Diversity and personality traits within the working population: The role of sensory processing sensitivity

Content and objectives

About 20% of all individuals are highly sensitive to the perception and processing of environmental stimuli. For example, highly sensitive individuals react to even the smallest details and changes in their environment. They are also considered to be very empathetic and conscientious. At the same time, the high level of sensitivity some people possess can be accompanied by stress. The research project investigates the influence of sensory processing sensitivity on the work behaviour and experiences of employees in order to derive implications for human resource management.

Project goals

  • Introduction of sensory processing sensitivity into the scientific discourse on human resource management and diversity management.
  • Analysis of differences and conditional factors on the willingness to relocate, leadership and career motivations, leadership effectiveness and work performance of highly sensitive employees compared to other staff.
  • Derivation of implications for diversity management in order to improve the potential of highly sensitive employees and managers and reduce the dark sides associated with this trait.


The studies are based on qualitative and quantitative datasets, which are generated and evaluated using the methods required to answer respective questions. Mixed methods design; multi-level.

Social relevance and application of results

A more detailed perception of the environment, as well as greater empathy and conscientiousness, suggest that the characteristics of this group of workers positively impact their work performance and their effectiveness as managers. At the same time, however, a stressful experience could be detrimental to job satisfaction and their subjective well-being, and thus provoke resignation or other forms of retreat. It also raises the question of how highly sensitive workers react to a variety of new stimuli in the workplace environment, such as during an assignment abroad.

Bamberg competencies

In the business context, the personality trait of sensory processing sensitivity has hardly been investigated to date. Bamberg’s competence lies in an interdisciplinary research approach (psychology and business administration).


Andresen, M., Goldmann, P., & Volodina, A. (2018). Do overwhelmed expatriates intend to leave? The effects of sensory processing sensitivity, stress, and well-being on expatriates' turnover intention. European Management Review, 15(1), 315-328. doi: 10.1111/emre.12120

Andresen, M., & Margenfeld, J. (2015). International relocation mobility readiness and its antecedents. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 30(3), 234-249. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JMP-11-2012-0362

Andresen, M., & Goldmann, P. (2016). „Du bist aber ein Sensibelchen!“ Diversity in Schulklassen am Beispiel der Wahrnehmungsverarbeitungssensibilität: Implikationen für die Führung. In M. Heibler, K. Bartel, K. Hackmann, & B. Weyand (Eds.), Leadership in der Lehrerbildung (pp. 149-163). University of Bamberg Press.

Andresen, M., & Goldmann, P. (2016). Effects of sensory processing sensitivity, well-being, and stress on expatriates' turnover intention. In: Proceedings of the 76th Academy of Management 2016 Annual Meeting, Anaheim/USA, August 5-9, 2016.

Andresen, M. (2015). Sensitive – The Untold Story. Film produced by Global Touch Group, USA. Interview with M. Andresen, September 2015.

Sensibler als andere
Interview, BUNTE Gesundheit, column „Forschen & Wissen“, 05/2020, p. 84-88.