INTJs have a mixed experience in the workplace. All the data we’ve collected suggests that they outrank most other personality types – and certainly the other introverted types – salary-wise, and they also perform well in the category of very high earners making over $150,000 USD a year. If we accept salary as a proxy for success, then INTJs appear to be doing well for themselves.
At the same time, INTJs are less likely than other high earners to manage teams, and they don’t score so well on job satisfaction either. In the wrong career, they can be downright miserable. INTJs tend to have a clear mental model of what they want from work which doesn't necessarily mesh with what the organization is offering.
If you’re an INTJ personality, read on. Here are 10 career struggles that you definitely will understand.
1. Nothing is ever efficient enough
It’s no secret that INTJs live for efficiency, and will always find the best ways to accomplish an outcome. That’s great when you’re the CEO and you can set process standards across the entire organization. It’s not so great when you’re low on the totem pole and are required to follow systems that you know could work better with a bit of restructuring. Because let’s face it, nothing is ever as efficient as it could be.
What’s frustrating for an INTJ is being told that it’s ‘not our problem’ or ‘not our job’ to fix those inefficiencies that are driving us nuts. In our heads, everything is our problem when it’s not working. If we’re not allowed to fix it ourselves, we want to speak to the person whose job it is – which means we’re frequently butting heads with management.
2. Loving and hating the autopilot
In just about every job, you reach a point where you’ve learned everything there is to know and are auto-piloting yourself through the work. INTJs like reaching this point because it’s – here’s this word again – efficient. It means we can turn out high-quality work with the least amount of effort. Most of us quietly enjoy taking shortcuts on routine tasks because there’s something sweet about resting on old laurels while others are chasing their tails to get a task done.
At the same time, operating on autopilot for too long is stifling for us. It’s the INTJ paradox – we love the efficiency of knowing what we’re doing but we feel constrained when doing it for too long. We’re constantly looking for new ideas and learning experiences, and get bored and restless when everything is just too easy.
3. Kicking back against incompetence
It’s often said that INTJs dislike authority, but that’s not exactly true. Most of us have no problem with following the orders of our superiors – as long as that person knows what they are talking about. It’s not authority that irks us: it's people who are incompetent within that role.
Being in a position of authority does not win someone automatic respect from an INTJ. Respect has to be earned, and that’s achieved by someone demonstrating their competence in the job role. INTJs get pretty frustrated when someone isn’t up to the job, and since we’re more concerned about competence than politeness, we probably won’t mince our words when calling out substandard performance. That can earn us the reputation of being hard to manage.
4. Being too demanding of others
As managers, INTJs can be tough – very tough. On the positive side, we tend to be highly organized, always on top of things, consistent, impartial and skilled at developing strategies for others to follow. We have clear expectations of people and demand competence from the team. If people perform well, we will trust them to get on with things without the nonsense of micromanaging.
On the negative side, INTJs will not tolerate lackluster or substandard performance, and we set a stupidly high bar. Turning in work that’s only ‘good enough’ – yeah, we don’t do it, and we don’t expect others to do it either. As leaders, we expect our team to meet the high expectations we set for them, even if it’s more than they are capable of. If that’s not working out, the temptation is strong to tell others to just shut up and do exactly what we tell them to do.
5. Impostor syndrome is real
We don’t talk about INTJs and impostor syndrome as much as we should, because it’s assumed that INTJs don’t have it. Generally, these types know they are competent and trust their abilities. As long as we’re not being patronized, micromanaged, or under-challenged in the workplace, then usually we’re good to go.
Hiding beneath the aura of confidence, however, are creeping feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. A lot of that has to do with the structure of the workplace. In traditional work environments, staff are trained from the bottom up on a need-to-know basis, meaning they are taught the specifics of their job role and nothing more. INTJs learn the exact opposite way, using a top-down style where they start with the big picture before getting into the nitty-gritty of a work task. If we can’t see the bigger value of what we’re doing, then we’re going to feel under-accomplished and out of control.
Combine that with the INTJ’s perfectionist tendencies and their insatiable need to learn, and you can see why so many of us feel more stupid and incompetent than we actually are.
6. Diplomacy is exhausting
Being diplomatic and polite is part and parcel of a professional career, and people are often expected to sugarcoat the truth so as not to hurt others’ feelings These types of social skills don’t come naturally to INTJs. While we can and do learn them (obviously), it’s extremely draining for INTJs to be constantly operating in polite mode. We have very little time for coworkers who are more concerned with one-upmanship and playing politics than getting the work done.
Most times, we deal with office drama by redirecting attention back to accomplishing the task at hand and focusing on results. Sometimes, that earns us a great deal of respect. Other times, it alienates people and sets us apart as a loner. Sigh.
7. Wanting and hating recognition
Here’s another paradox: INTJs absolutely want to be recognized for their efforts. If someone else takes the credit for our work or worse – actively denies that we had any involvement in a successful project – that really yanks our chain. That person will lose our respect, and probably our compliance, for the rest of time.
At the same time, most INTJs cannot take a compliment to save their lives. If you give us any kind of attention or praise for something we did, we’ll probably be wishing you would just leave us alone.
8. INTJs don’t ‘decide’, they ‘know’
As Intuitives, INTJs typically have hunches about how a decision should be made. Sometimes, we can justify our decisions to managers; other times, we just know the answer and can’t explain it. Subconsciously, there will have been an awful lot of pattern-spotting, predicting, and scenario planning that led us to our decision, but none of those things have any clear thought process or paper trail. We may even frighten our colleagues because we make decisions really quickly with what they may perceive as a lack of evidence.
Other people’s inability to see what we see is really frustrating to us. And because we have the courage of our convictions, we rarely back down from a decision that we ‘know’ is correct. It can come across as pretty arrogant to someone who does not understand our way of thinking.
9. We get derailed when someone moves the goalposts
Planning is the INTJ’s thing – we have primary plans, backup plans, plans for backup plans, and plans for the plans of backup plans. The point is, we know exactly what goals we need to reach and figure out multiple routes for getting there. When someone moves the goalposts, it throws all our plans out of whack.
Sometimes, shifting priorities are no one’s fault and we’re going to calmly adapt and deal with that. It’s not your fault that a major supplier has gone bust, for example, and we quickly need to find an alternative. But if we’re in the type of workplace where goalposts are moved all the time just because someone has not sorted out their own priorities, then don’t expect us to hang around.
10. We won’t settle
In my experience, INTJs rarely operate within the guard rails of their job description. If their own work is dull or easy, they’ll look for more creative endeavors elsewhere. Honestly? If your work looks more interesting than mine, I’ll probably try to muscle in on it and find ways to do your project (or my new, improved version of it!) instead.
While I haven’t seen any research on this, I suspect there’s a tendency for INTJs to jump careers frequently, because they’re so easily bored. A job that isn’t offering a bunch of interesting new projects, learning opportunities and the chance to try lots of different things will be deeply unfulfilling to an INTJ, because who wants to do the same thing every day? Employers may want to hire ‘experts’ who are really good in their narrow field of expertise, but we always feel we could do more.