MBTI® INFP and Workplace Behavior -The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) can be an invaluable resource for organizational growth and development. When applied strategically, the insights it affords into employees’ innate behavioral functions have the potential to streamline internal and external communication, improve conflict prevention and employee satisfaction, and increase productivity. All of these benefits ultimately contribute to the company’s bottom line.
MBTI® is a way of categorizing and therefore understanding multiple aspects of individuals’ personalities, strengths, preferences, and proclivities, including characteristics of their preferred workplace environment, how they most efficiently learn and apply new information, how they make decisions, and more. An INFP (Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving) individual will necessarily behave differently from a colleague with opposite function pairs, such as an ESTJ (Extraverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging). For example, INFP individuals are introverted, meaning they generally focused internally rather than externally, and they recharge through introspection and reflection on their own experiences rather than by interacting or competing with others. Due to their intuitive nature, they tend to consider how pieces of a puzzle relate to the big picture, and as a result, they often perceive connections that others might overlook. Their feeling and perceiving proclivities shape their general approach to the world; INFPs are spontaneous, open individuals who make decisions based on social well-being and achieving harmony in every aspect of their lives.
Organizational Climate and INFP Disposition
Organizations are in many ways the sum of their individuals, and their climate is ultimately created by the individuals who participate in it. Different personality types contribute in different ways. INFPs tend to provide structure, consistency, and interpersonal relationships, while ESTJs are generally strong leaders who evaluate options objectively and work tirelessly to achieve their goals. Though there is always potential for conflict, taking the time to understand and highlight each personality type’s unique contributions and strengths can build mutual respect and improve morale. Furthermore, anticipating shortcomings and possible miscommunications can help mitigate frustration and prevent wasted time, energy, and effort.
INFPs are “open-minded, idealistic, insightful, and flexible individuals” (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, p.19, J. CPP Inc., 1998) who are highly creative and invested in the larger social and organizational impact of their work. They feel fulfilled when they have the opportunity to “build bridges” and bring different kinds of people together to achieve a common goal. For example, an INFP might be involved in organizing a company 5K to raise money for a local charity, or they may work with friends or colleagues to reconcile a disagreement. They strive to create supportive, harmonious environments for everyone involved.
INFPs are also often responsible for encouraging their organizations to bring their ideals to life. For example, an INFP will not typically be satisfied with an explicit commitment to employee happiness or equity. Instead, INFPs will work to ensure their organization enacts and enforces policies that uphold its values. While this idealism is generally a strength, INFPs may face a disconnect between their goals and their ability to achieve them. As a result, INFPs may benefit from investing additional time and effort into systematically analyzing their long-term goals, breaking each one down into shorter-term benchmarks, and then assessing the resources needed to reach each benchmark. INFPs should also try to delegate intermediate tasks, which may not come naturally since they would rather complete a task themselves than risk giving a cumbersome or mundane assignment to a colleague or employee. At the same time, they should understand that others typically prefer to contribute in any way possible.
Workplace Association and Interaction
An organization’s success is often determined by the effectiveness of its employees’ communication. More effective, efficient communication is indicative of more successful organizations. Different MBTI® personality types have distinct communicative tendencies and strengths. For example, INFPs tend to focus on relationship-building and facilitating. In meetings, they tend to elicit others’ opinions and input, allowing their own to take a backseat. In doing so, they validate others’ feelings and build their self-image and confidence. For the same reason, INFPs are also reluctant to give critical or constructive feedback. When a colleague presents a sub-par product or a sub-optimal proposition, an INFP is much more likely to respond neutrally (“Thank you for your contribution.”) than critically (“I’m not sure that is a good idea, because…”). To continue to hone others’ skills, INFPs can give positive feedback along with constructive comments (“This is excellent. I can see how hard you worked. I think doing X could make it even better. What do you think?”) Giving this kind of feedback in writing, such as via e-mail, may come more naturally to INFPs than giving it verbally. Since INFPs often think intuitively and spatially, they may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, particularly in high-stress or urgent situations.
Peers of INFPs should give them the opportunity to participate equally in meetings and brainstorming sessions, and should show patience if they need more time to gather their thoughts and present their ideas. INFPs typically appreciate meeting times, agendas, and expectations be communicated in advance, so they can adequately prepare. Improvisation does not come naturally to them and can cause considerable stress. Those who manage INFPs should be aware that they generally prefer working independently, since independent work limits delegation and communication. When meetings or brainstorming sessions are necessary, they should explicitly solicit INFPs’ opinion (“What do you think about this?” or “How can we approach this problem differently?”). Particularly strategic questions will play to INFPs’ strengths even more (“How do you think this plan of action will affect our constituents, employees, and clients?”) Keep in mind that while INFPs may not have the most analytical or practical approach, their idealism can help organizations stay true to their goals and visions as well as help keep projects on track while also maximizing positive effects and minimizing unintended negative consequences.
INFPs and Operational Efficiency
In order to maintain their status, successful organizations must not only retain smooth communication and leadership practices, but also continue to innovate and convey new standards to their employees via high-quality training. Each MBTI® Personality Type leads and communicates in a slightly different way. This diversity of thought and expression can be an enormous asset, but it can cause friction and miscommunications if not appropriately anticipated and addressed. INFPs are most invested in learning material when it has a clear human impact; that is, when its benefit to other employees, clients, or a different community is explicit or self-evident. The optimal time to address this “why” question is often at the beginning of a learning experience, just after the target skills or goals are presented.
INFPs typically learn best through reading and quiet reflection. They have a dispreference for large presentations or lecture-style seminars, as well as workshops that are highly interactive and overstimulating. Instead, INFPs benefit from being presented material in a format they can review independently and at their own pace, such as a booklet or self-paced e-learning. In this way, they have the time to process material from multiple perspectives and consider how it may relate to other areas of expertise. Asynchronous communities, such as company chat spaces or an opportunity to “Ask an Expert” can also be helpful for clarifying content or delving deeper into certain topics.
INFPs are rarely drawn to leadership or supervisory positions, as they prefer to work independently. However, when they do find themselves in such roles, they take a facilitative rather than authoritative approach. They are much more likely to prefer asking their direct reports what their personal goals are and then working strategically to help them achieve those goals, as opposed to giving specific and explicit assignments and then periodically assessing their employees’ progress towards completing those assignments. INFPs are creative, independent thinkers. They do not typically micro-manage delegated tasks, nor do they appreciate their own supervisors micromanaging or interfering with assignments they are given themselves.
Using the MBTI® in the Workplace
Many companies and industries around the world have applied the Myers Briggs Type Indicator for decades to improve their operations and build healthier, more inclusive workplace environments. The MBTI® Assessment is given first to gain valuable insights into the behavioral tendencies of each individual, and then apply these insights to develop and implement interventions that can help teams streamline their operations, overcome frustration, and improve understanding and collaboration between team members. Strategies as simple as providing quiet, individual brainstorming time before sharing with a larger group can increase participation and employee self-esteem many times over. The result is happier, more productive employees and a healthier workplace culture, both of which cultivate innovation and creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Furthermore, MBTI® insights can help organizations optimize multiple aspects of their macro-level operations, from employee recognition and motivation programs to training programs. MBTI® influences everything from how employees function to how their interact with others, from how they made decisions to how they learn. Strategic companies will be able to harness these insights and apply them judiciously for the benefit of all.
Introduction To Type in Organizations (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J. CPP Inc., 1998)