Thursday, 30 September 2021

How to manage highly sensitive employees

According to a study and the best-selling book by Dr Elaine Aron, there are 1.4 billion people worldwide that are highly sensitive, and the chances are, some of these people are your employees. This is also known as sensory processing sensitivity and means that a person is more physically, emotionally and mentally responsive.

While highly sensitive people can possess many positive traits such as conscientiousness and personal reflection, it can also lead to burnout. They may also have a constant need for reassurance which can be emotionally draining for other members of staff. Because of this you not only need to manage the person’s increased sensitivity but also the frustration it can cause other workers.

Although you may feel tempted to try and 'fix' a person’s sensitivity, it’s advised to put procedures in place that can manage these traits instead. Sensory processing sensitivity is not a disorder, but a characteristic that is quite normal.

Tips for managing highly sensitive employees

There are several ways that employers can help people who are highly sensitive. By recognising their strengths and understanding their emotional needs, you will also create a more positive work environment.

  1. Do some research and gain a better understanding of sensory processing sensitivity. This will help you to become more sympathetic to the needs of these employees and also help you to learn how to benefit from the value they can add to your company.
  2. Embrace diversity in the workplace and provide additional wellbeing support for all staff so that no-one feels stigmatised for their differences.
  3. Ensure you appreciate and praise your staff. Perhaps once a month send an email or call a meeting where you can personally thank and appreciate your team. Try to find one positive comment for every person so that it doesn’t appear all your attention is solely focused on those who are highly sensitive. 
  4. Offer stress-reducing activities inside or outside of work that will reinforce the importance of rest and relaxation. 
  5. Make sure staff take regular breaks throughout the day and try not to encourage the culture of working late every evening, which can cause both mental and physical exhaustion.
  6. Try to avoid certain triggers that are likely to cause stress such as continuously strict deadlines or excessive workloads. Highly sensitive people are more likely to struggle with these kinds of intense pressures and could find themselves emotionally and mentally drained. 
  7. Prevent gossip in the workplace as this behaviour can be damaging not only to someone who is highly sensitive but also to other members of staff in general. Make your staff aware that you are always available to listen to any problems that might arise so they won’t feel the need to discuss their issues with colleagues or anyone else. 

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