Organised, caring and driven by duty the ESFJ personality type loves to contribute and remain constantly valued, productive, busy and liked. The ESFJ has an action-orientation that they will channel into people, helping and finding practical solutions to people issues and they'll work hard at making this happen as they are naturally oriented to the needs of those around them. Whilst the ESFJ wants everyone to feel valued, they will also want to feel part of the group themselves - they need to feel included. If someone is hurting, the ESFJ will be the first to respond.
The ESFJ character shares the same action-orientation of the ESTJ but with a people-based focus, they channel their drive, energy and practical nature into helping people. Driven by a sense of duty they are the cooperative, helpful, sympathetic and personable pragmatists, disliking anything ethereal or woolly as they prefer practical solutions to people issues, and they'll work hard at making this happen. Unlike the ESFP the ESFJ will want a plan and closure, they do not like loose ends or anything they perceive as sloppy or messy. As with most 'S's, they prefer the concrete, inhabiting a world of facts and the ‘here and now.’ Asking an ESFJ to sit and think things through or reflect before ‘doing’ is not easy as their natural propensity is for action; thinking is seen as a passive and useless activity. This means they will jump immediately into ‘sorting it all out,’ when at times if they’d taken a little longer to think they may have come up with a better solution. Organised, caring and driven by the known, routine comes naturally to the ESFJ who fear change as it is drags them out of the place where they feel they are strong and where they can contribute.
Conscientious and caring, the ESFJ will be good at follow-through and making sure the routine is taken care of, but may struggle with anything which appears complex, or which is perceived as not clearly getting the intended result or which causes conflict or disharmony. They value family links, friendships and tend to be slightly sentimental in their approach. Under pressure an ESFJ may become like the 'controlling parent,' smothering others in their attempt to provide support and believing that their way is best, becoming sensitive to any perceived criticism. Their values of ‘doing good’ and working hard to make sure things and people are taken care of are at the core of the ESFJ although they may at times try to instil these parental-style values in others, often using parental type words like "should," "ought" and "must." These are all said with a good heart and desire to help but the subjective nature of the ESFJ means that they may almost impose what they think is best in their desire for immediate practical help.
Being ‘F’s ESFJs may have trouble making more logical and factual decisions so driven are they by their values and wishing to maintain harmony, so their decisions will be primarily driven by the needs of those around them especially those close to them whom they feel a duty to ‘care for.’ Everything for the ESFJ becomes personalised and will be filtered through a more subjective ‘how do I feel about this person’ lens, rather than being objective and logical as a logical approach for the ESFJ is equated with being cold and harsh thus negating being helpful which is at the core of the ESFJ being. After a day interviewing I asked my ESFJ secretary to tell the successful candidate he’d got the job. “Was he the nicest?” she asked, “Did you like him best?" No issue of ‘suitability’ even crossed her mind! They tend also to have more of a ‘gate-post,’ binary mentality, seeing things in very black and white, ‘good or bad,’ ‘right or wrong,’ ‘nice or horrible.’ Being driven by feelings can also mean that the ESFJ gets hurt easily by any perceived or real criticism as everything is taken so personally, so factually and they can dwell on such criticism. Anything which appears complex or which has many shades of grey will be dismissed as it doesn’t conform to the ‘natural laws’ of ‘ESFJ common sense.’ They’ll want to jump in and help, which is why they were, according to their own values, ‘put on this earth.’
Linking ‘type’ and ‘careers’ would be easy if it was just about listing specific jobs that perfectly fit specific personalities. However in truth it is more difficult than that as ignores other, more important issues, such as the organisation, the values and the culture, which are far better determinants of suitability than a job title. Also individual jobs vary widely from industry to industry, organisation to organisation and person to person. Therefore our focus on ‘type’ and ‘careers’ will be far more on you: your personality, your aptitudes, interests, likes, strengths and weaknesses and then matching these to the sorts of environments, cultures and norms within organisations that will allow you, given your character, to thrive grow and flourish. We spend a lot of our time at work and so it is important to get these issues right or we could spend a lot of working time unhappy, unproductive and unfulfilled.
