MBTI® ISFJ and Workplace Behavior – How individuals behave in their personal and professional lives is heavily influenced by their innate personality. Personality can shape how individuals handle conflict; how they communicate with their peers, direct reports, and supervisors; and how they organize their workdays. Personality can even affect individuals’ preferences, such as whether they feel more comfortable in flexible organizational environments that foster creativity or structured, hierarchical corporations with a clear chain of command. Taking the time to understand these factors can benefit corporations and organizations enormously, improving operations, streamlining employee communication, and ultimately impacting their bottom line. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI®) assessment can provide the necessary insights to achieving these tangible results.
ISFJs (Introverted-Sensing-Feeling-Judgment) personality types are “sympathetic, loyal, considerate, and kind” (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J., p14, CPP Inc., 1998). They find fulfillment in supporting others, often behind the scenes, through verbal encouragement as well as in taking care of logistics like transportation, craft services, and supplies, so that others can focus on their own goals or contributions. Their kind demeanor and service orientation make ISFJs an essential part of any organization.
Organizational Climate and ISFJ Disposition
Each MBTI® Personality Type contributes to their respective organizations in unique ways. Some are naturally analytical thinkers with strong leadership skills, while others have stronger interpersonal skills and prefer to play supporting roles. The most successful organizations are able to cultivate their employees’ innate personalities and harness their strengths to optimize organizational culture, climate, and workflows.
ISFJs tend to be quiet yet conscientious individuals who seek to balance organizational and interpersonal values. For example, while they are task-oriented, attuned to detail, and committed to meeting their obligations, they also believe that a harmonious environment is essential to optimal workplace productivity. Their “Sensing” and “Feeling” characteristics create an inherent orientation towards serving and supporting others. That said, “Judgment” imparts a focus on productivity as well as a proclivity for organization. While ISFJs do consider the human element in every interaction and undertaking, they are also practical and realistic, unlike their peers with “Perception” tendencies, who are more idealistic. Behavior in and preferences regarding meetings are just one context in which the ISFJ nature manifests. For example, ISFJs prefer to prepare for meetings, and so they appreciate being given a specific meeting time and agenda in advance. Their expectation is that the meeting will commence and conclude in a timely fashion, and that the meeting structure itself will adhere to the provided agenda. While meetings are also an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships, ISFJs prefer to do so while also meeting organizational goals. They do not take wasted time lightly.
In short, ISFJs need structure. They thrive in work environments with a clear, hierarchical organization in which they can easily prioritize various tasks and identify key stakeholders. They take their contributions seriously and support their colleagues by completing high-quality deliverables based on agreed-upon timelines. They expect others to provide them the same security. ISFJs believe that organizational success depends on mutual trust and successful collaboration between individuals and teams. Keeping promises and meeting obligations is essential to building such rapport. That said, ISFJs’ thorough approach to projects typically includes communication and follow-through to ensure team success. For example, they will typically contact coworkers to ask for updates if they are not offered. They may also maintain a shared calendar with important dates and projects, or send weekly status e-mails that communicate project progress to the entire team. This “service orientation” (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J., p14, CPP Inc., 1998) is one of many characteristics that make ISFJs an indispensable part of any team.
Workplace Association and Interaction
MBTI® can also shape how a person communicates. Organizations, teams, and individuals who use insights from MBTI® to anticipate tensions before they escalate and mitigate possible miscommunications before they have a significant impact, can see significant improvement in how they function. ISFJs have excellent memories and easily retain facts related to projects as well as details that have personal meaning for themselves or for others, such as birthdays or anniversaries. For example, an ISFJ might remember that a co-worker took a sick day on Friday and follow-up with them on Monday, while a less “sensing” personality type may not do so. That said, the same interpersonal consciousness also means that ISFJs will likely be more sensitive to tone of voice and facial expressions. Those who work closely with ISFJs should remember that how a message is delivered is as important as the content of the message itself.
ISFJs are also decisive individuals, though they may take a significant amount of time to conduct background research prior to committing to a course of action. Other personality types who are more impetuous may become frustrated by ISFJs’ seemingly unnecessary attention to detail, but should try to understand the benefits of this decision making process. Once all the information is gathered, ISFJs assess their options based on this wide knowledge base, and they make a well-informed decision. Once decisions are made, they move on to the next task at hand. While they rarely vacillate, they may be willing to reevaluate their decisions if new information shows that an alternative course of action may be of greater benefit to others.
ISFJs are typically quiet, humble people. They rarely publicize their own accomplishments and instead rely on others to notice and compliment them. For example, if a supervisor asks an ISFJ who came up with a successful idea or who implemented a key initiative, an ISFJ is likely to claim it was a team or collaborative effort, even if the contribution was primarily or even exclusively their own. Similarly, ISFJs rarely advocate strongly for their own opinion or position, especially if it would contradict others. Like other personality types which value harmony, ISFJs instead prefer to disperse tension with comments that are probing (“That’s an interesting point. Have you considered X?”) or neutral (“Let’s see where that takes us.”) rather than explicitly voicing opposition (“I think this would be stronger if we did X.”).
ISFJs and Operational Efficiency
Each MBTI® plays a key role in operational efficiency. Like their more extraverted counterparts, ISFJs provide consistency and reliability to their organizations. They typically start and end their workday at the same time each day, and have a predictable schedule that others tend to count on during the day. ISFJs also have unique traits as leaders and learners, two key roles that contribute to organizational efficiency.
While ISFJs rarely seek out leadership roles and may even be reluctant to accept them, they often find that the mantle fits well. Their high standards, detail-orientation, and need for structure and organization, all of which manifest in other areas of their professional performance, also extend to leadership. They have high expectations of their direct reports. However, if an employee makes a mistake or does not provide a high quality product, an ISFJ is more likely to provide support and positive motivation rather than discipline. In other words, an ISFJ supervisor might say “Thank you for trying to do X. It’s a good effort, but next time, doing A, B, and C could make it even better.” On the other hand, another individual who places less value on interpersonal relationships might be less diplomatic or may even reduce a bonus or exercise other forms of quality control.
Because they value tradition, established procedures, and company culture, ISFJs can be skeptical of continuing education or training. ISFJs may believe that the change itself may cause more stress and inconvenience for individuals than it eliminates through supposed operational efficiencies. In order to increase ISFJ motivation in training, educators and human resource departments should explicitly describe or illustrate how the improved processes or learning goals will benefit individual employees, customers, or other stakeholders. For example, a training intended to teach employees a new safety protocol should not only communicate the updated, correct procedures, but should also demonstrate how the new procedures are more efficient or effective than the status quo in ways that directly benefit individuals.
Using the MBTI® in the Workplace
Strategically applying insights from the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator® Assessment can significantly improve many different aspects of any workplace, from optimizing leadership strategies and continuing education initiatives to improving how employees communicate with one another to convey information, prevent conflicts, and resolve miscommunications. Even small changes such as sending an explicit agenda with every meeting invite or providing a flexible lunch hour can boost employee morale. Employees who are happy and fulfilled will waste less time and energy being frustrated at their colleagues and supervisors and can instead dedicate the same resources to being productive for themselves, their clients, their colleagues, and their organization. Ultimately, everyone stands to gain from the insights of MBTI®.
Introduction To Type in Organizations (Hirsh, S. & Kummerow, J. CPP Inc., 1998)