HSPs generally perform poorly when being watched, and yeah, I can totally confirm this.
One of my old bosses would sometimes stand right over me and watch me while I did things on the computer. It was so insufferable that I called him out on it. I probably said something sarcastic like, “Are you really going to stand on top of me while I do this?” Or, “I can’t do this if you are going to stand there and watch me.” Fortunately, we had a pretty relaxed relationship so this didn’t offend him. I think he found it amusing that it bothered me.
When someone like a manager or boss is watching me do something, I completely freeze up. I cannot perform. And how can I explain this, when it happens? I appear incompetent when I freeze up like that. I look like I can’t do the work, just because I’m nervous about being stared at.
At another job, I worked in one room with two other people. It was an office meant for one person, but they stuffed three of us in there. We all had our own desks. One day, we had to all move to a different office, so the 3 of us had to figure out where to put our individual desks within that room. The other 2 people wanted to face the window, whereas my only suggestion was that I didn’t want my desk facing a direction where someone else would be facing me all day. That would have made me go nuts.
My officemates were, understandably, happy that they got the window view without argument, and I got to face the wall like a crazy person.
A few months later, I expressed to my boss that I would rather work in a cubicle. No one could believe that I would give up being in an office (AHEM, shared with 2 other people!) to have my own private cube. In a cube, I felt that I would at least have the privacy of knowing no one was looking at me. Just that tiny little bit of privacy seemed so appealing. I felt like I could make it through the day more easily and be less distracted that way. And you know what? They were nice enough to move me to a cubicle!
So, my point–if there is one–is that if you are unhappy in your work environment, you should 1) speak up about what you want to HR. There are rules and laws and stuff that mean they usually have to listen to you, and 2) you are going to have to grow a tougher skin because your co-workers and managers might not “get” why you need what you need.
But if you are able to finagle a better working environment for yourself, that’s all that matters in the long run. The embarrassment of having to ask for it will wear off.
I really like your website. I always just called myself an empath…but HSP seems pretty right on 😉 u have nailed so much of what i go through too! If i can be left alone, i can accomplish amazing and detailed work. I have a passion for research and understanding exactly the hows and whys of a system. But the second someone questions me about why i did something a certain way, or how something happened…i completely space. Almost like dementia- i forget things i could have quoted in my sleep. I stutter and stumble over my wording and get really panic-y that they are judging me (which of course they are NOW, because i am acting like a total freak). Not sure how to solve this other than communicating by email as much as possible. Lol. You are right though, working for, and mostly by, yourself is by far and away the BEST way to be happy at work 🙂 and if u can’t do that, simply caring less at ur job will help also! Because for people like us, even if we cared less…it would still be more than a lot of people do!
i hope you keep up ur site. I think ur helping a lot of people. Ps- dogs are HSPs too 🙂 well HSDs lol. Glad you got a pup- it does our hearts well!!
Blessings and thanks!
Thanks for the lovely comment, AJ! I have commented that our little foster dog is an introvert and HSP sometimes. 🙂
Hey hi my name is ritika
I go through exactly the same thing 😁
So what’s your job like currently
You sound like an amazing person that can accomplish just about anything in the right environment.
I can relate to that very much. A recent example: Job interviews. First I get a dry mouth and my tongue seems to be glued down. Often I forget what I want to say, I begin to stutter which I normally don’t – especially when my counterpart doesn’t seem friendly. I know that I am good at my job, but job interviews are terrifying to me.
I work in a nursery school and I never feel comfortable when my superior is coming into our room and watches me interact with the children.
As a hobby, I like drawing and painting, yet I can’t stand it if someone is standing behind me watching me doing it. Only exception is when I do portraits – but then my counterpart is not behind me, of course 😉
Hi Andrea I am very similar
my name is ritika
where are you from ??
I love your article here. But you should not feel embarrassed about such a simple request; it is not like your asking for a construction project. Many People think everyone should think just like they do; are we responsible for their close minded ignorance. Luv u….john…keep writing…it is nice for so many people to relate.
Hello everyone…yes, I freeze up sometimes when I am watched working. The unconscious becomes conscious…I have to think for some reason being watched. It is aggravating because im good at things…I just can not show off. I should only care that they are seeing some of the best. Self conscious or are you interrupting my fanciful mind….im out of here and your bringing me back. Make sense to anyone else?
