I never knew Socrates, but I think he was a wise guy. Thousands of years ago, he pinned the quote, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” I feel like Socrates would approve of the Enneagram—a test that is used to learn about your personality and help you become more self-aware, so you can self-improve.
The Enneagram can be used to improve your relationships, how you handle emotions…and how you operate in the workplace. This article will focus on Types 8, 9, and 1 (the Enneagram has Nine Types, arranged into three groups of three). These three types are driven by their instincts, while other types are influenced more by their thoughts and/or feelings. I’ll cover how Types 8, 9, & 1 can use their strengths and weaknesses to better their workplace habits and succeed in their careers.
If you aren’t sure which Enneagram Type you are, scroll to the Bonus Content to take the test and find out! I have also included a list of introductory resources that will help you learn more about the Enneagram. And, don’t forget to check out Parts One and Two of the blog series.
TYPE 8: THE CHALLENGER
Overview: Challengers are fiercely independent, confident, and passionate to the core. They have an innate need to want to control their environment and prove they are important to the world. Their passion often shows through their advocacy for justice, fairness, and defending those who are weak (think Martin Luther King, Jr). When mentally healthy, Eights are strong, protective, resourceful, decisive, and inspiring—natural leaders with a solid, commanding presence. Other types may see them as intimidating or angry, but Eights view conflict as an invigorating way to build connection. Their energy can be harnessed to change history. However, when they are mentally unhealthy, Eights use anger as a defense mechanism to avoid appearing weak or vulnerable; they wear “emotional armor.” They struggle with their tempers, egocentrism, and lusting after intensity that can be excessive when not controlled.
Strengths in the Workplace: Eights are natural leaders, and their leadership characteristics can impact their work environment for the better. Their passion can spread to their team members, inspiring them to get things done and not be stagnant. Eights always stand up for what they believe in and will promote justice within their team and industry. Unafraid of confronting challenges, Eights will take the lead on big projects and initiatives that no one else wants to tackle and find ways to lead their team to success. Excellent intuition allows them to see right through dishonesty, and they will fearlessly face someone’s lack of integrity head-on. Eights are straightforward with their intentions, making their leadership directives clear and easy to understand.
Make use of your strengths by:
- Motivating team members to accomplish tasks and finish projects. Challenging others can be good if doing so motivates them.
- Communicating directly and standing up for who and what you believe in, even when it’s unpopular.
- Visualizing the “big picture” that will come out of projects and painting that vision to your team to rally their support.
- Using your intuition to protect your team and organization from deception.
Challenges in the Workplace: Eights (often unintentionally) can be forceful and create unnecessary conflict with colleagues who have less aggressive personalities. Because of their need for control, they feel uneasy trusting their teammates with certain tasks; they would rather just complete the tasks themselves. Their need for control also leads to Eights wanting to be involved in every project and task─even if that’s not part of their job description. If given the choice, Eights will choose involvement over rest. Wanting to appear tough and as if they have it all together, Eights tend to mask any and all vulnerability with their teammates, making them seem unapproachable and intimidating.
Challenge yourself and grow in weakness by:
- Being aware of your less vocal colleagues. Your strength can unintentionally place walls between yourself and your teammates who are extremely less outspoken.
- Trusting your team members. Relinquish control and let them help you.
- Embracing your vulnerable side with your teammates. Let your coworkers take care of you and use vulnerability to connect with others.
- Making time to be still. You won’t be productive if you never rest. Give up your need to be involved in everything.
Popular Career Choices: Eights flourish in positions where they bring a sense of justice and fairness to the world, like prosecutors or defense attorneys, military personnel, judges, and legislators. They love to inspire and take care of people and do well working as politicians, business executives, missionaries, coaches, organization builders, and principals. The competitive nature of Eights enables them to succeed as athletes, sales reps, and marketers. Or, because they like to be in charge and free of limitations, Eights find being business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to be rewarding.
“Being able to see through dishonesty and a lack of integrity is relatable to me, along with being a natural leader. I frequently find myself in leadership positions, and I often display confidence (because I don’t want to be seen as weak) which leads to me getting asked to do more and train others. I have always struggled with trusting others to complete tasks and not trying to do everything on my own, but this causes a lot of unnecessary stress. I am working on trusting others more easily and coming across as less abrasive to my coworkers.” —An Enneagram 8 Media Director
TYPE 9: THE PEACEMAKER
Overview: Peacemakers live up to their name; they are natural mediators who desire both inner stability and outward peace with others. They are accepting of others, trusting, creative, and supportive. Nines are unselfish and inclusive, embracing any and all people that they encounter. They easily understand the perspectives of others and use that ability to create harmony in their environment. However, because Nines have a desire to eliminate conflict, they tend to be complacent and push aside feelings of being upset. They can be passive-aggressive (going along with what others want to do to keep the peace), are indecisive, tend to procrastinate, and struggle with stubbornness.
Strengths in the Workplace: Nines have a natural ability to see multiple perspectives of different team members, so they can help others understand how someone else feels and effectively mediate conflict. They are great team members because they keep the peace and they are incredibly inclusive. Since Nines are able to see multiple sides of situations, they can look at several options for a decision their organization needs to make and easily understand which will be the most beneficial. Their genuine, unselfish personality is an incredible asset because their motives are never questioned—another reason why Nines are easy to work with. Nines are patient and will trust the processes and timelines they must endure for projects and tasks.
