It can be difficult to coach people who take everything personally.

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Here’s how managers can talk to sensitive employees about improving their performance.

Act quickly. The longer you wait to give feedback, the less useful it becomes.

Don’t sugarcoat your message. Starting off with “Please don’t take this the wrong way …” or “I hate to bring it up, but …” cues sensitive listeners that something bad is about to happen and makes them defensive.

Be specific. The more general your comments are, the easier it is for sensitive people to misinterpret them as personal attacks. Be clear about expectations and results. Keep the focus on behavior, not on personality.

Ask for input. Show sensitive employees that you are interested in their ideas and feelings. Listen to their responses.

Downplay overreactions. If an employee overreacts, let that behavior run its course. Don’t try to argue employees out of their feelings. And, don’t get drawn into taking their reactions personally yourself.

Supply necessary resources. Make sure employees have the information, tools and training they need for improvement. Don’t expect them to self-correct in a vacuum.

Show confidence. Encouragement will help sensitive em­­ployees feel better about their work. Watch for opportunities to praise them.