Why Are ESFJs So Happy With Their Jobs, and What Can the Rest of Us Learn from Them?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 20, 2015

In a previous post, we talked about how job satisfaction varies widely from one personality type to another. Some types overwhelmingly give their jobs high ratings, while others seem to dread every day in the salt mine. So what’s going on here? Why are some personality types so much more satisfied on the job?

Here’s the graph again, in case you missed it, showing job satisfaction ratings by personality type. As you can see, the ESFJs, ESFPs, and ENFJs seem to know something the rest of us don’t. What’s going on with these types that makes them so tickled with their jobs?

Personality type and job satisfaction

You may be thinking of the obvious answer: maybe these types are earning more. But as you can see from the graph below, the most satisfied types are not necessarily the types that earn the most. While overall, job satisfaction does trend upward with income, it's not an exact correlation. When it comes to job satisfaction, there's more to it than just money.

Personality type and job satisfaction

As we considered the data, we wondered if there might be a hidden phenomenon behind it. Specifically, we thought of the common conception of the ESFJ as a "maternal" type. Could it be that these ESFJs were so satisfied not because they had a great (traditional) job, but because they were doing what Oprah famously called “the hardest job in the world”—staying home with their children?

If this were true, it could contribute to the satisfaction advantage we saw in Feelers overall. It’s well established that women more often score as Feelers (about two thirds of all women) while men more often score as Thinkers. Women are also a lot more likely to take time off work to raise children. If raising children were more satisfying than being employed, that could explain why Feelers liked their jobs more.

To test this theory, we first had to see whether stay-at-home parents were in fact more satisfied than people who were reporting into an office every day. Of the people who told us their employment status, 271 said they were stay-at-home parents. Truth be told, they were really stay-at-home moms; dads accounted for only ten volunteers out of the 271. Now the question was whether these SAHMs were more satisfied than the average worker bee. Let’s go to the data.

Personality type and job satisfaction

Indeed, stay-at-home parents were more satisfied, on average, than employed people. However, the self-employed and retired were the ones really living it up.

So what about those super-satisfied ESFJs, ESFPs and ENFJs? Are they so pleased with their work because they’re more likely to be staying home with their delightful offspring?

The next step was to analyze the types of the SAHMs to see if some types were more likely to stay at home than others. We found that in fact, ESFJs are more likely to be SAHMs, along with several other types (mostly Feelers). Interestingly, some types were much less likely to be found parenting full-time—specifically, the NT types.

The following graph shows each type’s chances of being a stay-at-home parent, compared to the overall average for the sample.

Personality type and job satisfaction

So if stay-at-home parents are more likely to be satisfied, and ESFJs are more likely to stay home with their kids, does that account for the high satisfaction of ESFJs? Well, no. Because there were so few stay-at-home parents in our sample, the number of SAHMs was too small to have affected the satisfaction ratings for ESFJs overall. And employed ESFJs were also happier than everyone else.

Personality type and job satisfaction

So after all this analysis, we still don’t have a clear explanation for why ESFJs (and ENFJs and ESFPs) are so happy in their work. They don’t earn more than other types. They don’t make up a significantly larger percentage of people in more satisfying employment states (i.e. retired or full-time parenting). In many ways, they seem to be making similar career choices to other types, yet they’re getting more out of it.

Perhaps the explanation comes down to the motivation to work. Generally, Feeling types choose a job based on what they perceive to be their purpose in life. They consult their values; they think about the changes they want to see in the world. Then they choose a job that makes them feel good about what they’re doing. Thinking types, on the other hand, are more likely to choose a career based on more conventional metrics like earning potential or prestige.

So it seems we can all learn something from these satisfied Feelers. While high salaries and prestigious titles are tempting, what really keeps us going after many years on the job is a sense that we’re doing something we believe in.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

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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.


Leti G (not verified) says...

I am an ESFJ...I was a stay at home parent for 4 1/2 years and enjoyed my time raising my 3 sons..cooking at home, teaching them at home and going to outings with our playgroup..Taking trips to the Library and reading books. Making trips to the Zoo, Museums and just having fun. My sons are now 25, 23 and 20.

I do have to have a job in which there is purpose and meaning for it. I do want to make a change in the World and make it better. Wow, this explanation of an ESFJ is so right on for me..

Thanks so much for sharing with us!

Guest (not verified) says...

Molly, I agree with your point, but you may want to consider that extroverted feelers (ENFJ, ESFP, ESFJ) are highly relationship driven and because they feel a sense of belonging and affiliation to their company and colleagues, their job satisfaction increases.

Dave2 (not verified) says...

INTJ here -- This is an interesting article, but I am not confident that ESFJs are actually the happiest workers. They might just be the type most likely to say that they are satisfied at work. 

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