4 Personality Types You Meet in Every Office (And How to Handle Them)

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 24, 2017

If you are like most people, you spend most of your waking hours at work. Getting along with your co-workers is not only necessary for your professional success, but also for your sanity. Whatever your own personality type, it’s likely that you’ll encounter clashing personality types and traits that make existing in your office difficult. This is why knowing these traits and how to deal with them will make work more enjoyable.

ESTJs — The Supervisor

ESTJs are characterized by their natural leadership abilities, visionary thinking and take-charge attitude. They are good at long-range planning, and they can often see exactly what actions need to be taken to get results. Because they like to get things done, they have no problems letting you know exactly how they feel. This makes them difficult to deal with at times. The same traits that make the ESTJ so reassuringly assertive can be seen as conceited or aggressive in some situations.

When you are working with an ESTJ, it is important to understand that they are extremely goal-oriented. While they may come across as overly demanding, they are actually laser-focused on goals. This can make them lack the social niceties that the rest of us are used to. For example, an ESTJ may stop into your work space and immediately start talking about a project instead of first engaging in small talk. Getting along with an ESTJ means giving them regular updates, showing that you are onboard with their ideas, and providing constructive feedback.

Because ESTJs are used to being in charge, it may be difficult for them to allow others to take the lead. INTPs, INTJs and ENTPs in particular might find it upsetting when the ESTJ isn't falling over herself to listen to their ideas. ESTJs would also benefit from finding a softer tune in order to work with the creative types like ISTPs and ISFPs, who don’t deal so well with conflict.

How to work with an ESTJ:
  • Accept the roles they give you, even if it's just for a specific task
  • Try not to take on the ESTJ’s stress
  • Accept their dedication to systems and goals
  • Understand that the ESTJ probably works harder than most team members -- try cutting her some slack and encouraging her to relax a little.

INFP – The Healer

Different from the logical ESTJ, the INFP is led by ideals, not rewards. You’ll typically spot an INFP by the focus that she tends to give to metaphors and symbols, or the periods in which she drifts off dreamily into thought. INFPs are often offbeat and unconventional -- the true artist type. They can relate to fellow human beings unlike any other personality type, and often intervene to stop office arguments from happening and keep the peace. An INFP committed to the success of a company or the fulfillment of certain goals can be the most valuable member of a team.

What makes INFPs difficult co-workers? Without direction, they might lose track of their tasks and duties which throws an extra burden on the rest of the team. INFPs do not react well to high-stress environments either, so a skilled manager needs to set the goals, create accountability, and let the INFP do what he does best -- create. Ironically, an ESTJ has the management skills to support the INFP, and these two types work well together. INFPs also relate well with ENFPs and INFJs, but might not get along well with the practical and factual-minded ISTJ.

How to work with an INFP:
  • Help him to keep track of his tasks by being a model of diligence. Friendly reminders won’t do any harm either as the INFP is neither competitive nor proud.
  • Integrate him into your team and group of friends.
  • Try to relate to your INFP coworkers as much as they relate to you. In this way, you will understand many of their reasons for doing something and you’ll be able to work together better.

The ESTP – The Dynamo

You know the ESTP when you meet him. He's the most popular person in the office. He enjoys freedom and is often the social planner. He likes to think outside the box, too, often challenging the status quo and the ideas of others. He’s also perceptive and well-tuned to the workplace mood.

Despite being the life and soul of the party, ESTPs can be hard to get along with. They are pretty impatient, and often make impulsive decisions that later backfire. They miss the "big picture" because they live only in the here and now. They also have a habit of breaking the rules. If there is an ESTP on your team, you’ll have a great time troubleshooting. But many ESTPs lack the follow through needed to make things happen. Get really specific on accountability, or the onus might be on you to finish up the project and make sense of those "big ideas."

While ESTPs might get along with charismatic ENFJs and social ESFJs, their energetic, act-first style might not resonate well with the fact-minded ISTJ, managerial ESTJ or intellectual INTJ. These types in particular might struggle with the ESTP’s gossip-loving nature and her ability to use any information she has to gain the upper hand at work. ESTPs are the people that the term "office politics" was invented for.

How to work with an ESTP:
  • Avoid falling too deeply into her social games
  • Encourage him to follow professional objectives
  • Don’t take responsibility if her plans backfire or fall through
  • Avoid creating a situation in which multiple voices fight for the role of team leader -- where appropriate, let the ESTP take this role.

