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Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person

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A practical guide to coping at work Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person builds on Elaine Aron's groundbreaking bestseller The Highly Sensitive Person . This new book, which includes a Foreword by Aron, gives highly sensitive persons (HSPs) strategies to build confidence, combat stress, and find work that is emotionally, financially, and creatively rewarding. Based on cutting-edge medical and scientific research, this fresh perspective on how readers can secure satisfying careers includes strategies to:

238 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2004

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Barrie Jaeger

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5 stars
106 (28%)
4 stars
124 (33%)
3 stars
97 (26%)
2 stars
37 (9%)
1 star
9 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Maria Ramos.
32 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2011
Other reviewers on Amazon said that this book was short on solutions, that is, how to find the particular work that suits a highly sensitive person. I would agree with this--there was no methodology offered for figuring this out for yourself. However, I found the framework of her ideas very useful. I found myself completely described, from the need for an emotionally supportive workplace, the need for stimulation but not too much. That every few years, I lose interest in what I am doing and have to change it somehow. That I see all sides of an issue. That I have had a lot of trouble sticking up for myself in the workplace. And it's very nice to be able to recognize all these things and accept them as part of your personality and not something to change. I had done most of that personal work already, but it was helpful to see all of the characteristics together and the picture it painted. For instance, it affirmed my belief that it's a waste of my energy to do battle with these very basic things about my personality--the key is getting into a place where there are enough of the things that I need to prosper.

And it helped me see that while I like some aspects of my current profession, it is not a calling and highly sensitive people are usually dissatisfied until they find their calling. Now, finding the calling or finding a calling where you can get paid sufficiently, the book offered no help in this direction. It's really not surprising though, that is such an individual thing.

The book also supported what I have suspected: that if I want to stay self-employed, it would be necessary for me to evolve and change the business as I found what I liked and didn't like. Highly sensitive people have a tendency to stay with work they don't like (drudgery) because they find it difficult to say no, do things for themselves, etc.

A worthwhile read if any of the above applies to you.
Profile Image for Emily.
102 reviews18 followers
December 31, 2013
Don't judge me for reading this. Actually, judge away because I found this book quite helpful. I fit the profile of a 'Highly Sensitive Person' to a tee and have been unhappy in every job I've ever had. I read this weeks after having been forced to resign from a job that made me very unhappy (to the point it was affecting my physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health) and as I have been preparing to start a job that is effectively one step away from being self-employed.

When I was in grad school my adviser told me that I'm incredibly bright and think and feel more deeply than most of my peers which would either make or break my social work career. On one hand I have an enormous capacity for empathy and compassion however on the other hand, 40 hours of work per week drains my soul. Not to mention bullshit bureaucracies and paperwork.

It's nice to know that I'm not crazy for having so many fucking feelings and to be able to maybe start identifying ways to trust my intuition.
1,312 reviews
October 26, 2010
This book was disappointing. I kind of liked the section about how to state your needs as a strength rather than a weakness, but other than that I didn't get much out of it. The writing was not very good. The author's framework (Drudgery, Craft, and Calling) was not useful for me, and I found it to be very one-dimensional. Apparently the One True Way for highly sensitive people is to follow your "calling" and be self-employed. Anything else just won't be good enough for you. How does the author know this, one wonders?

Also, the author is really into the whole idea that highly sensitive people are super nice and sweet and care about saving the planet and helping people and blah blah blah. I don't buy it that HSPs are intrinsically nicer than other people. Being sensitive sometimes makes people irritable and crabby, or causes them to act out because they don't know how to handle overstimulation, or alternately makes them good manipulators because they know how to push other people's buttons.
Profile Image for Leigh Anne.
933 reviews34 followers
June 14, 2020
Excellent theory, problematic praxis.

I'd actually read this book when it was first published, and wanted to see how it was holding up. Libraries get in the fashionable habit of weeding things simply because they are "old" without bothering to check and see if the contents are still relevant. This is a horrible idea, and if your libray does it, you should be ashamed.

Based on the scientific research of Elaine Aron, Jaeger's book takes the concept of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and applies it to surviving in the workplace. It is not, however, a how-to book in the strictest sense, in that it's not going to specifically tell you how to rearrange your office, or what industry you should be working in, etc. Instead -- and this is really helpful for people who don't know they're HSPs -- it gives you a way to reframe the qualities that have, for years, had people writing you off as "too sensitive," or "melodramatic," or "too much," or whatever epithets folks use when they cannot deal with your special superpower.

