Highly sensitive people: an asset to your team.

We’re working to increasingly busy schedules, under escalating pressure and with almost constant connectivity due to the increasing number of communication tools and applications available to us. We feel obliged to garner as many “like”s as possible and collect as many “friends” as we can. Most of us have made this permanent availability and service part of our daily lives and have adapted to it very well. But for some 15 to 20% of the population, these constant external stimuli present a real challenge.

Perhaps you know people like this: they can’t handle loud environments, they prefer to work alone at their own pace, they fall to pieces when they feel they’re being observed, and they are easily overwhelmed. They feel out of their depth, unable to keep up with others and excluded. These may be highly sensitive people (HSP). This is not a flaw, but a character trait, identified recently in the work of the Canadian psychologist Elaine Aron.

HSPs have much to offer as colleagues. Their work is often meticulous, thorough and methodical. Patient and analytical, they excel at spotting subtleties that others don’t notice, and they’re extremely empathetic.

Highly sensitive people have qualities that make them particularly suited to certain roles. Their heightened emotional awareness means they understand the emotions and motives of others more readily and they are often employed in sales roles, for example, because of their ability to anticipate customers’ expectations.

HSPs are valued in managerial roles because they respect and value team members and offer them opportunities. They’re clear in their expectations concerning roles and responsibilities. They’re not interested in control, but trust people and provide them with the resources they need. HSPs are sensitive to justice and fairness. They’re more “relationship-oriented” than “schedule-oriented” and make sure everyone is included in decisions.

HSPs feel at ease in advisory and diplomacy roles and those that involve face-to-face interactions. They also shine in professions that require precision, such as data analysis, accounting and programming.

HSPs make connections and spot things that others don’t see, such as tiny variations or omissions. This helps them identify opportunities. Because they’re more sensitive than average, HSPs are also useful when it comes to predicting crises. They give off warning signals that, when correctly interpreted, can make it possible to act in time.

If you have people in your team who often seem overworked and easily irritated, ask yourself whether they might be HSPs. Discover your colleagues’ inner value and how they can use their assets to the benefit of the team. Consider their difference as an advantage! 


Pierre Gildemyn

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