Using the Enneagram in the Workplace

What Is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a method of psychological typing based on nine interconnected personality types. In contrast with other popular personality assessments, the Enneagram focuses on motivations instead of behaviors. This allows for people with similar external traits to receive different results based on their internal motivations.

Enneagram Types Explained

The nine types of the Enneagram are typically referred to by their numbers. Each type also has a name that summarizes its main motivation:

  1. Type One (The Reformer): Ones are highly principled idealists who seek what is right. At times, they can be overly controlling and perfectionistic. Their core fear is being wrong or bad.
  2. Type Two (The Helper): Twos are generous, caring friends who desire to love and be loved by others. At times, they can be manipulative and possessive. Their core fear is being unwanted and unloved. 
  3. Type Three (The Achiever): Threes are ambitious, charming influencers who seek achievement and recognition. At times, they can be overly image-conscious and competitive. Their core fear is being seen as worthless.
  4. Type Four (The Individualist): Fours are sensitive, expressive artists who desire to live into their unique identity. At times, they can be overly dramatic and moody. Their core fear is being insignificant.
  5. Type Five (The Investigator): Fives are independent, curious intellectuals who want to learn and understand. At times, they can be aloof or eccentric. Their core fear is being helpless.
  6. Type Six (The Loyalist): Sixes are dependable, committed team players who champion and protect what matters most to them. At times, they can be overly anxious or reactive. Their core fear is being unsafe.  
  7. Type Seven (The Enthusiast): Sevens are playful, joyful extroverts who seek new adventures. At times, they can be unreliable and shallow. Their core fear is being in pain.
  8. Type Eight (The Challenger): Eights are assertive, powerful protectors who desire some sense of control. At times, they can be overly aggressive or domineering. Their core fear is being hurt. 
  9. Type Nine (The Peacemaker): Nines are easygoing, peaceful diplomats who seek both internal and external harmony. At times, they can be disengaged and overly reserved. Their core fear is losing connection with others.

How the Enneagram Works

The Enneagram symbol plots the nine types on a circle, with Nine at the top and the rest of the numbers appearing clockwise in numerical order. Internal overlapping lines connect certain numbers based on their relationships with one another, as seen below.

enneagram

In addition to identifying as one of the nine types, your expression of that type is influenced by a variety of factors, including:

  • Centers: The nine types are divided into three centers based on shared sources of motivation. Eights, Nines, and Ones rely on their gut (Instinctive Center), while Twos, Threes, and Fours rely on their heart (Feeling Center) and Fives, Sixes, and Sevens rely on their mind (Thinking Center).
  • Wings: Your wing is one of two neighboring types on the Enneagram whose motivations influence your own. For example, a Two with a One wing might strive to please others because they believe it’s the right thing to do, while a Two with a Three wing might try to please others as a way of gaining favor and recognition.
  • Direction of integration: When your personality type experiences growth and security, you may display the more positive aspects of another number on the Enneagram. For example, growing Ones take on the carefree nature of Sevens. A line on the Enneagram symbol connects Ones and Sevens to illustrate this movement.
  • Direction of disintegration: When your personality type experiences stress, you may display the more negative aspects of another number on the Enneagram. For example, stressed Ones take on the self-absorbed aspects of Fours. A line on the Enneagram connects Ones and Fours to illustrate this movement.

Using the Enneagram in the Workplace

Like many other talent assessments, the Enneagram can be used to help employees discover their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to work more effectively with their coworkers.

Benefits of the Enneagram

When compared to other personality assessments, the Enneagram offers unique benefits, including:

  • Motivations and fears: Instead of measuring external attributes, the Enneagram looks internally to determine what fears or desires may be motivating those behaviors.
  • Stress and security: All workplaces experience times of growth as well as times of instability. The Enneagram takes into account how stress and security affect different personalities.
  • Strengths and weaknesses: Other personality assessments sometimes focus too much on people’s strengths. The Enneagram celebrates the strengths of each personality type without shying away from the realities of their weaknesses.

Enneagram vs. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)®

MBTI® previously dominated as the preferred personality assessment in companies across the nation. However, while MBTI® offers helpful categorizations of personalities based on behaviors, it fails to take into account a person’s motivations. This can lead to two very different people receiving the same results.

For example, let’s say a computer programmer and a copywriter at a company take the MBTI® test. They discover they are both INFJs: introverted, intuitive, sensitive people who rely on structure and organization to make judgments. 

