It’s my workplace and I’ll cry if I want to!

Date: 07 April 2016

So what do you do if you are dealing with a highly sensitive employee? Perhaps you need to have a difficult conversation with them and you’re afraid of their reaction. Or they may have left the office in floods of tears after Suzie from Payroll failed to say hello to them this morning and now you need to pick up the pieces.

The first step is to recognise that we can’t control other peoples’ behaviour, but we can control our own. That’s not to say you have to accept their actions if they are uncalled for, but, when you need to have the conversation with your employee, being aware that they can be highly sensitive and tailoring your approach to cater for this will pay dividends. Think about the way you are delivering your message; simple things such as avoiding ambiguous statements and checking your body language. Try not to react to what they are saying, but maintain control of the conversation and remain calm. Having a general awareness of the way you are coming across will assist you to get the message across in a way that will be accepted and taken on board by the employee.

Our next tip is to be honest. A paradox in itself, but honesty, really is the best policy. If you are apprehensive about being honest with an employee, you are more than likely going to sugar coat the message, hesitate, avoid the conversation or outright lie to them. Your highly sensitive employee may pick up on your hesitation and use this to fuel their drama. Don’t let them; provide the employee with as much factual information as possible.

Our final tip would be to provide clear and structured expectations on how to move forward. Ideally these need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) but the ultimate goal is to ensure that they leave the room knowing exactly what is expected of them, and what will happen if they do not meet these expectations.

With all this in mind, it is worth noting that some highly emotional employees may have a point behind what they are saying, so make sure you listen to what they are telling you and investigate where appropriate.

And what can happen if you don’t nip this behaviour in the bud? If highly sensitive employees are able to carry on behaving in a disruptive manner this can have a ripple effect throughout the team and company. Employees may see this behaviour going unnoticed and feel that highly sensitive reactions are being facilitated which could lead to them losing trust and respect in the management team. This could result in the company having to invoke more formal processes such as mediation, grievance or disciplinary action.

The team at RBHR can assist you to deal with your highly sensitive employees, in a drama free way. Whether you need support to have a difficult conversation, set SMART targets, or the situation has spiralled and you need more formal help, give us a call on 01935 411191 or email us on