Learn how to utilize the Enneagram in workplace situations, including how to determine Enneagram types at work and advice for leaders who need to manage various personality types.
As any manager knows, not all employees are alike. As soon as you’ve discovered how to motivate one employee, the next flips the script, and you’re left scratching your head. What did you do wrong? How can you motivate each of your employees to do their best and be successful?
Using the Enneagram at work is an excellent way to get a better sense of your team’s individual personalities. It goes a lot deeper than “so-and-so really likes jazz music” and “that one is obsessed with all things Disney.” Enneagrams shine a light on who your employees are deep down. And when you understand who they are and what they value, you’ll be able to motivate and support your team like never before—all while building a team that thrives on each other’s differences.
Enneagram at Work 101
The Enneagram is a personality assessment designed to help people better understand themselves and others. There are 9 personality styles that your employees may fall into, each with their own values, motivations, communication preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. For each of the 9 personality styles, there are two wing combinations, which create 18 more specific personality descriptions.
Once you understand the many different styles that make up your team, you’ll be better able to communicate with them effectively—in and out of the office.
📚 Learn more about Enneagram basics, including strengths, weaknesses, and career advice.
Identifying the Enneagram in the Workplace
So, how do you figure out which Enneagram type your employees belong to? It’s really a question of how involved you want the process to be. You could run an office-wide team building session to determine everyone’s unique type, or you could do it on a smaller scale with your own team.
There’s a chance your team members already know their Enneagram, so it doesn’t hurt to open up the discussion by asking if they already know their type. Just be ready to share your type with them as well. It’s important that your team not only learn their unique Enneagram type but that they share the results with the rest of the team—and you especially.
Utilizing the Enneagram in Workplace Situations
One of the most difficult parts of being a manager is motivating your team. What makes them tick? How do you appeal to their motivations to explain the importance of the work you’re asking them to do? How do you marry an employee’s values with those of the company and the work?
Learning everyone’s Enneagram type builds team communication, collaboration, and trust by enhancing a team’s understanding of one another. Not only will your team understand each other better, but your own improved awareness—of yourself and your team—will enable you to communicate and delegate more effectively.
How to Manage the 9 Different Enneagrams in the Workplace
Managing Enneagram Type 1 (The Reformer)
Reformers are guided by their strong belief in right and wrong. They are principled, purposeful, rational, hardworking, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
These types thrive in work environments that prioritize ethics, fairness, and dedication. As a manager, you won’t have to convince them to take their job seriously; type 1s will do that themselves. Type 1s want to follow the rules, but if they perceive something is unfair, they’ll address it with you.
- DO listen to their feedback (and tell them you appreciate it.)
- DON’T ignore their ideas.
- DO take them and the job seriously.
- DON’T cut corners or
- DO appeal to their morals, ethics, and values.
- DON’T be late or change plans last minute.
- DO help them pursue their own personal and professional growth.
- DON’T bend the truth or be misleading.
Managing Enneagram Type 2 (The Helper)
Helpers are guided by their love of people and their desire to be loved by people. They’re natural people-pleasers who are generous, positive, demonstrative, and possessive.
Type 2s thrive in warm and welcoming environments where they feel needed, appreciated, and very much a part of the group. As a manager, don’t be afraid to ask them about their day and to tell them about yours. To inspire and motivate a type 2, let them know that the task you’re asking them to perform is a big help to you personally and the team as a whole. Be attentive and encouraging, and frame any feedback in a positive light.
- DO tell them they’re a valuable part of the team.
- DON’T forget to appreciate their hard work.
- DO make them feel helpful.
- DON’T be cold or impersonal.
- DO carefully phrase feedback in a way that is kind and encouraging.
- DON’T be insensitive to their feelings.
- DO involve them in planning team building activities.
- DON’T let them get too caught up in another team member’s work or personal issues.
Managing Enneagram Type 3 (The Achiever)
Achievers are guided by ambition and success. They’re charismatic and confident, and they use these characteristics to easily motivate their team members and welcome new ones.
Type 3s love new opportunities and responsibilities, so don’t shy away from assigning them a challenging work task—they are natural competitors. Motivate a type 3 by explaining how the next assignment will further their career and highlight their unique skills.
- DO be clear and straightforward with requests.
- DON’T forget to credit them for their work.
- DO be concise with your messaging, including emails that get straight to the point.
- DON’T use emotional tactics.
- DO acknowledge their accomplishments.
- DON’T give feedback without providing clear, constructive insights.
- DO help them improve professionally.
- DON’T let them get too competitive with their colleagues.
Managing Enneagram Type 4 (The Individualist)
Individualists are guided by their need to be authentic and distinctive. They do not want to be part of the group. They can be self-absorbed, dramatic, and temperamental, but also highly empathetic, imaginative, and creative.
Type 4s are not the easiest of employees to manage, but they thrive in open-minded environments where they feel heard and seen. Be genuine, use your feelings, and don’t drop too many rules on them. Motivate and inspire type 4s by explaining the value of the work and
how an assignment is a chance to express their creativity, individuality, and keen insight.
