“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Richard Buckminster Fuller
Working in a large corporation with its noisy environments, targets for productivity, oppressive hierarchy, lack of flexibility, personal marketing, false values and missions that don’t hold up is one of the great challenges for Highly Sensitive People.
The feeling of not fitting in, of burnout, is very common, and many even think that they will never be able to build a career and don’t believe that they can promote a change in the way things currently work.
Many HSP report that they have a vision of many years ahead, they know what is going to happen in a company and are not understood or listened to when they try to warn them; they also have a special ability to identify psychological games, manipulation, and unfair competition.
This generates a lot of frustration, we start to believe that companies are not a force for good in the world, that we have no options, and consequently we lose satisfaction, the feeling of belonging and reasons to believe that what we do is important, and work loses its purpose.
The topic of the relationship with work has been one of the great challenges in my life, and as I found ways to deal positively with my sensitivity, learning to respect myself, a light at the end of the tunnel began to appear, I met many initiatives for the transformation of organizations and step by step I allowed myself to be part of this movement. With this article, I want to bring a little light to this issue and show that it is not only possible, but that we have a fundamental role in the creation of a new world of work that is more human and serves all of humanity.
HSP Super Powers
Highly Sensitive People absorb everything around them, especially the subtleties that most do not perceive. This perception, combined with deep processing of stimuli, gives HSP a rare, almost magical ability; it is as if they perceive the roots growing under the ground, long before the bud of a tree starts to appear, HSP can already see the big tree that is going to grow before anyone else.
And this applies to everything that goes on in a work environment, problems that are going to explode, changes in the market, solutions to big problems that need to be executed.
Another HSP superpower is intuition. Most of us have strong intuition, which Dr Elaine Aron defines as: “knowing what you know without always knowing how you know it.” We just know.
For example, in my experience I tend to know what is important to read or research. It is as if I know in advance the information I will need to use in the future. I tend to find very easily the information I need. It’s something almost supernatural. Everything I do mysteriously connects
Empathy is another trait common to HSP, they truly care about the feelings of the people around them.They often perceive unexpressed feelings and needs.
Nothing goes unnoticed, when a HSP connects with a person, there is a real connection with real exchange of information, facts, opinions, feelings, emotions. The people who enter into a real dialogue are never the same as the people who leave, there is always something new, a new learning, a new insight, a new feeling.
This combination of powers allows the HSPs to see what future they want to emerge, the desirable future that the system works in the best way for all the people and the organization.
In the workplace, they are great sensors that know how the mood of the company is, sense what is brewing, and also compasses that point the direction to the best future that can be created to solve current problems,
A natural feeling in every HSP is that part of who we are does not conform to conventional norms or the established worldview. The norms of the society, how rules are established functions and the way things work don’t make sense for most of HSPs who realize the inconsistencies, the flaws in the current model and also have within them the ideas for new ways for the system to function.
This part of us is what drives us to innovate, to be original, to push new movements, and to provoke new mentalities. It is also what encourages us to seek freedom, so that we can act more and more based on our internal motivations and not on rules imposed from the outside.
David Garam, former senior director of innovation at Lego, created the term Diplomatic Rebels to define those people with innovation skills and the diplomatic skills to drive these changes, according to David, they are the change agents who can drive major transformations in organizations.
Diplomatic rebels balance the mindset of the rebel with the skills of the diplomat.
- Diplomatic Skills — Understand the rules, navigate well between different people, take care of relationships
- Rebel Skills — Challenge status quo, don’t accept things as they are, question “Why not?”
HSP naturally carry these diplomatic skills within themselves, have a soft and subtle style, with a tendency to be guided by deep ethical values, taking into consideration all people involved in change and putting a sense of purpose above immediate personal gain. HSPs also constantly seek new knowledge, cultures, and experiences, becoming excellent advisors with the ability to navigate diverse areas and build bridges of dialogue with totally different people.
I consider that the big key for HSPs to activate this Diplomatic Rebel is to value and balance in a healthy way their questioning and non-conformist side with their natural diplomacy and learn to express it.Nonviolent Communication can be an excellent tool to assist in this expression.
But after all, which direction should organizations go?
At each new stage of human development, in each great transformation of society, new capacities to collaborate also come to the surface, causing the emergence of new organizational models.
Organizations as we know them today are simply the expression of the current worldview of most part of humanity, our current stage of development.
We are in a transition to a new stage of consciousness and this transition does not happen suddenly, its pillars are built by those pioneers who manage to feel before everyone else the characteristics of this new stage and start building step by step new forms of organization to work and live together on this earth.
For HSP there is an internal compass that points the direction to this new stage, to a way of working that makes more sense, that welcomes different needs, that supports the deep ethical values that we carry.
I believe that highly sensitive people have always been present in this transition, feeling the signs of the future indicating the paths to the next stage of consciousness throughout human history, era after era.
“You were born to be among the counselors and thinkers, the spiritual and moral leaders of our society. There is every reason to be proud of that. “
-Dr Elaine N. Aron
In the book Reinventing Organizations, the author Frederic Laloux uses the evolution model based on the theory of dynamic spirals, where the development of human consciousness is expressed by levels represented by colors. Each level has its own characteristics concerning worldview and forms of organization. Every level has its lights and shadows, and always the new level is an evolution that includes and transcends the previous levels.
At the beginning of the book, he shows the evolution of organizations throughout human history, as shown in the figure below, trying to identify the characteristics of the next level, which is called Teal.
Laloux did anextensive research with more than 100 organizations around the world that are breaking work management paradigms and operating with more humane and conscious practices.
Organizations of different segments and sizes were considered, and although each one has innovated in their practices in different ways, according to their reality and local culture, three characteristics are common to all of them and we understand them as the pillars of the organizations of the next Teal level: Self-Management, Evolutionary Purpose, and Integrity.
