(Highly) Sensitive Employees: Great Indicators of a Company’s Well-Being?

Put your hands in the air if:
*You struggle with motivation to go to work every day
*You hate/can not stand your boss
*You feel stuck in our tasks, misunderstood
*You see issues at work, you would like to solve them but no one wants to listen to you
*You wish to have more freedom in how contributing to your company your company
*You have already experienced burnout or high anxiety due to work
This article is for you, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your parents, your friends, your HR, your boss, your company…!!

“Traditional Companies” and some of their potential challenges

We tend to think “the bigger, the better”, well it is not always true…as for example in companies. The more employees an institution has, the more it is primordial to make sure each element is working well independently, but also still well connected all together. Many companies almost go bankrupt by forgetting this important statement. Nowadays (and thankfully!), due to customers demands and rise of awareness, companies are strongly invited to implement more sustainable strategies. Those involve significantly decreasing their ecological footprint, but also enhancing the quality of the working environment and the well being of their employees. Leaders understand more and more the current equation: Happy Workers = Better Productivity. In small companies, as the number of employees is low, is usually easier for the leader or CEO to take care of the staff. However, it becomes more challenging when companies reach over 50, 100 or even 1000 employees!

Thanks to the telecommunication and transportation technologies, companies can grow and expand themselves even more easily in their home country, in the same continent or in a different one. As this system is becoming more and more complex, how can we manage to know well enough all our colleagues/ employees, make sure of their well-being, and therefore, be able to make good decisions for everyone? Losing connections with your own employees can be suicidal as it can lead to fatal decisions. The trust in a leader takes some time to be gained; losing it can be easy, fast and often definitive. If we lead the company in the wrong direction, no matter how big or powerful this one used to be, it is likely to collapse, sooner or later.

This is where the HRs pop-up and aim to create a link between the employees and the leaders of the company and, work on assuring a good working environment. However, can we simply and only “learn” how to take care of a working environment by getting a degree in a business school? For that kind of tasks, sensitivity and empathy aren’t keys? Since empathy and especially sensitivity are still too often seen as a handicap in our society, can we even wonder how many companies focus on those two aspects? I challenge yourself to imagine the CEO of a huge company talking about the importance of empathy and being sensitive in a sincere statement. I bet you would be wondering what kind of substances he took or if he is suffering from a burnout.

Why considering your institution becoming more  “HSP-Friendly”?

As the former article “HSP, Sensitivity and Xmen Stuff” presented, there is about 15-20% of the population being highly sensitive (HSP), equal ratio women/men, who most likely struggle to live in a world for standard sensitive persons. This means that it is likely for you to find in your company someone being highly sensitive. From that assumption, why not considering and integrating their full potential into your company? HSPs are people having high sensory processing sensitivity. They have the ability to notice details and process information more than the others, which allows them to observe things more into details, and therefore, noticing more easily mistakes. They also can use their high imagination and creativity to solve problems or to bring some improvement when/if the situation allows them to do. This is already great but there is even more! Since they are more “sensitive” to their surroundings, they are often more conscientious, intuitive and empathic.

Those characteristics make HSPs perfect to raise the alarm in case of mistakes, but also acting as sensors regarding the quality of the working environment. We have always used some natural indicators sensitive to some phenomenon in order to avoid an incident or to predict within some time a potential danger in order to find the right solution:

Mussels: indicate contamination and overall waterbody health

Lobsters: indicate climate change and rising ocean temperatures

Canaries: indicated the early escape of toxic gases in coal mines

However, to embrace HSP`s potential, it is important for business leaders to recognize and accept that 1/5 of the persons are likely to be highly sensitive. Caroline Ferguson, in her TedTalks (1) asks leaders to understand more the need of their HSP employees in order to allow them to shine: Creating a suitable working space and a good relationship with the employees, making them feel comfortable enough to share their insights. Due to their creativity, HSPs might prefer to work under alternative ways and not follow the formal instructions in still having very good results. However it might not always be welcomed and could cause them problems in their working life. Working places can be sometimes really over-stimulating, as for example the trends of open working spaces with too many sounds/noises, and things going on around making it hard to HSPs to focus and feeling possibly tired. It is also important to end the culture of over-working. The Anglo-Saxon model has proved that staying later does not increase productivity, it is rather the opposite. More and more experts suggest having 3 or 4 working days per week. HSPs have twice more chance than others to have a burnout. In her article (2), Lauren Bergman, highly sensitive, shares her experience of not being understood at work.

Considering more the well-being of HSP workers would also be beneficial for others, in creating a more stress-free working environment and in requesting leaders being more adaptable to the unicity their employees. By this way, leaders would understand and value more the diversity of their workforce as neglecting it would affect the well-being of their employees and therefore the well-being of the company.

Last May, the World Health Organization officially recognized the burn-out been as a chronic condition and added ‘unmanaged work stress’ to its list of diseases at their annual summit” (link). This is good news, but still lots of work must be done.

We spend most of our time at work, why should we suffer and struggle to express our own potential there?

(1) Caroline Ferguson , Unlocking the Secret Power of Sensitivity at Work, TEDxDrapanosWomen               

(2) Lauren Bergman, 5 Things I Wish the Work World Understood About HSPs

(As always thanks a lot to Elisa for the support!)

3 thoughts on “(Highly) Sensitive Employees: Great Indicators of a Company’s Well-Being?

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