Jaeger's main premise is that there are three kinds of work: Drudgery, Craft, and Calling. Everybody has bills to pay, but HSPs NEED to have a calling, either in their paid work, or somewhere else in their life. They literally cannot function without a career that fulfills their souls, and they suffer more than most in "pay the bills" jobs. All of the advice is geared toward how to spend as little time as possible in Drudgery and how to make your way to a Calling.

And herein lies the major problem time has caused: this book was written in 2004, a time in American economic history when it was VERY easy to walk away from a misery-inducing job, because there were plenty of other places to go. Flash forward to 2020 and this is much less plausible, especially for BIPOC MaGes, who are often struggling to survive in the first place. The idea of having, and pursuing, a calling has become a privileged endeavor, and that's depressing as hell.

What could rescue the book, at this point, is if Jaeger released an updated edition that focused on how HSPs can cultivate resilence when stuck in Drudgery or Craft. Resilience is no substitute for societal overhaul, but it is MUCH easier to do your "pay-the-bills" shit job when it's perceived as a means to a greater end, and a resilient mindset can help HSPs survive while they're figuring out how to thrive in this weird, fucked-up timeline we're currently on.

So, should you weed it? Probably Unless it's still circulating well, which tells you something about your patrons. Put it in the book sale, and I guarantee someone will snap it up. Aron's original research and the many books that have sprung from it are well-known and sound, so you may want to replace this with a more contemporary title.

And please stop to consider the possibility that someone you work with may have this particular type of neurodivergence. Your HSP colleagues are not "too much," "too sensitive," "drama queens," or whatever other dismissive trash you write them and their gifts off with. They could actually be the folks who get you to the next level, if you're open to their way of thinking.

Not exactly recommended, but don't weed it without critical assessment either. Your mileage will definitely vary, as this is one of those titles where the librarian's professional tie-breaker opinion is called for.
Profile Image for Sheyna Galyan.
Author 7 books31 followers
June 28, 2012
I would really have liked to read more about HSPs and self-employment. Maybe a second book?
Profile Image for Kim.
41 reviews
January 7, 2019
I’m sharing a quote from this book, which I found to be incredibly practical and philosophical at the same time, which is rare.

“No book can tell you how to find your way: it can at best catalyze and awaken the way within you. You can paint by numbers, but you’ll never produce a masterpiece like that. A masterpiece requires the soul and inspiration of an artist. To paint the masterpiece of your life, you need more than forms and systems. You need a heroic commitment to your best self. Born in your heart, tempered by your head, shaped with your hands, and walked with your own two feet, your life’s work is your special gift for mankind” (p.220).
Profile Image for Susan.
88 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2015
So glad that I finally "kind of" finished this book. I skipped through half of it because it was boring me to death. One thing this book helped me with? Realizing that this will be the last self help book I will ever read. I really do despise them. Such useless, negative information.
Profile Image for Anne.
138 reviews
December 9, 2016
I flipped through this fairly quickly over a few days and discovered that I am no longer an HSP! Yay! I am now a NSP (normally sensitive person). Or maybe I'm an HSP who has grown a thicker skin....yes that's it. Anyway, most of the book didn't really apply to me; it would have been more relevant to me earlier in my career, when I was younger. I would have given it a higher rating back then. Right now I need career books that are more next-level....still searching.....

BUT for anyone who is an HSP and hasn't been exposed to these ideas yet, this could be a very helpful book.
Profile Image for Lori Galaske.
Author 1 book17 followers
May 25, 2019
Contrary to what you might think, a "highly sensitive person" is NOT someone who is easily offended. An HSP has sensory processing sensitivities (SPS) to external stimuli (similar to what some would define as an introvert).

A work environment can be very difficult for someone with SPS. I found this book extremely informative, encouraging, supportive, and directive. Even those who do not grapple with SPS can find the information on Drudgery jobs, Craft, and Calling helpful.
Profile Image for Amanda.
12 reviews
January 21, 2023
i feel bad about this review because i wanted to like this book so badly! i saw it in the psychology section of a smaller library in my city and decided to try it out.

i really liked the first chapter, which focused on characteristics of a highly sensitive person. i identify with so many of the classic hsp traits (i.e., unable to enjoy movies/media where anything sad/scary happens, excessive awareness of others’ feelings, hypersensitivity to external stimuli like temperature or textures or volume, intensity in my reactions, deeply disturbed when i perceive others being insensitive, and needing a very specific amount of stimulation to focus).