However, the computer programmer is introverted because he relies on his intellect to protect himself (Type Five), while the copywriter is intuitive and quiet because she lives in her own individual, creative world (Type Four). They may share traits in common, but their motivations are different, requiring different approaches and strategies in the workplace.

Enneagram vs. DiSC®

The DiSC® assessment measures personality based on four factors: dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. Like the Enneagram and its wings, DiSC® allows for combinations of different personality types (e.g., a person who is highly influential and steadfast may be an iS instead of just an i or an S alone). Additionally, DiSC® offers both natural and adapted results, similar to the Enneagram’s stress and security considerations.

DiSC® is a highly effective personality assessment in the workplace. It tends to measure personality traits as well as personal preferences. Although these are slightly different than motivations, they tend to overlap. Because it deals with four major types instead of nine, it may also be simpler to implement. 

However, the Enneagram offers a deeper understanding of what drives a person’s behaviors and preferences in the first place. The Enneagram may be used to add greater depth and understanding to DiSC®.

How to Use the Enneagram in the Workplace

Enneagram for Business Leaders

Business owners, leaders, and executives can benefit from the Enneagram in a variety of ways, including:

  • Self-discovery: As a leader, self-awareness is the floor, not the ceiling. With the Enneagram, you can not only learn about your strengths and weaknesses, but also use that insight to make better business decisions.
  • Executive coaching: The Enneagram is a great foundational framework for executive coaching. With the help of an executive coach, business leaders can learn more about who they are and how they operate through the lens of the Enneagram.
  • Effective management: One of the benefits of the Enneagram is learning that not everyone sees the world as you do. As a leader, learning about your motivations can help you speak more effectively to the motivations of others, resulting in more effective team management.

Enneagram Team Building

Perhaps the most effective use of the Enneagram in the workplace is in the context of team building. With the Enneagram, your team can:

  • Discover their strengths: Depending on your industry and departmental role, some personality traits may be prized more than others. The Enneagram gives every person on your team, no matter their role, the opportunity to learn where their strengths lie and how they can grow and develop professionally.
  • Be honest about stress: Some jobs are more stressful than others. However, few workplaces have a culture that allows employees to be honest about stress and how it affects them. With the Enneagram, your team can start a conversation about stress and take steps to support one another and implement stress-conscious policies, such as flexible scheduling or more generous PTO.
  • Communicate more effectively: Learning coworkers’ Enneagram types can help your team communicate more effectively. Instead of assuming everyone sees the world as you do, you can tailor your message for different personalities.

Enneagram for Hiring

Like other personality assessments, the Enneagram can be used as a tool for hiring. With the Enneagram, you can:

  • Start a conversation: The Enneagram shouldn’t be used to box people into certain personality types or limit company roles to specific types. However, it can be used as a conversation starter with potential candidates. Let your candidates see their results before their interview so you can discuss what resonated, what surprised them, and what may have been off base.
  • Find the right fit: It can be difficult to find the right people for your company culture. If you know that a certain motivating factor is important for a role, such as a dedication to accuracy or customer service, then you can use the Enneagram to voice that desire and express any concerns you may have about a candidate’s results.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Your Enneagram Change?

No. Your Enneagram type reflects your deepest desires and fears. These were often forged during childhood and are therefore unlikely to change. However, your expression of your Enneagram type may change based on stress, security, wings, and other levels of development.

It’s important to note that not all Enneagram assessments are created equally. Free Enneagram tests available online may offer inaccurate results. Mistyping is different from having your Enneagram change over time.

How Can I Pursue a Career Based on My Enneagram?

The Enneagram makes you aware of what drives you and what threatens you. This can make it easier for you to find a job that aligns with your desires and respects your limits. For example, a One would find it difficult to work for a company that doesn’t focus on quality control. However, they would flourish in an environment in which they can advocate for something they believe in.

Keep in mind that your Enneagram is not your destiny. All Enneagram types can and do work in a variety of industries and roles. 

Which Enneagram Is Best Suited for Leadership?

All Enneagram types have the capacity to lead. However, their leadership styles may differ, and their weaknesses may translate into potential pitfalls.

For example, an Eight will likely take to leadership with strength and enthusiasm. But they may struggle to learn the difference between leadership and control. On the other hand, a Nine may lead with more reservation, but their diplomatic strengths may make them more effective at resolving conflict and strengthening team cohesion. Both personality types can be great leaders, despite their different strengths and weaknesses.