Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

How to manage sensitive employees in your organization – 6 tips

According to a 2018 research paper, 31% of people are highly sensitive. That’s a big enough portion of the population that you need to know how to manage sensitive employees.

Famous sensitive people include Princess Diana, Abraham Lincoln, Frida Kahlo, and Mozart.

If you don’t know how to manage sensitive employees, it can lead to burnout. Or your sensitive employees might just leave altogether because they feel unsupported.

What makes someone sensitive?

Sensitive people are those of us who respond to physical, mental, or emotional stimuli more strongly than an average person. It’s often perceived as a negative trait, but it comes with huge positives.

For example, a sensitive person may experience emotions more deeply – but this means they can better empathize with others. Many creatives are sensitive and that’s why their songs, poems, and art create strong reactions in others.

Sensitive people can be great at sales because they can quickly build a rapport with prospects and show an understanding of the person’s problem.

This empathy and understanding also makes them great leaders, because they listen to, and take on, other people’s feelings.

Other symptoms of high sensitivity include a lower pain tolerance (including finding fabric itchy); perfectionism; jumpiness; being easily affected by other people’s moods, and a greater attention to detail.

For a complete list of symptoms, check out this sensitivity list from the Highly Sensitive Refuge. Someone doesn’t have to experience all the symptoms to be a sensitive person.

While being sensitive has many benefits, and great thinkers and inventors throughout time were sensitive, it comes with challenges.

So here are some steps that can help with how to manage sensitive employees.

Give them control over their workspace

When an employee can control their own space, and work on their own terms, you’ll get the best out of them whether they’re sensitive or not.

Forcing them to work in a cold office with bright fluorescent lights at a time when they’re half-awake means you’ll have unhappy and unproductive employees. Being inflexible can really take a toll when it comes to how to manage sensitive employees.

If they need to be in the office, perhaps you could compromise and allow them to work remotely a couple of days per week.

They could come in earlier or stay later so that they can work when it’s quieter.

At my previous job, I started an hour before most of the people on my floor. It was magical how quiet it was. 

I loved that time because it felt like I could think more clearly without the constant background noise that comes with an open-plan office.

Use open communication

Sensitive people often don’t want to ask for what they need for fear of upsetting others. So instead, they suffer themselves.

This is why open communication is so important.

Periodically, ask employees if there’s anything they need to do their job better.

It might be that their chair is uncomfortable, or they want to work from a different desk. 

Small things like this can help you get more—and better quality—work from your employees.

Not only that, but establishing a culture of open communication is key to efforts around how to manage sensitive employees. It makes people feel calmer and more supported, further helping them perform at their best.

And encouraging them to stay for longer.

To make sure you don’t forget to ask employees what they need, why not turn on automated surveys? Better yet—automate the data analysis, too.

Get in touch to find out how Workrowd can help you do just that.

Allow for regular breaks

Regular breaks should be acceptable in any workplace, in my opinion. No one can work for four hours straight, have an hour for lunch, then work for four more hours. Not a single person has concentration skills that good.

Not to mention how often we get interrupted by colleagues walking past, emails coming in, Slack or Teams messages, social media…then how hard it is to focus again after all those disruptions.

Regular breaks, particularly in busy or noisy spaces, allow employees to reset.

This then means they can come back to their desks recharged and better able to concentrate.

Breaks also help us return to a problem with a clearer head, making it easier to find a solution we missed before from spending too long working on something.

Giving them the space to take a breather when needed can be a big help when it comes to how to manage sensitive employees.

Reduce visual clutter

Sometimes, to fill a space, there’s the temptation to turn a wall into an art gallery or add lots of inspiring quotes or bright colors or patterns.

This visual clutter is mentally stimulating, but in busy environments it can quickly become overwhelming. This is an especially key consideration when thinking about how to manage sensitive employees.

You obviously don’t want team members to fall asleep, but the office should be a calm place to be, not one that’s going to leave people so distracted they can’t concentrate on their roles.

Consider things like:

  • Adding some plants (fake ones if you can’t keep real ones alive, but real ones can work well as air purifiers. Avoid ones with lots of flowers so that you don’t trigger hay fever sufferers)
  • Using neutral/natural colors like white, cream, or light green. Blues and greens are the most calming colors
  • Resisting the temptation to put tons of inspirational quotes on the walls
  • Getting rid of glaring fluorescent lighting. Anything is better than that
  • Providing screen protectors to reduce the glare on monitors for anyone working near bright lights or windows

Offer employees noise-cancelling headphones

Background noise can be irritating to some people but not others.

For instance, as I write this, I can hear:

  • The air purifier humming
  • The fridge/freezer buzzing
  • Cars driving past
  • The dog breathing

And each one of those sounds distracts me.

Some days those noises don’t bother me, but right now I need to go find my noise-cancelling headphones so that I can focus.

Providing noise-cancelling headphones is an effective way to up your game on how to manage sensitive employees. They block out external stimuli and send a clear signal to colleagues that a person doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Set up an ERG

ERGs are great places for employees to meet like-minded people.

It gives them somewhere they belong at work, further providing sensitive employees with the support they need to perform in the workplace.

Need help organizing yours? We’ve got you! Get in touch to book your free demo.


Sensitive employees bring a unique set of skills that every workplace can benefit from. 

To get the most out of these employees, it’s important to encourage them to ask for what they need, and provide them with time, space, and equipment. This recipe ensures they’re happy in their roles and more productive as a result.

If you’re wondering how to manage sensitive employees and want some help, Workrowd has your back. Our all-in-one suite of tools makes it easy to give sensitive employees everything they need to engage at their own pace.

Plus, with automated surveys and real-time analytics, you always know what’s working and where you could step things up a bit.

Ready to learn more? Drop by our site or reach out to us at

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