Spineless Bosses: NF Personality Type in Employee Management
The Spineless Boss can be quite a good boss, at first, but then a dark side comes out. You may be wondering how to deal with a good boss turned bad boss. It was like something suddenly snapped, and he or she broke. If this is the case, there is a good chance your boss is an "NF"—those who favor the iNtuition and Feeling preferences, as described by the Myers-Briggs® concept of personality type.
Good Characteristics of the NF Boss
The reason I mention the NF has a dark side is because it is the NF bosses who usually have a lot going for them. They are:
- creatively inclined
One wouldn't expect that these bosses can become disheartened and even critical of any seeming insult. Neither would one guess they can become quite adversarial, because they are 'people-people.'
They Are Predisposed to Like People
You iNtuition-Feeling or NF bosses bring many gifts and natural talents to the role of managing and leading. You are natural nurturers. You groove to empowering others. You are 'people-people' who tend to have a good understanding of what makes people tick. Were this the sum of it, every organization in the country would be fighting to hire you! You come closer than any other personality type to pulling off making everything alright in the organization and everyone happy.
Instead of nice bosses, though, I call these NF bosses 'spineless' because of their limited toughness for the inevitable butting-of-heads that is so common in work teams of diverse make-up.
If you are reading this, you could well be one of the NF personality types—ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ or INFP—and hopefully one with a sense of humor who can be kidded. Otherwise, I can just hear you denying the fact that, like me, you are adverse to conflict. Yes, I too am an NF and have met my enemy, the NF's huge discomfort with conflict!
You and Your Boss Need Each Other
Working for the NF
The NF (ENFJ, ENFP, INFJ or INFP) boss can see potential in everyone, and nurturing it in themselves is not excluded. They expect cooperation from everyone and their goal is to build a strong team and good morale, and they hope you will have the same amount of interest in your professional development as they do. They aim to provide you a warm and nurturing environment and expect you to join in the fostering of open communication.
The natural leadership gifts of NF bosses are incredible. They see the issues along the way as more personalized and so direct their passion into bringing harmony and understanding between people. When they can hang in there and make the hard calls, those gifts are powerful and very appreciated.
But, There's One Problem
The NF"manager can make people happy, but it is quite another thing to actually increase the team's production—especially when push comes to shove and interactions get tough.
They can set a comfortable tone for discussions, but just watch when conflict comes. They are conflict adverse and when an NF boss does not realize this and faces any failure in keeping the harmony, it gets unnerving for the NF. They then need someone with a stiff spine to prop them up—maybe even pull them out of hiding!
Working Under the NF's Apprehension
When you're working for the NF, they expect all to navigate the decision-making process carefully and avoid stepping on any toes. Don’t offend anyone’s feelings! The creation of winners and losers is not fair, as they define it. What should be a straightforward process for making clear decisions becomes one that is convoluted and glacier in pace.
The NFs have the gift for incredible natural leadership. However, the NFs’ team members tend to feel befuddled—particularly the Thinking-types on the team. Their ever-present concern to avoid conflict can drive NF bosses to try to force harmony, to the point that they may create a jury-rigged organizational structure—one built on interpersonal dynamics. They then attempt to dress it up for the Thinking-types with over-engineered logical terms to make it appear to be business outcomes, but that does not fool anyone!
Here are the special challenges of each of the four iNtuitive-Feeling personality types as bosses.
Gifted facilitators and negotiators, the ENFJs are quite skillful team builders, able to bring widely disparate groups to an agreement.
However, they lean too much on their interpersonal gifting. They will bore the crap out of you—seeming so, at least to some—with long-winded stories that meander and finally come to a conclusion only tangentially related to the topic at hand...Phew!
Be watchful of the ENFJ boss when conflict comes, for they can over-personalize it. Some objective input providing him or her an alternate view of the situation may help.
Widely found in HR organizations and in the fellowship of personality type communities, ENFP bosses are at their best as agents of change. They are charismatic, and outstanding communicators who are often the visionary. However, one wonders, can they focus? Are they capable to stop the spinning of new options to choose just one, or even two of them?
After any time with an ENFP boss, while he or she is clearly charismatic, the question comes to mind, "Can you please take the focus off yourself ... just for a moment?"
This is my type. Frequently drawn to anything that facilitates the development of individuals from the inside out, INFJs normally do not intend to be bosses in the first place. They are usually more interested in counseling. When INFJs do take on the boss role, they lend to the job their visionary insight that is often strategic, intellectually oriented and thoughtful.
However, one will often wonder, "Is anyone in there?" The INFJ can be so reserved that they are quite difficult to get to know. They may be tempted to hide when conflict comes!
The team members of an INFJ boss or leader may not know who he or she is, and may need to step out and help this boss learn how to socially connect. Here are five tips:
Of the four NF personality types, the INFP boss is the most technologically able. INFPs are also often drawn to any occupation that involves human development and improvement of the human condition. However, are they ever hard to pin down!
The team of the INFP boss can have lengthy and charming conversations with him or her, but afterward will still wonder what the boss' decision will be and when it will come. Once the INFP boss does announce his or her decision, the team members will still not be confident this that this decision is final and will not change...once the boss gets around to acting on it! The INFP boss may need help with positive accountability.
The NF Challenge
A strategic challenge for any of the NF bosses is that, by their spineless aversion to conflict, they can become co-conspirators in creating for themselves a glass ceiling. While they ably build a strong team, develop the team members and guide the culture, they often fail to demonstrate to the thicker-skinned Thinking-type in senior management that he or she is tough enough to get the job done.
When all of their best efforts seem unsuccessful, they can even snap and break. They become unhinged. Suddenly, they cannot stand the very presence of the person they have seemingly failed to help develop and any objectivity goes right out the window!
Rise Above the Unhinged Tendency
The trick to avoiding becoming unhinged is for the NF boss to
- stay true to his or her values and
- frame them in Thinking-language at the same time—presenting the rationale behind them.
When they do not, they run smack into that glass ceiling and never achieve their full leadership potential. The NF boss who can lean just a bit over to objective views on the issues may rise above their glass ceiling and make their great leadership gifts a powerful asset to the organization.
- Leadership and Type
CAPT handout that summarizes the characteristic leadership styles of each of the 16 MBTI personality types including blind spots.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Deidre Shelden