MBTI® ESFJ and Workplace Behavior – The most influential factor in human behavior is innate personality. Innate personality shapes nearly every aspect of how an individual behaves in professional environments, from communication and leadership style to decision making tendencies, in addition to their personal preferences, such as workplace flexibility and structure. Understanding these factors can help employees, leaders, and organizations improve how they operate, and ultimately increase their operational efficiency as well as employee and customer satisfaction. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI®) assessment is a key tool to achieving these outcomes.
ESFJs (Extraverted-Sensing-Feeling-Judgment) personality types are “helpful, tactful, compassionate, and orderly” (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J., p17, CPP Inc., 1998). They value individual success and fulfillment in addition to interpersonal relationships and collaboration. As a result, they believe that how a task is accomplished is important. To ESFJs, a successful team must not only achieve its end goal, but also ensure that every team member cooperate and fully participate in that success. Leveraging the unique strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits that ESFJs contribute is essential to building an effective team and organization.
Organizational Climate and ESFJ Disposition
Seamless communication is key to individual and organizational success in the modern workplace. Different individuals and different personality types have a variety of preferences and optimal organizational climates, and this diversity can cause friction if left unchecked. Finding ways to compromise and streamline workflow can increase efficiency and create an environment in which team members are comfortable with one another, so they can focus on the tasks at hand.
ESFJs flourish in environments that balance interpersonal values and organizational achievements. Because of their “Sensing” and “Feeling” characteristics, ESFJs are inherently oriented toward helping others and completing tasks in a supportive, harmonious way. At the same time, “Judgment” imparts a punctual, organized nature and an emphasis on feasibility and practicality. These preferences are immediately apparent in ESFJs behavior before and during meetings. For example, ESFJs prefer that meetings be scheduled in advance and that a specific agenda be provided so they can prepare appropriately. They notice and appreciate meetings beginning and ending at the scheduled time as well as following the planned structure. To fulfill their interpersonal and social needs, ESFJs will often choose to arrive a few minutes early or remain in the room afterwards to socialize with their colleagues, build rapport, and wrap up any relevant discussions. In this way, they can work effectively, efficiently, and accurately towards their goals, while also “encouraging friendships” and trying to “foster interpersonal sensitivity and caring” (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J., p17, CPP Inc., 1998).
ESFJs contribute to their organizations by taking charge of day-to-day operations and handling them efficiently so the rest of the team can focus on other tasks. For example, ESFJs may take minutes during meetings and send follow-up e-mails to ensure that goals, accomplishments, and action steps are clearly communicated. Such practices also ensure that each individual is equally included, and that everyone has the opportunity to voice dissent or ask questions as needed. In addition, ESFJs value and work to maintain organizational traditions, from holiday events to onboarding processes. In doing so, they help their organizations establish and retain a unique and cohesive workplace culture that reminds others that they are working towards a shared goal.
Workplace Association and Interaction
MBTI® also influences individuals’ communicative tendencies. Awareness of this aspect of behavior can enhance collaborative efforts, reduce interpersonal tension, and prevent misunderstandings. ESFJs are inherently harmonious and sociable people who genuinely enjoy working with others. They express disagreement and dissatisfaction tactfully, since they are less interested in winning an argument or gaining social status than they are in achieving the best possible outcomes and establishing strong interpersonal relationships. While there is value in paying attention to the human element in any workplace, ESFJs may frustrate coworkers with more “Thinking” tendencies, especially if they consciously or unconsciously ignore problems or sacrifice their own opinions or well-being to avoid potentially difficult conversations or conflicts. ESFJs who habitually allow group priorities to overpower their own needs risk becoming resentful in the long run.
To achieve balance, ESFJs should make an effort to find ways of managing conflict which are both effective and strategic. Insights about other personality types can be particularly helpful. For example, they should keep in mind that “Thinking” personality types generally have an explicit and specific communication style, especially when expressing skepticism or dissatisfaction. As such, ESFJs should try to accept answers and avoid drawing conclusions from subtext alone. Clarifying questions such as “You sound skeptical, what are your thoughts?” or “How would you improve this process?” can streamline communication.
Leaders who manage teams with ESFJs or who are ESFJs themselves should be aware that ESFJs tend to be so focused on optimizing immediate interpersonal benefits that they may have trouble visualizing the impact of short-term decisions on global or long-term goals. In order to stay on track, it can be helpful to establish explicit five- or ten-year plans along with appropriate milestones. When making intermediate decisions, take the time to assess any positive or negative impact to long-term goals. Explanatory visuals and graphic organizers, such as t-charts, can shed light on these interactions.
ESFJs and Operational Efficiency
Organizations can serve many different purposes, from serving their communities to conducting research to increasing their pecuniary value. No matter what their final goal is, effective teamwork is vital to success. Each MBTI® plays a different but equally important role in this process. ESFJs contribute reliability, structure, and consistency, as well as warmth and interpersonal support. They help their teams establish routines that are both effective and efficient, while also making human resource-oriented contributions such as remembering birthdays and major life events, or ensuring that every attendee is given the opportunity to participate in meetings and brainstorming sessions. ESFJs appreciate hierarchical organizational structures that clearly define individual contributors, direct reports, and supervisors. When they know who their stakeholders are, they find it easier to clarify assignments and prioritize various tasks. Structured organizations also tend to explicitly assign tasks to individuals, which ensures that each individual is aware of their own responsibilities and metrics for success. Furthermore, this structure also prevents important tasks from “falling through the cracks”, a common problem in flat or loosely structured organizations. Nonetheless, ESFJs also consider the “human element” when prioritizing. For instance, they may choose to prioritize something that has a low or negative return on investment if it could have a significant interpersonal benefit, such as organizing a birthday party or happy hour.
The value they place on human interaction and impact is even evident in how they approach training and learning situations. ESFJs are most invested in training when they understand how the new skills or knowledge that they will be mastering could improve the lives of others or how it can help them do their job more effectively or efficiently. For example, an ESFJ may not be interested in learning about MBTI® personality types because they are inherently interesting, but rather because better understanding them can lead to increased efficiencies and reduced conflict in the workplace. How information is presented also affects their investment and ability to master it. To understand, internalize, and apply new information, ESFJs need the opportunity to experience it with others through discussion, brainstorming, or collaborative tasks. As such, virtual or online training is sub-optimal, unless it is complemented with discussion boards or in-person sessions as well.
While ESFJs tend to be more open to training than more skeptical personality types, they can be cautious of changing habits or adopting new processes for completing long-standing tasks, sine change may cause unnecessary stress. They may be particularly resistant if the status quo already functions well to achieve intended goals or if the process is already widely understood, accepted, and established. This tendency may be related to their affinity for tradition and their reluctance to make changes without a clear reason.
Using the MBTI® in the Workplace
Any work environment can significantly benefit from strategic application of the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator® Assessment. Interventions start with a simple quiz, and the full report provides valuable insights into how MBTI can manifest in a variety of behaviors and tendencies. Developing better understandings of how employees’ personalities may affect their behavior can have implications for many aspects of organizational structure and function, including how conflicts are managed and resolved, how continuing education programs are structured, how incentives are communicated, and more. Perhaps most importantly, MBTI can help improve employees interpersonal empathy, patience, and understanding. Individuals are less likely to become frustrated by their colleagues, leaders, or employees when they understand why they think or behave in specific ways and how to mitigate potential miscommunications or disagreements, as well as strategies for providing feedback and support in a receptive manner.
Introduction To Type in Organizations (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J. CPP Inc., 1998)