ESFJs are loyal, conscientious, duty-driven, detailed and essential doers in that they are action oriented and like to get things done, rather than think about them. They prefer a familiar routine, a plan and established practice and protocols. They will get on and do but need a clear direction about what is expected and will struggle with ambiguity or anything that does not make sense. They do not like being thrown into unfamiliar situations as they fear failure, and any change will be treated with caution and suspicion, because the value system of the ESFJ has been built over time and anything that seems to threaten this will be feared. They have an incredible work ethic and so ask an ESFJ to sort out a specific problem and they will work long and hard to make sure it is done, and done properly, exactly as agreed. However, ask them to think about the best way of sorting a problem and they are not so comfortable as they prefer the factual and the concrete to the abstract and the conceptual. ESFJs are built to drive things through to conclusion, providing their role is clear, the guidelines are clear, and they know exactly what is expected. The ESFJ predilection for doing rather than thinking means they are not initiative takers but followers of procedure and protocol, hardworking conscientious doers.
The strengths that an ESFJ has: duty, being conscientious, doing things properly and as agreed means that they are not often agents of change. They therefore struggle with the new and will take a great deal of convincing before moving from ‘the way things are done round here.’ This also means that they can struggle to take on board the opinions of other people as they have built their norms over such a long time that they believe clearly in a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ of doing things. This can see the ESFJ become a controlling and even a little harsh if things are not done properly, ie their way. This trait also means that they are focused on solving problems right now and this may negate looking at the wider ramifications and long-term issues, as they want to get straight down to it and ‘do,’ which may mean they don’t look at alternative and better ways of doing things. As their ‘rules’ and norms are clear, the ESFJ may perceive even questions as criticism and this, together with their strong need to feel appreciated for all their hard work, can make them demotivated as they have such a clear, almost binary view of right and wrong that to contradict them means the other person is changing the ground rules: and the ESFJ loves ground rules, tradition and clear protocols and anything ambiguous can be dismissed or made to fit the rules.
Workplaces that are stable, predictable and which value adherence to the rules and established norms are good environments for the ESFJ. They would not work well where it is informal, overly flexible and where they are not able to get on and do. Their dislike of conflict means the ESFJ would also work best where the atmosphere is warm and friendly, where everyone knows their place and where they can support and take care of others, in their way. ESFJs prefer order and structure and will thrive in organisations that are more traditional, have clear norms and precedent around ‘how things are done round here.’ They dislike ambiguity and need clarity and harmony and in their absence the ESFJ will create these, but based on their previous knowledge and experiences. They like to know what is expected, of them and of everybody, then they can work practically and systematically to succeed, ensuring people are taken care of and that what has been agreed is competed on time and exactly as agreed, to the letter. The ESFJ will bring order and planning and prefer it when these are adhered to completely.
ESFJs would not flourish in an environment that was laissez-faire, unstructured, and overly flexible with no clear rules or established practices. They like, indeed need, to know exactly where they stand, with tangible outcomes and clear lines of authority so a lax environment would not lend itself to their strengths. ESFJs like to work hard and have clear parameters for success and so, although they are people centric, and indeed prefer harmony, an environment which was overly collegiate or which they perceived as woolly, would not be a happy one for them. This also means they ESFJ will need to feel appreciated and this can only, for the ESFJ, happen through having tangible measures of success then it is clear for all to see that it was ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ The ESFJ is conscientious and positive and the way they believe they can have the most positive impact on the people and the organisation is having that clarity around what ‘good’ looks like. The ESFJ will respect authority and so prefer a more traditional environment and therefore may struggle where there are no clear lines of authority or hierarchy.
ESFJs need structure and a tangible outcome. Roles such as admin, clerical, research, managing people, project management will all play to their strengths as they combine an intense need for structure with their people orientation. Health and Safety roles and auditing are also good as they include detail, clarity, people and the ability to help whilst ensuring that specific standards are adhered to. They prefer stability and predictability and from this base they will thrive working long and hard and dutifully to ensure there are no deviations and no surprises.
In a work situation, the ESFJ will be the harmonious team builder, good at maintaining group morale, accentuating the positive and encouraging contributions from all team members making the team more open and participative. Great at precision and built for attrition, the ESFJ will blast through mountains of work making sure that it is completed on time, as agreed and with the highest levels of accuracy; the ESFJ rarely gets it wrong.
They are typically painstaking, orderly, duty-driven, conscientious and fretful to get it right and ‘do good.’ They are superb at follow-through and are at heart perfectionists. The ESFJ will, however, worry about the smaller things and may be reluctant to ‘let go.’ Very little slips past the ESFJ as they have an incredible memory for, and ability in, facts, details and specifics.
