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How to support ISFJ personality types in the workplace

How to support ISFJ personality types in the workplace featured image

ISFJs, or “Defenders” are a 16-personalities type that brings kindness and loyalty to the workplace, thriving when they contribute to collective goals. With their practicality, detail orientation, and work ethic, they also make dependable team members suited to hands-on tasks.

That said, a tendency toward perfectionism coupled with difficulties saying “no” to requests can lead to Defenders burning out. They may also resist change, which can create team friction. However, you can reduce the likelihood of these issues occurring by providing the right support.

Below, we break down ISFJs’ top strengths and challenges, plus how you can communicate with, motivate, engage, and develop 16-personalities Defender employees.

Overview of ISFJs in the workplace 

Defenders are characterized by the following traits according to the 16 Personalities framework:

Introverted (I) - Focus on internal thoughts and ideas, enjoy solitude and deep thinking versus external stimulation, and tend to work best when alone.

Sensing (S) - Focus on reality instead of possibility, keeping their attention on the present and concrete information.

Feeling (F) - Make decisions based on empathy and consideration for others’ feelings, valuing harmony and emotional connection in their interactions.

Judging (J) - Prefer structured, planned, and organized work with clear direction over spontaneity.

ISFJs’ strengths and contributions to the workplace

Here are the top strengths Defenders bring to work.

1. Organized and dependable 

Defenders are structured, organized, and excellent at meeting deadlines. They’re also hard-working and get fulfillment from a job well done, making them highly dependable.

2. Loyal team players

ISFJs are naturally kind and altruistic, thriving when they serve others and a higher purpose. For this reason, they make excellent team players and prefer collaborative environments. In addition, their preference for stability makes them loyal to their team and company.

3. Detail-oriented

Being highly observant, Defenders love to analyze and discuss situations in detail. You can rely on them to do their jobs thoroughly, without cutting corners.

4. Oriented toward action

While they’re a “feeling” type, ISFJs are also defined by pragmatism. They’re oriented toward action, staying away from abstract discussions. In a team, they often remind others to focus on practical steps.

ISFJs’ common challenges and pain points

At the same time, Defenders can experience the following difficulties.

1. Not expressing their needs

ISFJs rarely share when they’re stressed or frustrated at work, making it hard for their managers to fix underlying problems, such as a lack of clear instructions. Furthermore, Defenders avoid confrontation and may not speak out about toxic workplace behaviors such as bullying.

2. Difficulty saying “no”

They find it hard to say “no” to colleagues’ requests, often de-prioritizing their own tasks, goals, and well-being. Coworkers seeking shorter to-do lists might take advantage of Defenders’ desire to help others.

3. Resisting change

ISFJs are some of the most change-averse personality types, preferring routine and stability. Without significant advance planning and explanation, they might struggle to apply new processes or methods at work.

4. Developing perfectionism

Defenders can easily slip from a strong work ethic into perfectionism. They want to do a great job, but may not know when to stop. This, combined with a desire to meet deadlines, could lead ISFJs to burnout and poor work–life balance.

5. Minimizing their own achievements

Defenders don’t like to draw attention to their achievements. But if they don’t take credit for results, it could damage their chances of getting promotions or learning opportunities.

Defenders can be reserved but relish building trust-based relationships with their coworkers. Here’s how to approach communication with ISFJs.

Effective communication strategies for ISFJs

When communicating with Defenders, ensure you:

  • Clarify expectations and instructions regularly to meet their need for structure.

  • Discuss goals, tasks, and feedback with detailed examples and instructions to address their need for specificity.

  • Emphasize the collective nature of an activity so they feel part of a team.

  • Offer them a model for opening up by sharing your own feelings and thoughts, in informal chats or more formal conflict mediation exercises.

Best practices for integrating ISFJs into teams

First, set clear roles and responsibilities in your team to avoid ISFJs taking on others’ work. In addition, track and acknowledge their solo performance while highlighting their contribution to team goals.

Remember that they avoid the spotlight in social settings. So allow them to plan their speeches and presentations rather than putting them on the spot. Encourage them to ask for coworkers’ support when they need it.

ISFJs collaborate most effectively in small groups and one-on-one relationships. You could, for example, assign them an onboarding buddy when they join and one main point of contact for everyday responsibilities.

Tips for preventing and resolving conflicts

While ISFJs usually avoid conflict, they might grow frustrated when coworkers don’t follow established rules or gloss over the Defenders’ accomplishments. Meanwhile, other colleagues might interpret their resistance to change as rebellious, causing misunderstandings.

Here’s how to prevent and resolve conflicts including ISFJ employees.