ISFJ – The Protector

The ISFJ is how most people would describe their ideal friend or co-worker. Caring and compassionate, ISFJs have a high level of empathy and often put the needs of others ahead of their own. They tend to be “Introverted Extraverts” – meaning they are more comfortable being alone, but they can get out and be social when the occasion calls for it. They have a strong desire to do good, and often work in helping roles. They believe in their work and are motivated by their ability to change the world, or at least part of it.

The biggest downside to working with an ISFJ is that not everyone wants a protector, but ISFJs don't seem to realize this. They are always ready and willing to perform a rescue, even when you didn't ask for one. Commanding types like the ENTJ or the ESTJ will likely resent being “protected” by an overbearing ISFJ. Moreover, due to the ISFJ’s desire to help others, they tend to overburden themselves with tasks, completing them only half-heartedly. As a result, it’s the ISFJ’s colleagues that will have to make up for the work in the end.

How to work with an ISFJ:

  • Enlist her help or advice with a project. This will instantly get her on your side.
  • Don’t snap at him or use sarcasm. This will create a lasting rift between you and the ISFJ because it gives him the impression that his drive to do good is meaningless and misguided. As a reaction, he may direct his annoyance toward a different coworker or goal.
  • Relate to her sensitive nature before you judge her
  • Notice and appreciate his many selfless acts, as the ISFJ himself tends to underplay his accomplishments.

Summing It All Up

It can be challenging to deal with the myriad of personality types that exist in the workplace. From the supervisor who over-enforces the rules to the overbearing helper who won't take no for an answer. Dealing with these people can make work-life harder than it needs to be.

The first step in making your work life more bearable is to find out what your personality type is and to compare it to the others in the office. Undoubtedly, each type has its strengths and weaknesses. Before you judge the other types too harshly, remember that they have to get along with you too!

Addison Jenning

Addison Jenning works as an HR manager since 2013. With an experience of over 10 years in the recruitment department, Addison knows how to deal with difficult situations at work and how to motivate others to bring their A game. Because she wants to be of help for others, Addison started writing career and recruiting articles. You can find her on Twitter and you can check out her project, JobDescriptionsWiki.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


JennyGump76 (not verified) says...

My direct supervisor is ESTJ, I am an unabashed INFP.  I've never had such a great working relationship as I do with him.  He often comes to me for insight and help dealing with some of the "personality clashes" that take place here.  He's pretty even-keeled most of the time and I only see him go hard when his patience has reached its end.  He gives commands readily, in a concise manner and expects them to be followed-his expectations of his staff are high, but they work very hard to meet the goals he sets for us.  He is a consummate leader-and he will admit when he's made a bad call.  We all respect him greatly.  For me, working with him is an absolute joy.  We balance each other very, very well.  

Addi (not verified) says...

Of course, an idealistic INFP and a management-driven ESTJ! 

Annawinner says...

I had to act as a sort of "team leader"on a project this year, and as an INTP, I found it very difficult and not enjoyable in the least.  To add to that, I had an ESTP on my team who made it absolutely horrible otherwise.  Never doing that again....

NL (not verified) says...

Would love to hear any constructive thoughts for INTP/Js struggling to be recognized within the workplace, even with skills and experience. Apparently there's a lot of us.

jtcrawfo says...

Thanks for this article Addison!  It's incredibly insightful and brimming with truth.  I can relate in all 4 settings.

The only pieces I'm a little skeptical about are a couple of points for the INFP that leaves room for interpretation. The summary is spot on in that the INFP does not handle high stress very well.  That could not be more true. Friendly reminders can spell out harm for an INFP though. As an INFP, I'm overly sensitive to criticism and feedback. If I'm getting frequent "friendly" reminders, I'm going to think that I'm not doing my job well and am letting down my boss or team. Friendly reminders may also be misconstrued as micromanagement, which will crush an INFP's motivation. Though the occasional friendly reminder is encouraged to keep an INFP on task, it's easy to overdo it and piledrive an INFP into the ground... so my advice would be not to do frequent/daily friendly reminders.