Although probably not the one to lead from the front, the ESFJ will be an excellent backstop and will take all tasks allocated very seriously and want to drive for closure, because that is how they are built. Like the ISFJ the ESFJ will be the protector, the one who makes sure the team do not slip off-track or fail to complete by deadline. However, the ESFJ is far more talkative and, when combined with factualness, they will vocalise their feelings and be more open in their support of people. The ISFJ would be less vocal and provide more of a behind the scenes support.
The ESFJ has an incredible ability to ‘get in the zone’ and, whilst preferring to focus on one task at a time, can apply themselves diligently and the team can be sure that what has been decided will be delivered on time, as agreed.
They are not often keen on delegating, preferring to tackle all tasks themselves and this is where they add most value to the team by checking, by actively searching for mistakes, by creating order and structure. The ESFJ will not be the most imaginative or the one with all the ideas but will excel when it gets into the detail and they have an incredible ability to churn through amazing amounts of work. However detailed, however precise, however data heavy the ESFJ will bring their concentration to bear on it and will complete on time and with a high degree of accuracy.
The ESFJ personality type will ensure the team is protected from mistakes and will focus on the people issues and the detail. As the ESFJ has the twin focus of getting things done and taking care of the people they will make sure that everything is planned and that the team are equipped and ready to drive for closure. As the ESFJ is driven by a sense of duty, they will take their roles seriously and work long and hard to get it right. They may get bogged down in detail and have to lift their heads to see the wider context.
As the ESFJ is driven by a sense of duty, they will take their roles seriously and work long and hard to get it right. They may get bogged down in detail and have to lift their heads to see the wider context. The ESFJ will want a plan and closure, they do not like loose ends or anything they perceive as impractical. Great at follow-through they may struggle with anything woolly, or not clearly getting the intended result. The strength of the ESFJ is their focus on people and detail, not in coming up with the original ideas. They will be super organisers and excel at getting people to stick to the plan and making things happen.
ESFJs are caring, factual and very action-oriented and organised. They are empathetic and caring and will tune into how people are feeling but then they’ll want to put together a plan to sort it all out. This can make them slightly controlling but with a good heart and positive intent. They will want to ‘talk it all out,’ not missing any detail and then get to the ‘best’ answer, which will be their answer. ESFJs are superb practical carers, who are really happy to get their hands dirty, get in with you and provide common sense practical advice and stick with people. All the detail, the minutiae will be brought out and sifted to arrive at the answer. They offer so much to their friends and families, indeed anyone in need, that they can sometimes feel underappreciated for all their efforts, especially so if someone is ungrateful or doesn’t ‘take the medicine.’ ESFJs are happy to take charge and won’t shy away from telling it like it is, but with a good heart and always with sound advice and a plan.
ESFJs are direct and open in their communication, happy to speak out the unpalatable truths, but less brutally than say an ESTJ. They are excellent at opening people up and getting to the heart of the problem and they will make the time and effort to understand, at the most factual and basic level, what the problem is and so find a course of action. ESFJs are often the organisers, of outings, parties, get-togethers as they are caring, sociable and consummate planners. Everyone can lean on the ESFJ they actually need to be needed and will be the first ones to volunteer, always first responders, and they’ll keep circling back to make sure everyone is OK, checking in on people. That ‘checking in’ will also mean checking how people are and if they are taking the advice given, ESFJs are very thorough.
ESFJs have people at heart and so their decisions tend to be made based on what’s best for people. They really do take the time to care, they take this seriously, it’s a full-time job, and they will be relentless in its pursuit. And ESFJs are very decisive, they’ll take in all the information, decide what’s best and then will want to make it happen. Once they are clear an ESFJ is built to make it happen and follow through, they can really feel how people are feeling but, unlike the just as caring, say, ISFP, an ESFJ doesn’t want to just be a shoulder to lean on but will want to take immediate action.
ESFJs don’t really like conflict and will at all times seek to bring about harmony, jumping in to smooth things over and take charge. They truly value friendships and family links and will want to, and work hard to, see everyone rub along peacefully. Paradoxically that will mean taking people aside when they’re doing something to upset the harmony and telling them so! ESFJs need to feel part of the group, to be included, and they would feel deflated if they weren’t appreciated or their strengths utilised, they want to be wanted. They have such a strong sense of duty and they have immense staying power, all tied up with wanting to help, needing to help, needing to be valued.
Choose another personality type to compare side by side the different approaches work, attitudes to conflict and the way they engage with others.