Using Mentoring as a Way to Address Workplace Sensitivity

Recently, I have found myself using one of my favorite mechanisms to control reactions, which is to count to ten before I engage. While that may sound silly to most, in those ten quiet seconds, I choose to control a tendency to overreact, and always end up putting my best foot forward. For many that’s called self-control, however, at work many of us are quick tempered and unable to manage the emotional frustrations that may come with working with diverse groups. Highly sensitive people are not uncommon in the work environment; in fact studies show that genes are responsible for the 15-20% of individuals who qualify as “highly sensitive.” With all that can be written about that sensitivity gene, what are the advantages of sensitivity in the workplace? How can a highly sensitive person survive in a tough work environment? And can mentoring help one manage this personality type?

Sensitivity and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. I have often found that sensitive people get a bad rap in the work environment, and have wondered whether this labeling is unfair and wrongfully deserved. It can be said that while strong emotions are easily checked in the workplace, using emotional intelligence at work can help these individuals’ communicate more effectively since they go above an interpretation of words to sense and capture gestures and tone. So one can imagine this can be quite challenging for the virtual employee who has to do this based only on capturing tone inflection without the advantage of capturing gestures. The truth is, emotional intelligence can play an important role in making you a great leader, team player, and person in general.
However, we must not forget the downside of being a highly sensitive person in the workplace. These closely guarded emotions, when left unchecked, may have pretty delicate consequences when the heightened emotions create negative tendencies impacting employees around you. In these cases, mentoring as a mechanism for change is useful.

Using the Mentoring to Manage Professional Sensitivity

Perhaps it’s the following attributes about highly sensitive people that help with mentoring since, when managed, can foster a realistic sense of self-confidence. When asked, how do I manage my sensitivities at work, one should guide these individuals towards self-awareness and understanding on how their feelings operate. Knowing how to source your emotions for the appropriate circumstances is the key to dealing with them in the most critical of circumstances. Other strategies include encouraging not breaking under pressure and being able to recover quickly. This technique is only made easier through self-awareness and a willingness to stay in control. A few more compliments to highlight and emphasize the productive nature of sensitivity include the ability to be:

  • Emotional and empathetic;
  • A good listener;
  • A clear and efficient communicator;
  • Understanding of other perspectives; and
  • The ability to make others around you feel calm and in control.

So, to address the bad rap that is often aligned with highly sensitive employees, there is a need to use mentoring to aide individuals to understand how they are perceived by others and manage those perceptions through self-awareness. Your insights into others can be a very valuable commodity, and your bosses may well learn to seek you out for your balanced, but practical insights into keeping an office environment functioning smoothly. If the work environment is stressful, then use your EI skills to flourish and nurture those around you, keep a warm connection with people in the company, contribute emotionally to the company you work for, and trust your intuition and ability to make meaningful contributions.

A Final Thought

A golden thread runs through each of our lives; our ability to know what our strengths and weaknesses are will guarantee that we live life to the fullest. So whether we are good at controlling our emotions or more sensitive, these individual traits make us the best of who we are today. If you look back on your life you should be able to follow this thread all the way through from your childhood, and hopefully recognize it in your current situation. If your life is miserable and colorless, start looking for that thread. It will enable you to grow at work and in your personal life and hopefully provide some value in each environment you enter.
If you or your organization would like to find out more about adult mentoring opportunities, and how a mentoring program can help bridge the gaps experienced from missing employee engagement, please reach out and connect with us at Coley & Associates, we are here to help move your organization forward, and we are passionate about what we do and committed to making a positive difference in our customers’ businesses and the world around us.

By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

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