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The Case for Training Your Employees To Be Less Sensitive...

"Maybe I'll sue"...

We spend a lot of our time training for increased sensitivity to things that have legal ramifications - Mope think Title 7, any type of harassment, etc.  It's all driven hopefully to do the right thing - but most certainly to reduce risk and financial exposure to your company.

But the things you can get sued for are really only the tip of the iceberg related to lost opportunity and squandered productivity at your company.  The real culprit?  Wait for it... Wait for it...

The real productivity suck is people being too senstitive to imperfect/bad things they should expect.  Like feedback.  Like failure.

It's on my mind because I was recently talking to one of my sons about being sensitive to failure.  His failure was small, but he was lingering on it.  It's hard to see one of your own down, but at some point, they need to understand the truth:

"Nobody cares that you're down about this but you."

His sensitivity was impacting what he did next.  Your employees do the same thing when they fail, when they get feedback (intended or unintended) about how they're doing, when others get positive feedback (a zero-sum approach - if you win, then I lose), etc.  They mope.

What if there was training to help your employees understand how much moping (the best street-smart way to describe being too sensititve) was costing them (as well as the company)?

I'd pay a lot for that training.  You could train to manage how the outside world perceives their reaction to bad stuff and what they do next, even if they still feel the sting.

Because for most things we mope about, no one cares but the person doing the moping.  The rest of the world is moving too fast to care. But they will notice your moping, your sucky reaction to the next task based on what you perceived as a slight.  And they'll just think you suck.

There are some great aspects of being highly sensitive - you're more empathetic to how others feel, etc.  

But rest assured, no one cares that you're moping about routine failure or less than stellar feedback but you.

It's what you do next that matters.  

Comments

Elyssa Thome

I've heard that straight-A students make terrible salespeople because they don't handle failure well. I would be a terrible salesperson.
Learning how to move on from failure (large and small) is an important but difficult part of life in general, and specifically business. I'm curious if teaching employees to be aware of external reactions is more or less effective than teaching employees it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme. Then again, I'm not sure that course is available either.
Either way I think your example, Kris, about letting your son learn that nobody cares but him is actually where real progress will be made. We need to start young and teach failure is ok. To an extent.

Alan O

Wow... two weeks, two posts on Personality dynamics in the workplace. Love it!

To me, this one fits under the category of: Our biggest weaknesses are the flip side of our greatest strengths.

Sensitivity is the natural habitat of those who give a $#!*. We're always looking for evidence of sensitivity, and when we find it, we hire it. It correlates with conscientiousness, the pursuit of mastery, ability to police ones' self, good organizational citizenship, and coachability.

Save me from employees whose response to performance failure is: "meh."

Yes, absolutely it has to be coached, guided, and monitored...and an astute manager will recognize the players on the team who might take "cares about her own performance" to a dangerous extreme.

But I'd much rather teach someone who cares an awful lot to lighten up a bit, than to prompt and prod and push the "naturally unconcerned" staff to worry a bit more about the cost of their mistakes and oversights.

Josh Westbrook

Well, all the smart money is telling us that we're getting too soft, PC, or sensitive as a country and it's having a negative impact on our education system and economy. As a country we seem to be "all in" on sensitivity right now. That's because they're too many people who profit from over-sensitivity (i.e. politicians, unions, lawyers, etc...). When the majority of our employees see more profit potential in grievances, arbitration, lawsuits, or just plain sensitivity and complaining, then good-bye economy. Hopefully that hasn't already happened. What happened to the good ole days when work was more profitable than complaining?

You make a great point. Our time in HR is much better spent and more value added from teaching people how to be less sensitive than from teaching them how to be more sensitive.

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