A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
One of the most critical areas of life is the work that we do. Many people fall into work without much thought using external factors to drive career decisions. And, for the most part, this works for a large segment of the population. However, I contend that HSPs need to be more careful about choosing their right livelihood and making sure employment is not only gratifying but also feels comfortable and is compatible with our sensibilities. With that in mind, I caution all HSPs to be selective and cautious in selecting employment. If you are employed, here are a few items that might suggest you are in the WRONG place to work.
# 1 – Wrong Environment – If the workplace you are in is too competitive and aggressive, likely you will not be comfortable. There is an edginess about places that stress dog eat dog work behavior that doesn’t feel right for most HSPs. If the environment is too crowded, i.e., cubicle farms, open workspace, and not offering space for respite, this will work against your need for solitude and thoughtfulness. Some work areas are too loud and noisy; not only is this distracting, but it can also grate on your nerves and make work uncomfortable. Perhaps the pace of the work is too demanding.
The speed will run counter to your natural conscientiousness and does not allow you to take your time in producing your best work. Some work environments are too bright, with harsh lighting or harbor distinctive strong smells that may cause you to react viscerally and be uncomfortable. Although you can try to ask for some accommodation, you can’t expect a complete remodel of the environment to suit you. Better to look for a place that matches your needs.
#2 – Wrong Manager – A good manager is a real key to workplace success. They provide a utility to enhancing work, facilitating you to be your best; they make you look good, and best of all, they fit your needs. One of the most challenging things for HSPs is to handle criticism. Most managers I have met in my career have not been adequately trained in giving constructive criticism. It is an art that alludes most. Many managers are too critical or hypercritical, which will turn off most HSPs and will often make us wilt, stifling our growth at work.
These managers can be too driven; Type A personalities who will run over you and are way too demanding. These types are usually not very empathetic and could care less about work/life balance for you. You will be miserable. Lastly, although, this is an often overused and misunderstood term, some managers can be like a narcissist, it’s all about them. Your job will be to make them look good, and if you don’t, there’s hell to pay.
#3 – Wrong Teammates- Much like the manager having the right teammates, can make a huge difference in your work experience and success. Now, it’s not likely you will have all teammates meet your compatibility needs but having a few good co-workers does make a difference. Studies have shown that having a best friend at work enhances your work engagement, which serves both you and your employer.
Like the manager and the work environment, teammates that are unempathetic, ultra-competitive, backstabbing, and catty or are intrusive and loud, will make the situation problematic for most HSPs. You will work more closely with your team than anyone else, and, this can make or break a work environment, so in looking for right employment understand that certain types of work draw certain kinds of people, so “if you don’t want to get ate, don’t swim in the shark’s house.”
#4 – Wrong Career Path / Field – This one almost goes without saying and can be one of your first clues. I worked in Information Technology for over thirty years. It was not my ideal career, and as a result, I suffered for it. If you are just starting out in a career, it will behoove you to put a lot of emphasis here. Bad career matches are like bad marriages; people often stick them out even if it is inherently toxic.
Whatever you decide, don’t work in a field to meet someone else’s expectations (parents’, spouse’s, or societal). You will never be happy neglecting your needs, so the sooner you give that up, the better. If you are working only for extrinsic rewards, like money, status, power, but you hate what you are doing, you need to do some serious soul searching. In this case, the price is greater than the reward.
#5 – Does not employ your strengths – We all have individual talents, which is vital for us to explore and use. Still, as HSPs, we all have certain core strengths, such as our creativity, empathy, depth of processing (I see this as slow churn problem-solving skills) our intelligence, both cognitive and emotional, and our sensitivity. For most of us, finding work that maximizes all these talents will be challenging. But it’s not impossible. To get there, you may have to work in less than ideal conditions, but by planning a long-range strategy, you can get there with strategic moves, always keeping the prize in mind.
#6 – Does not challenge you in the right ways – The ideal work environment will challenge you to expand your comfort zone in manageable chunks to provide for optimum growth. Flow state is achieved when we are moderately challenged within our talent framework, and a sense of intense focus and concentration is achieved. Don’t shirk the opportunity to grow by taking on challenges. Another critical factor is that your work environment allows you a certain amount of autonomy, while still providing some structure for you to work your best.
#7 – Work that crushes your soul – Soul crushing work is felt very deep within. There is no pleasure in work; there is only dread. Each day is about surviving, only to have to get up the next morning and repeat the process. The work may go against your ethics or morals, it may go innately against your HSP nature, or it may create some internal existential crisis. It happens. My advice is to leave. Your life is worth more than that.
Bill Allen lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.