Can an INFP Succeed at Business?

I’ve had the fortune of watching a number of executives and managers go through poor treatment by their own managers, layoffs, firings, or underpayment, and resiliently go on to obtain even better opportunities. It seems that no matter how much they seem to have their heart and soul poured into a job, they’re never bound to one business. They just aren’t emotionally tied to it.

Most people won’t be emotionally tied to their work. Sure, one could get excited about completing a project, solving a problem, or getting a promotion, but at the end of the day their life isn’t their job. Even if they seem to work and network most of their waking hours.

I started wondering recently how important it is to have somewhat of a sociopathic mentality to succeed in business. I took this test on whether or not I’m a sociopath and came out to be just 22% sociopath. Apparently the average woman is 37% sociopath and the average man is 50% sociopath. 

The questions about sociopathy clearly show a person who is able to do anything, separate from his or her emotions, to get what they want. Someone who can not care what other people think or feel at all because ultimately their end goal is all that matters. And they don’t let the world effect them as deeply as it does an INFP or ENFP.

There are many blogs and articles online questioning if INFPs can be successful at business. Most people who are INFPs in business note that they succeed focusing on tasks but aren’t leaders. And these people tend to be happy with their lower level roles. Because at a management or higher level it gets intense. You have to make decisions that are best for the business and not for the individual. This is fine if the individual is not adding value to the business, but there are times when you can’t even reward someone who is properly. You’re stuck. You have all the power in the world and none at all.

“When it comes to enjoying success in the business world, there is one indicator that is more predictable than others. And, it comes down to four letters – ENTJ.” Apparently 80% of business executives are ENTJs. In this article, a Myers-Briggs consultant notes “as an INFP you might not be comfortable in an environment that tends to reward ENTJ’s.”

You can say that again. While I work my ass off and contribute at a high level, I’m not so formulaic and process-oriented. In business, ultimately repeatable process is rewarded. I think of my work as more of an art. I’m learning some repeatable concepts, for sure, but having a job where I am expected to deliver the same exact thing month after month is a surefire way to not-motivated land. I’m the type of person who would prefer a major challenge one month and a different one the next. But I also like the choices made to be rational and fair. They never are in business.

This post about what INFPs need to be successful really spoke to me. We need autonomy, projects not hours, a free schedule, creativity & intelligence, personal, own space, ideals & values, positive people, and some level of security. Yes, that sounds about right.

Well reading posts about INFPs at work is refreshing as I can relate to them (and, while we’re only 1% of the population, they make me feel a little less crazy), it’s also just depressing. It makes me wonder if I’m cut out for the business world. I certainly have SOMETHING to add to it as I wouldn’t still have a job at the same company after three years. But the amount of heart I put into this is taking a toll on me. I don’t know how to work hard without caring. I could never work a 9-5. At least in startups the INFPs and ENTJs align with a common goal. For a while. Until something goes wrong. Then how these two groups handle the situation is very, very different.

I just don’t know what to do right now because – as I interview for other positions – I don’t want to jump into just anything, even if I can trick a company into thinking I’m a valuable hire. I might be a great hire for a few months but can I stay motivated for 3+ years in one position again? It’s been a struggle in this role, and at 30 this is the longest I’ve been at one company. I’ve managed it because it has changed so frequently and each quarter was its own team race to the finish line. But I’m spent. I’m tired. I’m tired of caring so much and putting so much passion into something that I have no control over in the end. And that I could easily be laid off from in a heartbeat should the executive team decide my headcount needs to be made redundant. That’s business.

And this:

“INFPs are notoriously hard on themselves for not always living up to the standards and ideals they promote.”


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8 thoughts on “Can an INFP Succeed at Business?”

  1. I really like Briggs-Meyers and have usually found that most aspects of my personality matches everything they’ve said. However, I’ve also found that I can do things outside of my comfort zone better than they usually think too – so I think it boils down to how comfortable you want to be with what you’re doing.

  2. Thank you for posting this, albeit several months ago. Realized last week I’m an INFP, and trying to research about how that influences my success and motivation in terms of working. Interested to hear if you have more insights or conclusions.

  3. In my opinion, even a single man can succeed a business with no holes. But then, he will need a trustworthy members and affiliates. INFPs could be successful too even in they are on other side. They just need a trustworthy affiliates too. Because no business that shines if there’s only one person who is leading.

  4. Hi, this is a wonderful article. I am an INFP and I agree with everything you said. My boss, who is a ENTJ, knows my personality and he always said “I like your creativity and I would not want you to be otherwise.” I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve found my dream job. I’m in top senior management and I’m mostly in charge of marketing where my creativity can fly but I also do startup consultancy which is really fun. 9-5 is definitely really boring but because I’m so passionate, I can totally lose track of time although my time is very flexible and I get to work at home. In the end, doing something that you love is so much more rewarding and it’ll won’t be easy getting there but I am sure you will make it. About the comment above, I’m not sure if this is a INFP thing but I force myself to try to be more outgoing because life is not interesting if you don’t push your boundaries. That in and of itself is an art.

    1. im an INFP and on the way to my master in Marketing… love it when i see similar personality in the same field 🙂

  5. INFP need to run a business which they believe strongly in. It also need to be small, and can’t not grow to big since we INFP feel intimidated with too many people and big scene. Small community with the trusted is most suitable for INFP. Another way is to find someone who has extroverted quality and co-run the business.

    I am also contemplating what business is suitable for me, google search led me to your blog. I am currently considering non-profit/charitable organisation because I would like to help those in need, a strong belief for me to start brainstorming.

  6. I believe independent-spirited INFPs don’t just want any business. They want to do something they care deeply about. They want a career that ignites their passion, expresses their values and contributes something good to the world. And they want to do it on their own terms.

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