Yes, it does, John 🙂
It’s nice to know that others know what you go though when being watched and only
a hsp understand this fact .
Oh. My. Goodness! I thought there’s always been something “wrong” with me since I freeze up when bosses watched me work!! I was an office manager for over 30 years and every time I was asked a question and the boss stood there waiting for the answer, I would fumble through the computer accounting system, couldn’t figure numbers out, and felt totally and utterly incompetent! I feel so much better about myself. Wish I would’ve had this info years ago so I could have dealt with the situations better.
I’m glad this info was helpful!! I also thought I was the only one who was like this!
I started a new job a few weeks ago and am already showing signs of not passing the probation period because I have too many people watching over me and I can’t relax enough to focus on learning the new tasks. I am left feeling completely incompetent and disorganized at the end of the day with no way to catch up or demonstrate my ability to learn. This would be my 3rd dismissal in the probationary period in 2 years. I wish the American workforce would give people a reasonable chance to learn a job before terminating the person for poor performance. HSP’s who are also INFJ’s need enough alone time to learn the material in private and then demonstrate knowledge and competence in the task.
I liked this article. I can’t work when other people are standing over me and I usually don’t get any privacy, being a middle school student with a school owned laptop. I could complain for HOURS from having no privacy. Everyone’s just like,”OH! Whatcha doing! Can I watch you! Have you even wonderwhygfreuwbgmnwerimcgncutimotnrnrhcgubietruitr……..Yeah! That’s how I met Jesus! How did you? What’s this..? Oh! My cousin Mary did this and she broke her computer! She needs to hold control…. alt….. shift? I don’t know. Can you help? Let’s be friends! What was I saying?” It’s annoying. REALLY.
I had this experience a lot working for large companies as a paralegal often the attorney or EA for CEO would want me to be the scribe:machine while they told me what to type or do and it was unbearable! I had to tell one boss I can’t have you watch me it just is uncomfortable and she didn’t like it at all. People don’t get that it’s unbearable and just think it’s part of “us working together”. I have done it successfully by saying statements like you can do this to myself but so relieved when they finally go back into their bat cave because I also get silently angry when this is being “done” to me! I have to laugh now because I can see that others don’t see things like I do.
For HSPs who can relate to this problem, my story will sound like pure horror: I once worked in a big open office space. My boss had their desk right behind me, facing the back of my head. By simply moving a little, they could see what I was typing. On some days, they commented on every sentence I was drafting. They would also unexpectedly shout across the room if they wanted something from someone else. I was dying inside. It was the “tough guy” culture of this company that stopped me from even mentionning it, before I left after a year.
I work with a criticizer; a nitpicker; a micromanager; a bossy man who isn’t actually my boss. Behold: the Controlling Perfectionist!
The way he does things is the only way to do things. There will be no deviation. There will be no making your own mistakes and learning from them. There are to be no mistakes. There will be no developing of your own methods.
He will watch you, even from across the room, daring you to make a mistake or do something that differs in any way from the way he would do it. Then he will shuffle over to you and unleash his condescending criticism.
I just ran into one of these at my new job. I mean, I have worked with, and for, a few of these types over the years, but none like this one.
I just got a new job in a supermarket; in produce. The guy who trained me seemed like he would be experienced, and I would be glad to benefit from such experience while learning my new job/position.
The first day or two went fine but by day 3 things took a turn for the worst. He started being hypercritical of my every action, and with a tinge of attitude. Instead of just, “No, you’re doing that wrong, it goes like this,” it was more of a, “Why are you doing it like that?!” “Why did you do it like that?!” “I don’t understand why you are doing it like that!” Not quite hateful, but with a slight condescension, I suppose.
At one point he was putting up some lemons and he had to walk away, so since I was standing there doing nothing I thought I might as well help out and put up the lemons. Then I had this exact thought in my head: “I should put up these lemons instead of standing here doing nothing. I will be criticized for doing nothing. But… if I do put up the lemons i’ll be criticized for doing it wrong.” I decided to put them up anyhow. Sure enough, when he returned it was, “No, no, no… why did you put the lemons over there?” (And I put them “over there” because he had actually started putting them there too. I put them in the same darn place that he was putting them. I know this because the ones he placed down were still cold from the cooler.) “They go over here. The limes have to go over there…”
All of this just over some lemons… serious much?
