It’s difficult to balance all of the different work personalities you’re faced with in the office, but dealing with a difficult boss is especially challenging. Why don’t they like you? Why are they so hard on you but easy on everyone else? Why do you struggle to communicate with them?
Understanding the Enneagram type of your boss yields powerful insights into their work habits, communication preferences, values, and idiosyncrasies. Knowing what makes them tick will help you form a lasting relationship with bosses who could decide your professional fate within the workplace. Learn how to deal with a controlling boss, how to make decisions they will appreciate, and how to succeed with them in charge.
We have more articles surrounding how to utilize personality types in the workplace, including An Introduction to Enneagram Strengths, Weaknesses, and Career Paths, How to Lead and Manage Enneagram Types in the Workplace, and How to Use Enneagrams to Understand Coworkers .
Using Enneagrams to Foster Positive Relationships at Work
The Enneagram personality assessment is designed to help people better understand themselves and others. There are 9 different personality types that your boss may identify as, each with their own values, motivations, communication preferences, strengths, and weaknesses.
Utilizing the Enneagram in the workplace is all about fostering healthy work relationships. Understanding your boss’ inner world and preferences makes for a better working relationship and can help you avoid conflict in the workplace.
Navigating Different Work Personalities: How to Relate to Your Boss
Making a connection and forming a healthy working relationship with your boss is tough, especially when they have work habits, communication preferences, and a sense of humor completely different from your own. These differences can easily result in employee-manager conflicts, conflicts that rarely result positively for the employee.
As an employee, it’s vital to your professional future that you are as understanding as possible in your relationship with your supervisor. After all, as difficult as they may be, they’re still your boss, and your professional fate is in their hands.
Below, we’ll discuss each of the 9 different Enneagram personality types and describe how you can best relate to your boss.
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 1 (The Reformer)
Type 1s believe strongly in right and wrong; they value morals, ethics, fairness, honesty, and order. This faith in their own belief system and their commitment to doing things by the book means you will often find type 1s in a position of leadership. As a boss, they will prioritize accuracy, details, and following a preconceived plan. They will not appreciate apathy, laziness, improvising, or showing up late.
How to communicate with 1s: Be clear, honest, and objective. Make sure you take their suggestions seriously and let them know you appreciate their advice when they give it. Be accountable and admit your mistakes.
What 1s value in an employee: Type 1s value punctuality, follow through, honesty, dedication, and adherence to the rules.
What will frustrate a type 1 boss:
- Not taking your work seriously, cutting corners, dishonesty, or breaking the rules
- Procrastinating or not completing work on time
- Arriving late or unprepared for a meeting
- Changing plans, schedules, or deadlines last minute
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 2 (The Helper)
Type 2s are generous and compassionate people-pleasers who love to help people and receive plenty of love and attention in return. Type 2s need to be needed, and their desire and ability to help people is central to their personal identity. As a boss, they’ll go out of their way to make sure their employees feel comfortable and supported. They’re the kind of boss who will unsarcastically refer to their team as their ‘work family’—but as the head of that family, they’re likely to play favorites.
How to communicate with 2s: Engage in conversation frequently and allow them to make small talk. Ask them about themselves and be sensitive to their feelings, and be prepared to answer plenty of questions about yourself. Type 2s sincerely want to get to know you as a person and not just an employee. Make an effort to recognize and appreciate what they do for you.
What 2s value in an employee: Type 2s value loyalty, kindness, and appreciation. They want you to come to them with personal or professional problems and treat them as more than just a boss.
What will frustrate a type 2 boss:
- Being impersonal or short when speaking
- Not allowing them to get to know you
- Not appreciating ‘all they do for you’
- Being rude to them or your fellow employees
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 3 (The Achiever)
Type 3s are ambitious, charismatic, confident, and enthusiastic—they’re also very image-conscious, which means they care very much about how they’re perceived by others. As a boss, type 3s will be excellent motivators and likely to get along with everyone, at least on a surface level. Their drive to succeed means you’re likely to find type 3s in managerial or leadership positions.
How to communicate with 3s: Be straightforward, clear, and practical with 3s. Credit them for their accomplishments and ideas, and try to match their level of enthusiasm. Allow them to inspire and motivate you, but watch that your own drive to succeed doesn’t trigger their competitive side.
What 3s value in an employee: Type 3s value employees who are efficient, capable, and practical. Since 3s are very ambitious and want to accomplish great things, they appreciate employees who are dedicated to the job and furthering the interests of the business.
What will frustrate a type 3 boss:
- Jokes made at their expense
- Not recognizing their accomplishments
- Being overly emotional or indirect with your communication
- Apathy toward personal and professional goals
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 4 (The Individualist)
Type 4s are creative, quiet, empathetic, moody, and mysterious. Due to their withdrawn and sensitive nature—and the fact they don’t like to be told or tell others what to do—type 4s are less likely to find themselves in leadership positions. As a boss, type 4s are likely to be open-minded and easygoing, treating employees as equals.
How to communicate with 4s: Avoid idle chit chat about subjects like the weather. Be as honest as possible about your feelings while remaining tactful—do not be disingenuous or phony. Type 4s are ruled by powerful and ever-changing emotions, which means they’re likely to be warm one day, cold the next, and so on.
