Recently, we published two articles surrounding introverts in the workplace. After coming across some interesting research suggesting that introverts are usually highly sensitive people, we thought it would be a useful extension to look at what this means and how it relates to the way we work?
Before we get to the question of sensitive workers, let’s have a look at what makes up a highly sensitive person. And no, it’s not someone that can’t be criticised or addressed without bursting into tears. A highly sensitive person will be:
- More prone to deep thought and introspection
- Detail orientated
- Overwhelmed when over stimulated
- More aware of subtleties in their environment
There is of course much more to it than this, and if you’re curious, take the self-test here.
Don’t assume all introverts are sensitive
People that display highly sensitive traits (HSPs for short) are not all introverts. In fact, according to researcher and author Elaine Aron, 30% of HSPs are extroverts. She also states that around 15 to 20% of the population are HSPs. Interesting fact for you, it’s also found to be a condition in numerous animals.
“This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others',” she says.
Identifying the people with HSP traits
For employers, it’s important to recognise that personality type can influence performance. With this in mind, leveraging your company’s online learning management system (LMS), employers could undertake some basic personality testing, enabling managers to begin to understand their team’s potential strengths and weaknesses. Cautionary note here, a specific result doesn’t mean we should pigeon-hole staff, nothing beats clear, open communication.
Managing staff with HSP traits
Sudden loud noises, pressure to get things done quickly, a chaotic or noisy environment, criticism when they have made a mistake; the HSP is much more sensitive to these than the average person. This means that in order to get the most of them, employers will need to:
- Provide a quiet working area
- Handle criticism constructively
- Encourage team working (HSPs perform well in this environment)
HSPs are deep thinkers and so make great team members, so long as they don’t have to make the final decision. This means that they will be very good at analysing a situation, especially since they notice more nuances, and can weigh up the pros and cons of a situation easily.
Due to their nature of being deep thinkers, HSPs can and do become highly successful in their chosen careers and offer many benefits to employers as they tend to be:
- Able to anticipate the needs and emotional reactions of others
- Able to process ideas on a deeper level
- Able to work well with little supervision and instruction
- Capable of effectively avoiding office politics
- Incredibly productive
How to Get the Most from a HSP
In order to get the best out of a HSP or an introvert, an employer should assign tasks that make the most of their talents and minimises confrontation.
The office set up is important too. Whilst many believe that open offices are more productive, 95% of workers say they would prefer to have a “quiet, private environment for concentrated work”.
The open plan office is pretty standard, but ensuring your space has sufficient “quiet rooms” or offices that serve as hot desks, allows staff to undertake “concentrated work”.
Use technology. Companies have a global office today, staff are widely dispersed, whether interstate or international, so ensure your intranet provides private workgroups for specific projects, document control and sharing, as well as an easy to use staff directory with profiles. Don’t underestimate the power of social intranets, particularly for HSPs and introverts, for creating a great space for employees to network, increasing productivity through collaboration.
As an employer, competitive advantage can be found in leveraging your existing resources more effectively. Ultimately, if you understand and manage your employees, you end up with low maintenance and high value. Increase productivity and employee satisfaction today.
- Understanding employee personalities via online assessments
- Coach them appropriately through online learning management systems and face-to-face mentorship
- Make use of technology such as social intranets to facilitate sharing, collaboration and internal networking