The Enneagram at Work

I’ve worked in restaurants, retail stores, miniature golf courses, non-profits, for-a-little profits, and academic institutions. I haven’t had all the jobs there are to have but I’ve had enough to know there is one thing that all work seems to have in common: humans.

Even if I could somehow find a job done in solitude, I would still be there. Humanity would still be represented. And the work of being human is a job in itself. Work invites us to sort out what it means to be people, how to deal with all the best and worst of what that means.  On the whole range of work, from clocking in just to make money, to following a vocational dream, it is a space where we run into our pride and our shame. And when we multiply that by several other humans, most workplaces become a labyrinth where we look for an understanding of ourselves and others.

Employers and employees search for resources to help with our human resources. If you haven’t noticed, the enneagram is having a moment. It’s an ancient tool that has been revived and written about and is showing up on best-selling book charts and popular podcasts. Like anything valuable, there’s a lot more to the Enneagram than fits in this space. But briefly, it’s a typing device for personalities. It’s built on the idea that there are nine primary types of people and divvies us up by our primary passions and struggles

I’m sure you can find a wealth of opinions on the internet about its general usefulness and value. But I can tell you that it has been the most useful of the typologies for me personally and it’s been particularly useful around our office.

Here are a few ways it’s helped us and might help you:

-Since there is an introductory version of the tool, it’s easier to understand other types nearly as well as our own. In the past, when I’ve learned other personality type tools (I’m looking at you Myer Briggs), I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume or complexity of the types. It may have something to do with my own maturity, but I give the Enneagram credit for being designed in a way that makes me curious about the gifts and strengths of other people.

-The Enneagram encourages the exploration of weaknesses as well as strengths. The different types are built on vulnerability. While other typologies may gently address problems of personality, the Enneagram is built on the assumption that when you hear yourself described, you will cringe at the parts of yourself you hoped no one would ever name or notice.

-Like every typology, the Enneagram is an excuse to talk about what it means to be people.  We want to understand ourselves and each other but often recognize how much we need good language for our internal drives and entanglements. The ability to lean on the language of the Enneagram gives us some security to talk about parts of our lives that live outside of our words. When we struggle to articulate why we work the way we do, it helps to use time-tested numbers and words.

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