So, I go home and i’m like “wow, I have a serious problem.” “I am, apparently, overly-sensitive and can’t handle criticism.” So i’m googling about being unable to handle criticism, and assuming it’s my fault. I have some personality flaw that I have to resolve or it’s going to ruin my chances at working a job/jobs. Then I discover the term “Controlling Perfectionist” which seems apt.
The Controlling Perfectionist then goes on a week’s vacation. Phew. I can relax for a week. Nice.
But… as they say… all good things must come to an end. And so he’s back at work today.
At first it was not too bad. I act cordial and friendly. He complains a bit but not directed at me. I, perhaps mistakenly, join in a bit in hopes of building some rapport, (Yeah, it’s just me and him against those evil doers! Muahahaha!) but nah… Eventually he’s back to criticizing me.
One interesting incident went like this. He haphazardly placed a box of peppers on top of my cart so that it was hanging over the edge and tells me to take the cart out. As I exit the swinging doors, I notice the box hanging over the edge and realize the doors might hit the box and, before I can stop, sure enough, the box hits the floor, spilling its contents. He sees this and asks me why I ruined the peppers. (Blames me for his mistake…) Then we pick the peppers up and he picks up the box. I have several peppers in my hand and notice he is about to place the box back onto the cart, so I plan to place the peppers that i’m holding back into the box “after” he places the box onto the cart. But he waits for me to place them into the box “before” he places the box onto the cart, and acts as if i’m a moron for not placing them into the box right that second. It’s like, “Well, what are you doing? Put the damn peppers in the box, idiot.”
I mean… all of this over some peppers?! It’s unreal; it’s infuriating; it’s stressful; it’s nonsense.
Basically, these controlling perfectionists have it in their heads exactly how something is supposed to go or happen, and cannot fathom or accept it happening any other way. They don’t even have enough empathy to realize that their’s isn’t the only perspective in a situation. I mean, this guy thought I was an idiot for not placing the peppers into the box before he placed the box on the cart. Waiting to place them into the box afterwards is just a really stupid way of doing things, apparently… omg!!!
I also noticed that he will watch you. You will look up and see him just looking at you. Just waiting for you to do something wrong. a.k.a. In any way other than the way he would have done it.
By the end of the shift I was stressed. Another employee actually broached the subject about how hard it is to work with this guy. I find out that others check the work schedule in hopes that they are not scheduled to work with him.
This other employee also repeats the same experiences: that the Controlling Perfectionist will watch you and then shuffle over to you to complain about something he saw you doing… wrong.
I also found out that, as I suspected, he’s been there for a decade, so there is no “waiting him out” or complaining, or having him removed. Especially not to suit the “new guy.”
I must thank this Controlling Perfectionist though… for being the impetus for me to better myself by applying for better jobs… just to escape his crazy-making.
Shame. He otherwise seems like a really nice guy… but his entire self worth is based on being absolutely, unrelentingly perfect at his job. And being perfect at his job, obviously, makes him better than you which is a nice little ego boost for the Controlling Perfectionist.
I HAVE A MANAGER. HAS SOME ONE STANDING OVER ME. WHEN IM WORKING IT MAKES ME FELL STRESSES ME OUT. IT IS AGAINST LAW TO STSND OVRE A PERSON WHEN THEY WHENTHEY ARE WORKING
The controlling perfectionist manager wasn’t actually a “nice guy”. What he was doing was bullying, plain and simple. He was also what is known as a “fearful” manager. He couldn’t trust anyone to do their job and got off on being condescending so he could have an ego boost and feel better about his insecurities. Managers should be encouraging their employees to do their best, not be a nitpicking, petty tyrant that drives people to avoid them and look for a job elsewhere. It’s really a wonder no one ends up hitting managers like this. They need a good punch in the face and a literal swift kick in the ass. Bullies tend to sense HSPs and view them as “weak”, not realizing to their own sorrow that they make the best employees. Hopefully you’re out of that situation. As an HSP myself, I go through plenty of bullying everywhere, not just work. I hate being watched too, but I’ve had to practice keeping a neutral face because the bullies thrive on getting a reaction. I come to work, do my job, go home. People who are low on emotions or have none at all don’t “get” HSPs. They think we are targets for their garbage.