What 4s value in an employee: Type 4s value employees who are authentic, kind, understanding, and compassionate. Since they don’t like to tell people what to do, they also appreciate self-sufficiency.
What will frustrate a type 4 boss:
- Making small talk or general office chit chat
- Competitive, demanding, fast-paced office environments
- Being disingenuous, phony, or rude
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 5 (The Investigator)
Type 5s are logical, perceptive, and reserved. Since they are shy, dislike the spotlight, and don’t like being told what to do, type 5s as bosses prefer a more hands-off approach. They won’t drop a lot of rules on you; instead, they’ll lead by example.
How to communicate with 5s: Ask for their expertise in professional matters from time to time, but don’t burden them with questions too frequently. Don’t ask type 5s personal questions, and spare them the details of your own personal life. Be logical and straightforward—bring them facts, not opinions, instincts, or feelings.
What 5s value in an employee: Type 5s value employees who are logical, independent, and don’t need a lot of oversight. The more you can do on your own without sacrificing the quality of your work, the better.
What will frustrate a type 5 boss:
- Being overly emotional
- Needing a lot of guidance
- Competitive, demanding, fast-paced office environments
- Putting them on the spot
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 6 (The Loyalist)
Type 6s are trustworthy, hard-working, likable, and (as the name suggests) very loyal. They value security and stability, so they will work hard to form strong bonds with friends, and once they do, type 6s will never betray that trust. As a boss, a type 6 will be dedicated to their employees, attempting to create for them the kind of safe, stable, and loyal environment they themselves seek. If you have their back, they’ll have yours too.
How to communicate with 6s: Take time to get to know a type 6 on a personal level and let them know you appreciate them. Type 6s want to be included, so don’t leave them out of office jokes and invite them to social functions.
What 6s value in an employee: Type 6s value dedication, loyalty, hard work, and friendliness. Type 6s want employees that are also their friends, so the more kindness and loyalty you can demonstrate to them as individuals and the business as a whole, the better.
What will frustrate a type 6 boss:
- Showing up late for meetings
- Last-minute changes to projects or schedules
- Disloyalty of any kind
- Being left out of the loop on something going on in the workplace
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast)
Type 7s are enthusiastic, optimistic, spontaneous, scattered, and very energetic. They love what’s new and get bored easily. As a boss, type 7s are most energized by exciting ideas, but they grow bored by the practical work and details necessary to turn an idea into reality.
How to communicate with 7s: Be enthusiastic, encouraging, and optimistic. Support their ideas and be very tactful about expressing any reservations. Engage them in chit chat regularly, and remember to keep things light.
What 7s value in an employee: Type 7s appreciate employees who can match their enthusiasm. They value fun and excitement, so bring as much of that to the table as you can. Type 7s value employees who are also their friends, so don’t be shy about discussing your personal life—as long as it doesn’t involve a lot of heavy or upsetting emotions.
What will frustrate a type 7 boss:
- A lack of energy and enthusiasm
- Disinterest in their wild and wacky ideas (i.e., practicality)
- Defeatism or pessimism
- Not allowing them to get to know you
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 8 (The Challenger)
Type 8s are decisive, self-confident, and courageous. They like to be in control and aren’t just unafraid of confrontation—they genuinely enjoy it. Type 8s are natural leaders, so you will often find them in positions of authority.
How to communicate with 8s: Be practical, direct, and concise with type 8s, as they prefer to get down to business without a lot of talk. Be prepared to back up any comments, concerns, or ideas you have with concrete evidence. Seek their advice and let them know you appreciate it, but don’t lay it on too thick. Type 8s already know they’re great, and they value honesty and authenticity from those around them—not flattery.
What 8s value in an employee: Type 8s value employees who know they’re the boss. They appreciate practicality, efficiency, self-sufficiency, and employees with a thick skin.
What will frustrate a type 8 boss:
- Disobedience or disloyalty (even in minor forms)
- A lot of talk without follow through
- Dishonesty or misleading statements that break/bend the truth
- Self-pity and other “useless” emotions
How to Relate to Your Boss: Enneagram Type 9 (The Peacemaker)
Type 9s are easygoing, agreeable, patient, and self-effacing. Their ability and desire to see every side of an argument make them natural peacekeepers. As a boss, type 9s are likely to be thoughtful, warm, and understanding. They don’t like a lot of pressure, so they’ll do their best not to put a lot of pressure on their employees.
How to communicate with 9s: Be tactful and easygoing. Don’t put a lot of pressure on them to make decisions quickly. Do not be demanding or speak to them aggressively. Type 9s are excellent listeners and like to offer advice, so they’ll be happy to hear you out and help you with any problem—personal or professional.
What 9s value in an employee: Type 9s value patience, warmth, and understanding. Type 9s want their employees to get along with one another. Productivity and efficiency are not as important to 9s as the harmony and cohesiveness of the team.
What will frustrate a type 9 boss:
- Not getting along with other coworkers
- Engaging in conflict, confrontation, or competition
- Being cold and impersonal
- Inconsistent communication
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