarity, allowing them to focus on their task and perform at their best. It's critical to provide clarity about the scope of their role, goals, and exactly what is expected of them to help highly sensitive individuals stay balanced. This could include:
Creating a "me manual" - a guide to working with you as a leader that includes communication preferences and expectations, among other things.
Making a RACI chart to outline who on the team is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed about certain projects or choices.
Setting aside a monthly one-on-one appointment to address professional growth
Don’t put them on the spot.
High sensitivity is distinguished by the ability to think before behaving. This can be a helpful advantage in a variety of situations since it helps HSPs to examine several perspectives and potential outcomes before acting.
You'll receive greater ideas and performance from your sensitive employees if you give them time to think about and construct solutions rather of putting them on the spot. This could involve:
Agendas and idea starters are sent out in advance of meetings.
Allowing for asynchronous writing responses
Giving people advance notice of critical decisions so they can adjust and acclimate
Similarly, teach your sensitive employees how to deal with problems. Perhaps you can practice challenging discussions so they feel more prepared, or you can talk about how they might overcome hurdles so they feel more in control.
By recognizing and valuing the contributions of highly sensitive team members, managers can create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture that benefits everyone.