  • Avoid confrontational language like “Is it true you’ve done this?” Opt for a gentle but practical approach, such as “I’d like to talk about the problem regarding [subject]. Can you describe what happened and how it affected you?”

  • Keep feedback structured and detailed so ISFJs can absorb it more easily. For example, instead of “You’re too opposed to change,” say, “I’d like to suggest some alternative ways of dealing with the recent strategy change,” and then break down each one.

  • Encourage Defenders to share their feelings and needs regarding a conflict by explaining how this action helps identify practical outcomes.

How to motivate ISFJ employees and keep them engaged 

Engaging and motivating Defenders appropriately helps their natural loyalty and enthusiasm shine through. Here’s how. 

What motivates ISFJs at work

Defenders are motivated by a strong team spirit and company mission. For instance, using “we” rather than “you” or “I” in team discussions is a way to highlight teamwork for ISFJs.

They also want praise for their achievements despite not mentioning them themselves. Ensure you reward them fairly for their performance (and loyalty) through compensation and promotion.

Strategies for engaging ISFJ types

Apply these strategies to engage your ISFJ employees.

  • Keep Defenders’ tasks action-focused and specific. So, instead of “Do some research,” you might say, “Find out [specific statistics] in preparation for the quarterly report.”

  • Provide constructive feedback highlighting both their personal growth and their impact on others. Research your Defender employee’s contributions before performance reviews because they don’t easily take credit for results.

  • Give plenty of notice and explanation when implementing team-wide changes. For example, let ISFJs learn how to use a new project management platform before formally starting to use it.

  • Engage Defenders’ sense of purpose by offering them benefits such as volunteer time off (VTO). They’ll feel that your company understands and rewards their desire to help others.

Enhancing ISFJs’ productivity

ISFJs are excellent planners and hard workers. Here’s what keeps them productive.

  • Workplace productivity software that includes tools like scheduling, task status and reminders, project tracking, and others.

  • A system to filter coworkers’ requests. For instance, they could use the Red Amber Green (RAG) priority model and only commit to supporting red—or urgent— tasks.

  • Regular one-to-one or small group meetings to confirm specific goals and tasks.

Preventing ISFJs’ stress and burnout

You can keep stress and burnout at bay by advising Defenders to take regular breaks and be mindful of mental and/or physical overload. Channel their empathy by saying, for example, “When I feel overwhelmed, taking frequent breaks and getting some air helps me.”

You can also explain the practicalities of burnout slowing them down in the long run. Finally, encourage other team members to ask ISFJ colleagues if they need help with tasks. Slowly, Defender personalities will start asking for help. 

Guidance on personal development and career growth for ISFJs

Defender personalities feel fulfilled when they’ve done good work toward a mission outside of themselves. Here’s how to help them grow in their careers.

Incentivize ISFJs’ self-focus

Talking about accomplishments may feel awkward for Defenders, but this skill is often necessary for career growth. Offer them practical ways to practice it, like:

  • Writing and saying affirmations out loud, such as “I delivered an important project,” or, “I wrote an insightful research paper.”

  • Preparing notes for meetings where they’re communicating their results.

  • Setting achievable targets to share their achievements with someone, even outside work—for example, once a week during family dinner.

Identify ISFJ leadership traits

ISFJs may not brand themselves as leaders—and management teams could overlook them, too. 

To identify Defenders who might make great leaders:

  • Expand your definition of “leadership”. For instance, not all leaders are extroverted or talkative. Some are quiet, warm, and supportive. Check whether internal decision-makers might have preconceptions about ISFJ leadership abilities.

  • Run unbiased performance assessments. Judge internal leadership candidates on their achievements, rather than how they present their achievements. Include traits such as maintaining stability, collaboration, and team harmony in your assessments.

Provide tailored mentorship

ISFJs’ mentors should be “cheerleading” allies who understand their strengths and challenge areas. They must be prepared to gain the Defenders’ trust while gently nudging them beyond their comfort zone. 

For instance, a mentor may suggest a goal such as “talk about your achievements assertively,” without minimizing the mentee’s fulfillment from helping others.

Identify and hire great ISFJ candidates with TestGorilla

ISFJ employees are extremely diligent and dependable, eager to support their teams and perform their duties well. While they struggle to say “no” and risk becoming perfectionistic, they can thrive in your team with tailored support including detailed feedback and non-judgmental mentoring.

The first step to supporting Defenders is using talent assessments to identify and test ISFJ personalities. Through skills-based hiring, you better understand your candidates’ needs and strengths, and can make better hires.

TestGorilla’s 16 personalities test is free to use (no strings attached). Combine your personality test with others in our test library—such as cognitive ability, job-specific, and software tests—for an all-rounded assessment of your employees and candidates.

Start for free today or book a live demo with our helpful team.


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