HSPs in the workplace, Part 1: How we both thrive and struggle

Careers can be extremely exciting for HSPs, but also difficult if our environment isn’t set up to support our highly sensitive personality.

I know that I can be very excited and motivated at work, but after bouts of engagement during meetings, tradeshows, and chatter around the office I feel exhausted.

Some days I just wish I could be invisible at my desk because I feel pulled in so many directions. This stresses me out, and I become frustrated and start to feel defeated.

Thankfully there is a reason for this, and it is because I am an HSP. Now that I understand the trait and how it affects me, What I used to call my “weird antisocial days” I now call my “HSP in need days.” I understand that my body is telling me “Chelsie, you need some time to re-charge and process the last couple of days. I need your empathy; we can’t afford to spend it on others right now.”

Before I knew about the highly sensitive trait, this was really tough to understand and accept about myself.

Unfortunately, the reality is that work places today aren’t usually designed to meet HSP’s needs… BUT we can do our best to moderate them, or look for new career paths that provide an environment better suited for us.

~ ~ ~

5 ways HSPs thrive in a work setting:

  1. We are excellent team players. We have the gift of empathy; we’re very good at hearing out everyone’s suggestions and point of view. We’re courteous of other’s feelings, and good at making individuals feel heard, valued and accepted. HSPs can often read between the lines of conversations, allowing them to easily summarize the outcome of group discussions.
  1. We are creative. We leverage our creativity to think outside of the box, and come up with creative solutions to problems. When there is conflict, HSPs will be the first to offer a creative solution that benefits everyone.
  1. We pick up on subtleties that others miss. I read a great story in Ted Zeff’s book: “HSP Success Stories,” about an HSP nurse who noticed that her patient who was recovering from surgery just seemed off. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was and when she told the doctors, they brushed it off. That evening the patient was rushed to ICU because a large blood clot was detected in his leg. Had the nurse not stayed late because she was worried, the patient may have passed away.
  1. We assess every outcome before acting. Whether it is a PR scenario, a difficult customer, or an important judgement call, HSPs have a natural “pause to check” instinct, making them more cautious than non-HSPs. When faced with a decision to make at work, they will run every possible outcome through their head first, before choosing the best approach.
  1. We are hard workers. Oh yes, we take pride in our work and have a hard time saying “well, it’s good enough.” Our projects are immaculate and thorough, and we tend to go above and beyond.

5 ways HSPs struggle in a work setting:

  1. We often fail when performing tasks in front of others. This point is actually a question in Elaine Aron’s HSP-self test. If we are asked to perform a task while others monitor us we can become very nervous and forgetful. Usually we are actually really good at the task when doing it on our own, but the pressure of others watching and analyzing can be paralyzing for an HSP.
  1. We avoid conflict. HSPs can be made very uncomfortable when faced with conflict. We are afraid of the repercussions if we speak up, and we don’t like being involved in disagreements or arguments. This causes us to be passive in areas and we miss out on sharing our point of view. Additionally, when an HSP doesn’t address an issue to avoid conflict, it can negatively impact the workplace.
  1. We can’t concentrate in noisy environments. HSPs prefer a quiet, calm place to work. Anything from chatter around their work area and bright neon lights to the sounds of machinery and sudden noises can really distract and agitate an HSP.
  1. We tend to doubt our abilities. We often worry that we’re not doing a good enough job, and we under credit our achievements. This can stall our career advancement and development. If we don’t show self-assurance in our abilities, others may doubt us too.
  1. We take criticism too personally. If we receive constructive criticism, it can take us a while to process the blow, and re-gain confidence. We may get upset at ourselves for not being better in the criticized area, instead of accepting that it is normal to have strengths and weaknesses. We tend to highlight our “flaw” in our own minds and let it take credit away from the areas we excel in.


In writing this post, I realize that HSPs in the workplace is a really big topic! I will save the second half for next week 😉

In Part 2 I will get into career choices and opportunities that are best suited for HSPs, and outline some that we may want to avoid.

Remember, you are AMAZING, and your trait of high sensitivity is so valued and totally needed in the workplace! You bring so much value to the table!!

I hope that this post has helped you identify your strengths in the workplace, as well as some areas you’d like to work on. The points I made are just a start… and some of them may or may not be relevant for you. Or maybe I whacked the nail on the head with just one or two points!

What have you noticed about yourself at work?

I invite you to share your workplace attributes and setbacks on The Sensitive Trait Facebook page, or in a comment below!

Include one of these Hashtags in your story: #HSPWorkWin or #HSPWorkFail. We can all learn from each other!!

Looking forward to hearing from all of you beautiful people.

XO your fellow HSP, Chelsie


4 thoughts on “HSPs in the workplace, Part 1: How we both thrive and struggle

  1. #HSPWorkFail
    #5 on the struggles list is a big one for me. Starting with a company in the millwork industry 8 years back I wanted to make a big impression with my employer. I took initiative to make a design call. It was a big project, but i made my first error. (A very tiny mistake i might add) my boss brought it to my attention but laughed it off… however, it affected me differently. I was so mad I made this mistake and it consumed me for days.

    Liked by 1 person

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