Spineless Bosses - NF Personality Type in Employee Management

Updated on February 3, 2018
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Deidre has a Masters in applied linguistics and translation for her 20 years overseas, then she worked as a certified provider of the MBTI®.

"NF" bosses can suddenly break

by Beige Alert
by Beige Alert | Source

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. 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:

  • encouraging
  • insightful
  • imaginative
  • creatively inclined
  • intuitive
  • idealistic
  • passionate
  • nurturing

It is not expected they can become disheartened and even critical of the seeming "insult." Neither would one guess they can become quite adversarial, because they are 'people-people.'

The Power of Nice

Prop up the spineless

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By donjd2 | Source

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.

Conflict can be made productive


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.

Hiding from conflict

by Lance Neilson
by Lance Neilson | Source

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.

Avoid becoming unhinged

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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!

Unbreachable 'glass ceiling'

By ericskiff
By ericskiff | Source

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.

© 2011 Deidre Shelden


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    • profile image

      Schwann 3 months ago

      Just come here to confirm and.. yes, it describes most :)

      Anyway I see many, or some, INFPs in the comments and no wonder why

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      wba108, Yes, making decisions promptly and carrying them out are clear challenges for the INFP. Such types can greatly benefit from supportive help through these processes where they would rather follow, than lead. Onlookers may not realize this and need to be told supportive help is needed to finalize decisions and carry them out. It is not that INFPs want to avoid the process all together, but it may appear that way!

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

      As an INFP, I've seen the leadership scenario's play out just as you've described. When the inevitable butting of the heads occurs, my leadership skills are put to the test and I have to confess that often it doesn't turn out well. At least it's been that way thus far.

      As a leader in my own home, my wife and kids are often frustrated by my failure to my decisions in a timely manner and actually follow through on my cleverly designed plans.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      MM, great way to put it; INFPs get disillusioned with possibilities :). Yes, it is hard for this type to swallow the boss idea.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      A bit late to the Meyers-Briggs personality party here on HP but glad to see others who love this stuff as much as I do! The "NF" caught my attention immediately. Like Melbel I'm an INFP (and very special people we are:-).

      This hub points out the painful truth about NFs. We are great at leading until we're... not. Because we get disillusioned with possibilities!

      Anyway, when time permits I'll read about other boss types.

      For today, however, you've reconfirmed for me why I hate being a boss even more than having a boss!


    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      melbel, I'm so glad to have your response that you can confirm this is true for three of the four types here! LOL, the interaction with the ESTP is priceless. Great example :).

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      This is fantastic! And so true!

      My sister is an ENFJ (all three of us are NF - I'm the INFP, Julia is ENFJ, my brother is ENFP) and she will tell the LONGEST, most-detailed stories in the world. My mother is an ESTP and so it goes something like this:

      ENFJ: Blah blah blah... blah blah

      ESTP: Hurry it up!

      ENFJ: Blah..

      ESTP: Just cut out the detail, what's your point?

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Glad to hear you, too, find personality study interesting, sean kinn. Yes, sociopaths are certainly worse. However, any person under a lot of stress may even seem 'sociopathic' for a time. This particularly seems true to others who observe them who are of a very different personality type. I have another hub on how each personality type tends to behave when in the grip of stress. I think we all get 'sociopathic' in such times and it is particularly hard to see it in ourselves and are blind to it. (I have another hub on weaknesses of each type which can become that type's blind spots.) I'm thinking a sociopath is one who gets stuck in the grip of that weakness and can't escape it and may even remain blind to it. There are even particular personality type who can tend not see their blind spots very easily, and others types who tend to see them too easily. I'm the latter--LOL!

    • sean kinn profile image

      sean kinn 6 years ago from Key West and Budapest

      This is an interesting Hub. I need to spend some time here studying these concepts (which I totally agree with). One area to examine might be "bosses with sociopathic tendencies," of which I have had many. They're the worst of the worst. Sean

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Ah, yes, such a great description of the INFP, mikaylab93! Well articulated. Thrilled you enjoyed this! I'm so glad to have your Comment. Thanks so much for your interesting insight :)

    • mikaylab93 profile image

      mikaylab93 6 years ago from Middleton, Idaho

      I very much enjoyed this Hub, I am an INFP as well.