however, it almost felt painful to read most of the other chapters, which were actually about work. the author categorized various aspects of work into 3 categories: drudgery, craft, and calling. the idea is that each feature of everyone’s job (including things such as the tasks, coworkers, environment, management, values) falls into one of these categories. drudgery is associated with burnout and dissatisfaction, calling energizes workers, and craft is somewhere in between.

as someone who does not tend to think categorically in most situations, i didn’t appreciate this conceptualization. also, the way the book was laid out made me feel anxious at some points, as i worried i would realize some aspect of my job might fit into a drudgery category. i don’t like the idea of a black-and-white formula to determine whether a job is a good fit or not.

it also felt unhelpful to have this written by an author who was clearly decades into her career and had the financial means to be flexible and choose whichever aspects of her career felt like “calling.” as someone very early in their career, i didn’t wanna read a list of reasons my current job might not fit into “calling” in every category.

additionally, i just found this soooo understimulating!! there was an initial explanation of the 3 categories that was interesting enough, but the remaining 70-80% of the book just seemed to re-emphasize what i’d already understood but with way too much detail. i really wanted to finish the book in case it had helpful insight or tips so i pushed through, but got very little from it.

overall, would not recommend. however, since i did enjoy the first chapter or so, i would be interested in reading about hsps in a book that focuses more on relationships with others! i think i would be more interested in gaining insight into how my highly sensitive qualities impact my reactions in social and relational settings, and learning tips on how to better manage my feelings. i just cannot read another overly detailed book that makes me concerned that i should be more hypervigilant about any unpleasant aspect of my job. every job has some aspects that aren’t a favorite, and i don’t want to spiral with worry when i have a single unpleasant task.

** since i skimmed/skipped nearly half of this book bc of how understimulated it was, i’m not gonna count this towards my goal of reading 12 books in 2023!
Profile Image for Tammy.
1,226 reviews32 followers
September 13, 2018
This title builds on Elaine Aron's bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person and includes a foreword by her.

People who are highly sensitive are often creative, intelligent and dedicated workers. But to be successful, they need to have work that they are passionate about and develop skills to build confidence, combat stress and the over-stimulation that comes with many workplaces.

This book can help anyone who is a highly sensitive person find out if their job is the right one for them, learn how to make their opinions heard and valued, protect themselves from bullies. It could also be a useful tool for managers and others in leadership roles. Currently experts estimate that 20% of the population is a highly sensitive person. They are often introverts but there are some extroverted highly sensitive people too.

After a co-worker loaned me her copy of Elaine Aron's book, I realized that I am a highly sensitive person and that can be a good thing. I picked up this title, from the State Library collection to see what insights and tips it could provide me. I knew that library work has given me great opportunities to help others find information and resources they needed as well as a new favorite author. This book helped me realize why, though I loved helping people and working at the public library, I needed a change. The quieter atmosphere and the great reference staff team at the State Library has reduced my stress and made me look forward to going to work each day again.
69 reviews
December 12, 2020
The last ten pages blew me away. She saves the purest definition of calling for the end. I was finding useful tidbits here and there, and enjoying the book fairly well. I was kind of blowing through the end of the book to narrow down my currently-reading list. But the last ten pages or so...it perfectly encapsulated what I am searching for. Everything else feels like a vague theory built around that core truth. Jaeger is certain many HSPs cannot live full lives without finding their calling and pursuing it, and the finding of that calling is a completely personal journey. The rest of the book was so-so, as I would have been blown away by a pamphlet describing calling so clearly as she does. She speaks a great truth that is very hard to articulate.
184 reviews
August 8, 2018
her most interesting point was that you need to become yourself and your calling will find you. yes, it's that vague, but I suppose good advice. not as much practical, concrete steps to take, but nice read to feel comforted about the struggles HSPs face in the work place on a regular basis. gave words to my pain of work, ie drudgery, and helped inspire to change and fit better suited work for me. author is very sympathetic to HSPs, which is nice to read for a few pages but can also make reader feel coddled.
36 reviews3 followers
November 14, 2021
This book may not be the practical, step-by-step guide to magically solving your work-related woes, but its stories illustrate and morph through the different aspects of work in a vivid and illuminating manner. Don't expect a concrete lost of things to do, but rather, be ready to learn how to identify what you need, why you are (or are not) happy in your work, and how you'll know when something is right for you.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
230 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2017
I got some good information out of this book but there were certain parts that got pretty boring. Because of that I only gave it three stars.
Profile Image for Chantelle.
194 reviews3 followers
April 17, 2018
Decent book, but expected more "real life" tips for those of us unable to make the leap to self-employment.
Profile Image for K M Laume.
150 reviews2 followers
January 1, 2020
Interesting, insightful in parts but yet a bit lacking. Would be good to back it up with more science and resources. And more practical solutions would be good.
Profile Image for Krzysiek.
1 review
November 8, 2022
Very good book.
Thought through.

