How to Measure Sensitivity

Sensitivity is the extent to which someone is sympathetic, caring, and understanding. Those who score higher tend to be kind, compassionate, and tolerant, but may have difficulty providing negative feedback or being firm with others. Those who score lower tend to be tough-minded and unsentimental, but also candid and direct.

It’s clear that a person’s sensitivity is a strong indicator of how he or she will interact with others. But how can it be assessed – and what does this mean for behavior in the workplace?

Sensitivity is one of the areas measured in our ADEPT-15® personality questionnaire and forms part of the Teamwork Style (together with Cooperativeness and Humility). The Teamwork Style is one of six broad workstyles. 

How is Sensitivity Seen in Behavior?

The purpose of measuring sensitivity will be to understand how this will be manifested in everyday behavior at work. As with all personality scales, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ from scoring ‘high’ or ‘low’.  There are though, in our experience, certain upsides from the behaviors seen from high and low scorers – and, on the flipside, some things to watch out for.

   The Leverage Points

Those scoring high on this scale are likely to be:

  • Openly sympathetic to and supportive of others.
  • Understanding and tolerant of others’ flaws.
  • Interested in others’ feelings and problems.

Those scoring low on Sensitivity tend to be:

  • Comfortable giving direct and difficult feedback.
  • Able to make difficult people decisions.
  • Not easily influenced by appeals to emotion, compassion and tolerance.

   The Watch-Outs

Watch out for the following with high-scorers on Sensitivity:

  • Reluctant to give direct and difficult feedback.
  • Unwilling to make difficult people decisions.
  • Unable to detach and keep a healthy distance from others’ difficulties and misfortunes.

Watch out for the following with low-scorers on Sensitivity:

  • Indifferent to others’ feelings or personal problems
  • Unsympathetic to others’ misfortunes
  • Selective with praise and recognition

The Role of Sensitivity in the Workplace

With an understanding of an individual’s sensitivity, we can understand how he or she might act and interact with others.


When Sensitivity scores are combined with Humility and Cooperativeness, we gain an understanding of how a person considers other people’s needs. Those with high Sensitivity are consistently seeking to understand others’ perspectives and problems, being supportive and sympathetic. As such, they foster an openness which encourages a sense of trust and integrity.

To read more about measuring trustworthiness, read our article – Why Does Trust Matter?

Adapting to Individual Differences

Those high on Sensitivity will be much more considerate to individual differences in personality, culture, and other demographics than others. In total, this suggests they will tend to modify their behavior and approaches in an effort to respect others.

Active Listening and Resolving Conflicts

Those high on Sensitivity are much more interested in understanding others’ perspectives compared to their peers. They will often leverage active listening to better understand the thoughts and feelings that underlie others’ perspectives. Additionally, they will likely consider and express empathy toward others' points of view during conflict.

Valuing and Respecting Diversity

Those high on Sensitivity will be perceived as sympathetic, caring, and understanding. As such, they will be more likely than others to value and foster an inclusive environment and display compassion and tolerance toward others.

Compensating for the Sensitivity Score

Depending on the location of the score on the scale, you might want to check out other ADEPT-15 scale scores to understand how these may temper or compensate for the Watch-Outs. 

When Sensitivity scores are low, we need to look for:

  • Higher Awareness so they are most likely to behave in a socially appropriate manner

When an individual has a high Sensitivity score, look for:

  • Higher Assertiveness to offset an unwillingness to be tough / make difficult decisions that impact others.
For more about assessing sensitivity, take a look at our personality questionnaire ADEPT-15®


About ADEPT-15®

ADEPT-15® is the most advanced, secure, and award-winning* personality test available. With over 50 years of personality, leadership, and psychometric research combined with an adaptive approach to assessment design, ADEPT-15® measures 15 personality traits critical to successful workplace performance. It looks at our preferences, work styles and tendencies as well as what gives us energy and our possible blind spots. It indicates our strengths and areas for development as well as the leadership style we may use, and how others may see us.

*M. Scott Myers Award for Applied Research & International Personnel Assessment Council Innovations in Assessment Award

About the Author

Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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