- DO take time to get to know them.
- DON’T assign work without explaining its value.
- DO take their feelings and emotions seriously.
- DON’T engage in small talk or meaningless conversations.
- DO offer tasks and opportunities that allow them to express themselves.
- DON’T be phony, fake, or disingenuous.
- DO frame feedback as a growth opportunity (and be sensitive.)
- DON’T be overly critical about them or their work.
Managing Enneagram Type 5 (The Investigator)
Investigators are guided by their love of learning and their desire to be independent. They are perceptive, cerebral, and innovative, but also secretive and often isolated.
Type 5s want to be appreciated for their vast knowledge. They do not enjoy group work, and they do not like to be bossed around, so they thrive best in work environments where they have lots of space to think, ideate, and be alone. Motivate a type 5 by assigning them a solo assignment that requires a great deal of research, where they need to collect facts and data and draw logical conclusions.
- DO give them plenty of personal space and time to work independently.
- DON’T be overly emotional or share personal information.
- DO give them time to think and deeply consider things.
- DON’T schedule meetings without a clear purpose.
- DO offer constructive criticism and provide clear examples.
- DON’T engage in unnecessary small talk.
- DO recognize their skills and knowledge.
- DON’T surprise them or put them on the spot.
Managing Enneagram Type 6 (The Loyalist)
Loyalists are guided by their need for security and connection with others. They are responsible, engaging, and committed but also anxious and suspicious.
Type 6s are proactive and practical and unlikely to be late for a meeting. As a manager, do what you can to make these types feel safe and supported in the workplace, as these are the environments they thrive best in. Show faith and loyalty to a type 6, and they will return it. Motivate a type 6 by demonstrating how an assignment will enable the future security, stability, and success of the team moving forward.
- DO offer support and help them feel safe.
- DON’T be inconsistent or unpredictable.
- DO give them space to express themselves.
- DON’T ignore scheduled meetings or deadlines.
- DO take time to build trust.
- DON’T worry or express doubt around them.
- DO provide constructive criticism gently while also offering words of encouragement.
- DON’T keep secrets or keep them out of the loop.
Managing Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast)
Enthusiasts are guided by their love of new experiences, new connections, and FUN! They are spontaneous, adaptable, distractible, and enthusiastic.
Type 7s thrive on energy and enjoy busy environments. As a manager, give these types new assignments as frequently as possible, as they easily grow bored of repetitive, monotonous tasks—they’re most stimulated by what’s new and exciting. They love chit-chat and socializing in general, so don’t be afraid to ask them about their weekend… just be prepared for an invitation to their next party. Motivate this type with enthusiasm, energy, and an upbeat attitude.
- DO provide a stimulating work environment.
- DON’T place too many (perceived) rules or limitations on them.
- DO take time to engage with them one-on-one.
- DON’T be negative or put down their ideas.
- DO provide multiple options and enable them to choose their own path.
- DON’T keep them from working with others.
- DO switch up tasks and assignments to keep things interesting.
- DON’T stifle their imagination or creative thinking.
Managing Enneagram Type 8 (The Challenger)
Challengers are guided by their desire for control and independence—they do not like to follow the rules. They are courageous and decisive but also dominant, self-confident, and confrontational
Type 8s are bold and action-oriented. They aren’t only unafraid of confrontation; they often enjoy it. Type 8s won’t always make a manager’s job easy, as they do not like to be told what to do and often believe they’re better qualified to lead anyway. As a manager, you may need to stand your ground with this type and not allow yourself to be domineered. That said, do not ignore this type; ask their opinion, and show respect. They will follow you if you give them a good reason to.
- DO be upfront and direct when communicating.
- DON’T be unnecessarily controlling.
- DO give them opportunities to lead.
- DON’T pressure them to express emotion or vulnerability.
- DO allow them to share new ideas and suggestions.
- DON’T be disrespectful or disregard what they have to say.
- DO seek their guidance when problem solving or making difficult decisions.
- DON’T be afraid to stand up to them (if you need to.)
Managing Enneagram Type 9 (The Peacemaker)
Peacemakers are driven by their desire for, well, peace—internal and external. They are easygoing, optimistic, reassuring, and agreeable, but, at times, self-deprecating and passive-aggressive.
Type 9s do not like conflict; they are calm, adaptable, and they have the ability to clearly understand both sides of an argument. As a manager, establish a safe and stable environment where they feel comfortable communicating. Seek their guidance in a one-on-one meeting if there is conflict in the office, as they will be more than happy to offer advice on how to resolve it. Give them space to complete deadlines, and avoid harsh or confrontational language when communicating with them.
- DO provide consistency and stability.
- DON’T be overly negative or critical.
- DO make them feel safe and able to communicate honestly.
- DON’T be confrontational or argumentative.
- DO take time to get to know them.
- DON’T present them with difficult decisions.
- DO ask them about their thoughts and opinions.
- DON’T put a lot of pressure on them.
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