Found some very useful tips, that changed my way of perceiving reality.

I don't buy this 'Calling' thing. Life is not a Disney movie.
Profile Image for Laurel Bradshaw.
695 reviews45 followers
August 10, 2008
From the back cover:
If you feel drained and debilitated at work, or your work doesn't fulfill your creativity, you may be among the 20 percent of the population who are overwhelmed by job pressures. The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is often intelligent, imaginative, empathetic, and hyper-aware of surroundings. This sensitivity is part of being passionate about work. But it can also make being in the work force a painful trial.

Based on cutting-edge research and extensive interviews with hundreds of HSPs, Dr. Barrie Jaeger tackles the problems and issues highly sensitive people face--including feeling overwhelmed by work pressures, overstimulation in the workplace, and lack of confidence. Building on the groundbreaking national bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person, she explains why traditional work doesn't work for you--and what you can do about it. Dr. Jaeger provides proven strategies to find work you can embrace, not just endure, including:

* Identifying particular aspects of any job that contribute to unhappiness
* Avoiding certain jobs that don't work for HSPs and what to do to get out
* Finding your true calling--and how to let a calling find you--and discovering work that brings joy, creativity, and the greatest level of satisfaction.

Jaeger also includes exercises, ways to take breaks (vital for stress relief) and provides helpful personal assessment features. Making Work Work is an owner's manual for highly sensitive people who want to discover how to love what they do--and do what they love.
79 reviews
August 7, 2014
I was disappointed with this book. I felt that the author had some important things to say but had a really hard time conveying them. He used a lot of long winded metaphors and talking in circles which seemed to go no where and would make suggestions but not fully explain them. For example, in chapter 4 he presents a figure of a daily log idea which seems helpful but no description or tips for using it. His whole book was based on the concept of three types of work Drudgery, craft, and calling, but these concepts seem very abstract and the chapters which delve most deeply in them are some of the worst in the book. The best chapters were 2 and 7. In Chapter 2 the author explains why HSPs tend to pick jobs which are bad for them, and Chapter 7 presents 6 lessons to improving work for HSPs.

In this opinion this is the type of book you might want to flip through and skim quickly in a bookstore or library, but not worth buying or owning as a reference.
Profile Image for Lauren.
294 reviews29 followers
October 3, 2015
A very enjoyable read. The framework, Jaeger developed using Drudgery, Craft, and Calling is very helpful to me in thinking about my own past hiring situations. The book did have one or two problems. Jaeger's writing style uses very broad strokes, some of which I wish she'd been a little more careful with. The book can also be at different moments contradictory, usually in its descriptions of the three states of work. That said, life is contradictory, and this wasn't written as an academic text. It's definitely a book I'm going to return to in the future.
Profile Image for Michel.
57 reviews17 followers
September 21, 2013
Eyes have been opened. More spelling errors than I'd prefer, but this book is at the level of, if not at a higher level than, Aron's work. A different area than love and general HSP-ness but still groundbreaking. Always a pleasure to read and be understood, hated the times I had to put the book down to do something else. Very well done. Now to continue discovering and exploring... :D
Profile Image for Stef Garvin.
Author 1 book19 followers
March 10, 2014
Very good book with lots of examples and clear language. Helped me to conceptualize what I knew about myself but didn't have the words to convey. Working on transitioning into a more conducive environment for my highly-sensitive, high-sensation self. I recommend this book to others who feel they are missing something in their careers.
26 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2015
This was really helpful for where I'm at in my life/career right now. He speaks to some very specific things HSPs encounter in their career quest, which was really validating and encouraging. A few of the chapters are really fluffy and don't have much substance but the ones that do are gems.
4 reviews
April 9, 2009
Great book for anyone who can't seem to feel settled or content with any job... which is certainly me!
Profile Image for Caroline.
38 reviews
August 9, 2008
So great- this book is an instruction manual for sensitive people who tend to get caught up in their work. How to stay grounded.
6 reviews
February 14, 2011
It did provide some helpful suggestions and practices that I can use. But I'd still like to find a good resource for jobs that an HSP like me would most enjoy and be comfortable with.
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