How to Manage Sensitive Co-workers

If you work in an environment that requires collaboration, you should be able to interact with various types of people. It’s important to communicate in a way that works for everyone, especially if you’re managing employees.

Sensitive workers are often difficult to manage, especially for more dominating personalities. These suggestions will help you better understand and communicate with highly sensitive employees.

Don’t Criticize 

The first thing to remember is that highly sensitive people don’t receive criticism in the way that others do. Even constructive criticism may feel like a personal statement about their character. Thus, the way criticism is phrased has a huge impact on how the sensitive person will respond. If they are making mistakes on the job, show them the right way to do things, while politely explaining why their way could cause problems. 

If hurt feelings arise, try to pair the sensitive person with different coworkers who are more caring and understanding. If disagreements seem to be affecting the sensitive person’s work ethic after time has passed, have a private meeting with them to clear the air. This will enable them to express themselves, while enabling you to address how they’ve been slacking.

Soften Your Approach

Instead of saying, "You did this wrong," take the emphasis off of them by saying, "Here, I’ll show you how to do this a better way." This allows the sensitive person to understand the mistake without feeling discouraged or embarrassed. Even if they are performing poorly, berating them will only worsen their performance. 

Sensitive people aren’t fond of direct orders like, "Do this now" or "You need to work faster." While you may simply mean that they should work faster, the sensitive person will feel that you are being unnecessarily rude. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give them orders, however it helps to soften your phrasing. Instead say, "Do you think you can work faster?" or "You’ll have to do this now." These statements are simply less direct, but will result in the same changes being made. 

Express Appreciation 

Sensitive people appreciate consideration and will work efficiently for a boss who demonstrates this. Instead of assuming or demanding that they work overtime, ask in advance. If they enquire about a raise and the answer is no, don’t be arrogant. Simply explain why it isn’t possible. If they truly deserve something that can’t be given to them at the moment, apologize and tell them that you appreciate their hard work. This simple statement will smooth over any misunderstanding, and assure the sensitive person that you are not taking advantage of them.

Sensitive people will also appreciate their individual talents and strengths being recognized. Congratulating them in specific areas or positioning them to work on tasks they are good at can go a long way.

Manage Disputes

If you are in a dispute with an employee who seems overly-sensitive, don’t approach them in an aggressive or insulting manner. This will cause them to shut down, or worse, write you off as someone they cannot trust. Instead, speak to them in a regular tone and explain how they’ve offended you. Sensitive people will typically feel remorse once they realize that they’ve hurt someone’s feelings.

If it seems that the sensitive employee is unmanageable and reacting to everything you say, suggest that they take time alone to sort out the issue. Try not to become emotional yourself, as this will only ramp them up further. If a sensitive person is mature, they will realize, once alone, that they were in the wrong.

 There is sometimes a misconception that sensitive people are defective, and simply need to toughen up. While it is important for them to develop a thicker skin, commanding personalities should also work on being more polite and accommodating. Sensitivity isn’t a flaw, but simply a trait that is as valuable as any other.