The second piece I hold some reservation is with integrating an INFP into the team and group of friends. Though it is essential, the INFP has some of the highest maintenance and need for alone time than another other MBTI type. The INFP takes in so much, and if the INFP is forced into a relational or social setting for several hours in a day without the ability to withdraw, introspect, and process, then you're going to have a burned out and mentally exhausted INFP coworker/employee.

A self-aware and balanced INFP will let these needs be known to a supervisor, but a lot of INFPs will not want to feel encumbersome and impose their needs on anybody... so they can be ticking timebombs.

Keep up the great articles! This was a much needed read and ushered in some really good clarity on workplace dynamics.  I just wish everybody cared about personalities.....

Weadee (not verified) says...

As an INFP I agree with you on your points. When people tell me to something multiple times-even if they're just being nice, I'll automatically think that you're reminding me because of something negative.  This was a really good article nonetheless :).

Anne Devi (not verified) says...

As an infp, I can really relate to your comment...great points/well said!

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

Yet another INFP voice to be heard here.

One of the biggest points of clash for me comes when values are trodden upon.  When I share with my supervisor workplace activities, processes, or even "company values" that I believe to be wrong, unethical, immoral, or demeaning, I expect:

  1. To be listened to
  2. To have my concerns seriously considered and either truly shown to be misperceptions or acted upon.

When it comes to working with ESTJ leaders who follow established guidelines and procedures first and rarely listen to their Fi moral code, this can lead to BIG problems.  The ticking timebomb has been activated.  An Fi explosion will happen eventually.  So for me the biggest thing that I weigh when considering applying with a company is the enacted value system.  It has to align well with my own or there will be problems.

Another point of contention for me are SOPs, especially stringent, rigid ones used by ISO companies.  I don't believe that only one way is the right way to achieve a goal.  Much is dependent upon the individual's personality type.  What works best for 80% of folks might not be the most effective way for the other 20%.  Herein the problem arises from those in charge who believe that efficiency is the golden goose and that effectiveness naturally follows.  Being effective means recognizing the differences that are inherent in individuals and that those differences are a strength and not a liability.

I must also echo sentiments already shared about criticism/feedback.  It seems that most INFPs are already their own toughest critics.  What we do is in effect a direct reflection of who we are.  I receive negative feedback and criticism as a personal judgment of who I am.  I take things personally.  Indeed there have been times in my work experience where a supervisor has given blanket criticism for the group, the supervisor not even thinking of me as being one of the "guilty parties", that nevertheless throws me into a spiral of introspection and angst that makes me less productive as I ruminate on my failings.  I understand that this efficeint approach of letting everybody know what must be avoided is a time saver for the supervisor, it can have negative consequences.

I have found ESTP sales people and management coworkers to be some of the most difficult for me to keep a positive relationship with.  I find ISTJs to be a 50/50 split regarding maintaining a positive working relationship.  With them it all comes down to whether they are able to keep the goals in mind rather than being slaves to processes.

Thanks for the article.

Bonnadee (not verified) says...

Very helpful information!  I am ISTJ and it is a real challenge knowing how to deal with my co-worker who is ESTJ. At times, it is very easy as all I need to do is be willing to take on whatever special project he asks of our team and be sure to include him with progress updates.   At times, it seems he gets very closed minded about other things and unwilling to listen to anyone. Your information helps me to better understand how to get along with him.  Thank you!

Achal (not verified) says...

I'm surprised as how big co-incidence it is. I have all four kinds of people in my office. HaHa!! 



IreneINFP (not verified) says...

"Ironically, an ESTJ has the management skills to support the INFP, and these two types work well together."

Wow! That came out of left field! Do you have a single source you can cite to confirm this? Why is it that every single time we see an INFP online discussing having an ESTJ boss, they are requesting a good exit strategy? I doubt a single iNtuitive wants an ESTJ boss, but least of all an INFP. Part of being temperamental opposites is they don't work well together, and why should INFPs have the temperament that is most likely to be on the receiving end of a divorce as their boss? What makes us unworthy of another iNtuitive as a boss? With our people/mediation skills, why not have us be the boss? Every talent we have is sure to fly over an ESTJ's head (if not result in them stealing the credit for our ideas). What's next? An INFJ should have an ESTP boss? She can walk over to him while he's scratching his behind and belching and say, "I hope you don't mind, but I used my first paycheck to buy this place some office supplies." Enough with the male over female status quo. Women make awesome supervisors! Even when they act like women.

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