      I am forever making great plans and leaving many pathways open, but I have found that sometimes the passion for those plans die out because I invest so much into the first sprint.

      I am working on, not abandoning my open path nature, but deciding witch one is the BEST out of all of the good options out there.

      After-all, when a decision is not made and committed to all of the good options go to waste and that is no way to live!

      Anyway, very interesting Hub, thank you for the insight!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hey, that's great, Stu! You predicted well. Yes, it seems to fit you--the intellectual idea geek INTJ.

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 6 years ago

      Ms Dee,

      I took the Jung Typology Test online. As predicted, I am an INTJ. I am now an officially certified geek. :)


    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Stu - 'Yes'! Every day.

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 6 years ago

      "I'm not getting older, I'm getting better..." - L'Oreal

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Stu - LOL! Yes, "middle aged" is what I was thinking. That's the way I 'prefer' to think of myself, too. Appreciate your getting this clarified :).

      Frog - So neat to have your comment about one of your best experiences. And you were a trainer of leaders? Wow! I bet you know a lot about Leadership and different approaches people take and the various possible roles, even.

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 6 years ago

      Ms Dee - I prefer to think of myself as "middle aged." :)

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Dee - Having a strong military background I enjoyed this Hub. One of the best experiences I had was to be a small group facilitator in a senior leadership classroom environment full of very diverse people with totally different military backgrounds and skills. It was always a challenge but at the same time quite enlightening on how leaders think.

      The Frog

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Yes, *do*, Stu! For us older people, there is an MBTI Step II--just skip the Step I. The results show, let's say, what shades of an INTJ a person prefers. Each of the four letters are broken down into subsets. There's always more to learn about ourselves :)

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 6 years ago

      Hi Ms Dee,

      I should take the test. I suspect I am an INTJ (nerdy researcher type). Would be interesting to see the result.


    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Stu, great to have your confirmation on these descriptions in relation to your own experiences! Yes, ENTJs are known as the 'Chiefs'--the take charge personality--and is why I titled my hub on that type the 'Marshalling ENTjs'. Sarah Palin is definitely an ENTJ personality type. No way is she an NF, and she is certainly an iNtuition type. :)

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      poorconservative1, so good to have your comment and glad for you to have gained a bit of insight. Based on the behavior you describe, it would be great if your boss would be open to some helpful suggestions of a bit more objective view. Once feelings have had a chance to cool a bit may be a good time to try to offer some supportive objectivity for her to consider. Thanks so much for your read and comment!

    • profile image

      Stu From VT 6 years ago

      Excellent post. Your descriptions of the NF types are accurate; I've met many in my day. The ENTJ is probably the best management type, because they are extroverted, analytical, and can make decisions without "analysis paralysis."

    • poorconservative1 profile image

      poorconservative1 6 years ago

      Good Hub,

      This has given me a little insight as to why my boss is the way she is. If I understood correctly (not a forgone conclusion) she is an ENFJ. She has a tendency to make long comments that are off the subject and contribute very little. When something happens to cause conflict she always seems to take it personally. Even though I enjoy what I do and I like working for her I have a tendency to keep my distance.

      Thank You for this insight


    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      This is great to hear you have been able to intentionally work on the 'lose it' tendency and hold it more in balance with, I presume, objectivity. Love having your testimony that it can be managed! You have found the trick :) Hooray! Beware of stages when home life stress can leak into the workplace and drain the 'nice' and 'objective' reserves available for office conflict situations. I speak from my own experience, here.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Ms. Dee, I was thinking of myself as a boss, or a teacher. I think I have learned to overcome this tendency to "lose it" after a long time of being "nice," but I used to do that when I was less experienced. This was something I had to work at consciously: to not let my emotions guide me as much, when in a supervisory role. So, yes, it was bang on, but I think it can be overcome, when an INFP is aware of it!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Hello, fellow "NF" prairieprincess! Absolutely, you sound like one with your love for developing the potential of others :) Those confrontations are tough. Neat to hear you say, "That's me!" Hope this personality description of what it is like as a director or boss.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      That's me! That's me! I love encouraging people and developing their potential. The big confrontations: not so much! I'm a big INFP!