Self-management: This means the end of the traditional hierarchy we know today, where one person has the power over another, decides how the other person should perform his or her work, and has the power to reward or punish him or her. It is not simply replacing hierarchy with a structure where everyone is equal and decides everything democratically, because seeking the consensus of a group at every decision would also be totally inefficient.
Self-management is a set of practices and agreements that seek to distribute authority, forming an organizational structure that does not require everyone to have the same decision-making power and authority, but only makes clear how this is done and prevents the boss-subordinate relationship.
These companies follow models where teams self-organize by making important decisions, for example, how the work will be done and coordinated, the time and where they will work from, even the goals and the salaries themselves are jointly defined by the employees. New ideas can be carried out without the approval of superiors or the need for consensus.
The key words are autonomy and self-responsibility.
Self-management is very beneficial for High Sensitive People and HSP can also contribute a lot to making self-management work in an organization.
HSP generally don’t do well with hierarchical structures, with lots of rules and demands, and need autonomy to do the work their way, and when they have it, they do it with excellence. They are very conscious of the delivery they need to make, and of the interdependence of their work with the work of others, without the need to be charged.
With self-management, HSP can produce their best work, and their motivation will come from the freedom of no longer having to struggle to climb the ladder of a hierarchical career.
Wholeness: Traditional organizations have always been places that encourage people to strictly show their professional side and leave all the rest of their being at the door of the company. A metaphor used in the book is that there is a closet where people leave their stories, their emotions, their humanity stored before passing through the turnstile at the entrance.
Traditional organizations often force people to show determination and strength, and hide their doubts and their vulnerability.
Rationality is the ultimate rule while the intuitive, spiritual and emotional part is undesirable.
Teal organizations have developed a coherent set of practices that invite us to recover our inner integrity, there is space and encouragement for people to demonstrate the totality of their being.
The development of deep and empathetic connections between people are encouraged, with space to attend to emotions.
Intuition is seen as a great ally for creativity and decision-making.
Several spiritual practices such as meditation are incorporated into the daily rituals of the work environment.
In short, Highly Sensitive People can be themselves in their work, and through their sensitivity and empathy, help and welcome others to express their full selves.
Evolving Purpose: Teal organizations are seen as having a life and a sense of direction of their own. Instead of following market rules, trying to predict and control the future, organization members are invited to listen and understand what the organization wants to become, what purpose it wants to serve. As a large organism, every part is involved in this purpose, there is an alignment with each person’s individual purpose.
During the interviews to hire new employees, the purpose and values are discussed, and it is one of the main factors that the candidate must have in common with the company.
The indicators of success of these organizations are not based on mere numbers, but on the advance toward this purpose.
The purpose is considered evolutionary, because it evolves over time, just as people evolve reaching new levels of consciousness, so do companies. Work should also serve the personal evolution of each person, allowing people to do work that allows the expression and maturation of the vocation that each human being has, the role they are destined to play in the world, serving society.
Highly Sensitive People are motivated by creativity, originality and integrity. For them it is essential that the work they do has real meaning; they want to look back on their life and see a career that meant something to themselves and to the world, and was not simply a meaningless race for a paycheck.
HSP feel this inner calling pulsating in their hearts, they want to serve this calling, they want to guide their decisions based on this calling, when this calling connects to the calling of an organization and the service it offers to society, the PAS feels nourished and energized in doing the work that will bring the necessary challenges to their evolution as a human and spiritual being.
The vocation of the HSP is to be wise men, healers, real counselors, regardless of what career and profession they follow, it is in their nature to bring reflection to society, so that decisions are not taken only based on the coldness of practical numbers, but take into consideration people, historical aspects, and future trends.
It’s time for a new leadership model
The time has come for a new leadership model
“With great powers come great responsibilities” — Stan Lee
If we High Sensitive People, were waiting for the right moment, to reveal ourselves to the world, I believe, this moment has arrived.
If companies were already in a transition to new working models, the pandemic caused by Covid-19 has accelerated the changes.
All companies are having to reinvent themselves, to change the way they used to work, remote work from home has become a reality for most professions and organizations.
A change caused by a disease that brings, besides fear, a great impact on the personal life of workers, away from their loved ones and having to deal with work, take care of the house, the children, often without being able to have moments of leisure, has also brought to the surface the importance of taking care of people’s mental health, of constantly remembering that we are dealing with human beings, each with their own challenges.
This new reality has required a new way of looking at work management; many things that were once considered absolute truths in the corporate world are being questioned and left behind.
Managers need to learn how to evaluate the work that people deliver, because with remote work, many metrics that were used to evaluate a person have disappeared, such as the time the person arrives or leaves, if he takes a lot of breaks or if he has his Facebook screen open on his computer, have completely lost their meaning.
While in the office, the “good relationship” people influenced the others and the one who talked more got the spotlight, with remote, virtual work, this loses relevance and suddenly, the spotlight is not only about who talks more, but who is actually doing things.
Highly Sensitive People bring all the qualities of the good virtual leader: being organized, reliable and productive.
HSP do things right, and strive for perfectionism, they are also the most conscientious members of any team. As part of their characteristics, they think carefully about the consequences of proposed actions before carrying them out.
Leaders of large organizations know they need to change and adapt, and many don’t know how, they are eager to hear good ideas and people willing to lead these changes.
HSPs can be these change agents that the new times call for, as a planner with a broad vision who delivers things, connecting people to the resources needed, providing timely feedback to people, showing that leading is much more than standing up and speaking up.
Highly Sensitive People can teach companies how to work with self-management, wholeness and purpose, as HSPs build a better work for their trait, they build a better work model for the world.