Make use of your strengths by:
- Making decisions that will be the most favorable for your organization.
- Making sure your team members are seen, heard, and feel supported.
- Using your friendly demeanor to create a spirit of collaboration and cooperation between your team. Your friendliness can be an asset to building bridges between teammates and between your organization and clients.
- Seeing multiple perspectives when conflict arises and using that ability to mediate conflict.
Challenges in the Workplace: Conflict causes Nines to want to run away, as confrontation goes against every fiber in their body. They also try to avoid conflict altogether because they fear disappointing others, so they go along with what the majority wants instead of speaking up for themselves. Procrastination and easily being distracted are common themes among Nines in the workplace. Because they are naturally inclusive and want to lend a helping hand to others, they tend to spend too much time helping others with their tasks instead of tending to their own tasks and needs.
Challenge yourself and grow in weakness by:
- Viewing conflict as an opportunity to grow and learn, whether that conflict is inner or outer.
- Sticking up for yourself if you need to. Don’t be overaccommodating; only say yes, if your yes means yes.
- Avoiding procrastination. Actively work to finish tasks that need to be done instead of zoning out. Use a productivity app to focus and get things done.
- Taking care of yourself and what you need to get done. Pay attention to when you feel guilty for choosing to work on your own projects instead of helping others with their own. Wanting to help others is not a bad trait, but you must take care of yourself.
Popular Career Choices: As creatures of habit, Nines enjoy careers where there is structure, predictability, and routine. They are comfortable behind the scenes in roles as teachers, editors, social workers, and HR managers. Nines enjoy careers where they can bring peace and harmony into the world and care for others—jobs like counselors, therapists, ministers, caretakers, and yoga teachers.
“I find that considering and navigating through different perspectives at work comes pretty naturally to me, which is a huge help in my day-to-day activities. I’ve been told by coworkers I am a warm and personable presence, and I find myself providing space for coworkers to process their feelings; knowing others are at peace brings me peace. When my workload becomes overwhelming, I tend to get distracted easily and prioritize tasks I feel comfortable with until there’s nothing left except the task I was avoiding.” —An Enneagram 9 Public Information Officer
TYPE 1: THE PERFECTIONIST
Overview: Perfectionists (aka “Reformers”) have a strong sense of right and wrong. Committed to living their lives with integrity and ethically, they are advocates for change. Ones are well-organized go-getters who are highly self-disciplined and want to leave things better than they found them. They are conscientious, highly responsible, wise, and discerning. Ones have high expectations of others and ESPECIALLY themselves; what is often an attempt to maintain high standards can come across as being critical. When mentally healthy, they can forgive themselves and others for not being perfect; when mentally unhealthy, they find imperfections in all aspects of life. Because Ones are terrified of making mistakes, they put unrealistic amounts of pressure on themselves. Ian Morgan Cron writes that “anger is the deadly sin of Ones, but resentment is truer to their experience.”
Strengths in the Workplace: Ones have an incredible work ethic and are committed to doing their best at work (and expect the same from their teammates). They are highly responsible, self-disciplined, organized, and detail-oriented—all wonderful qualities that a boss desires in an employee. Ones often get the amount of work done for two people by themselves! They are also great at discovering challenges inside an organization and knowing how to develop procedures and protocols that will fix the problem, as they are motivated to improve the world. At their best, Ones use their wisdom, discernment, and realistic viewpoints to make wise decisions for a company, knowing what the smartest path of action to take is.
Make use of your strengths by:
- Using your incredible work ethic to get things done. Set the example in your organization of what a hard worker looks like.
- Committing to help others in your office be their absolute best. Don’t expect perfection; instead, help others see how their strengths can enable them for success.
- Using your high level of motivation for improvement. Think of processes that can be implemented to overcome challenges in your company.
- Using your attention to detail and organizational skills to track the nitty-gritty aspects of projects that others would miss.
Challenges in the Workplace: Perfectionists tend to be overly critical of themselves and others, which can cause conflict and miscommunication. Because they fear criticism and failure, they are quick to push responsibility on others when a crisis occurs or a situation goes south. Ones struggle with delegating tasks; they fear the task will be done incorrectly and then they will have to redo everything. (Sometimes they redo everything anyways!) They also put unrealistic pressure on themselves and stress easily, which can lead to anger in the workplace. Ones are highly self-disciplined but can procrastinate on projects out of the fear they will mess up and things won’t be perfect, or they will recheck their previous work over and over.
Challenge yourself and grow in weakness by:
- Giving praise where it’s deserved. If you’re in a position to give criticism, make sure it’s not constant and is constructive.
- Taking responsibility for your actions.
- Trusting your teammates and delegating tasks when needed.
- Focusing on growth in stressful situations. View stress as a tool you can use to improve yourself and your reactions, and find healthy ways to release anger.
- Watching your tendency to procrastinate. Take time to do things correctly and check them a few times, but at some point, move on to the next task.
Popular Career Choices: The detail-oriented nature of Ones makes them perfect candidates for careers where procedures need to be carried out meticulously. Think pilots, engineers, surgeons, accountants, pharmacists, anesthesiologists, editors…you get the picture! Because of their need to advocate for justice and protect others, they also make great lawyers, judges, activists, military personnel, law enforcement officers, social workers, and teachers.
“Producing media content for a large church requires a consistent work ethic and dedication to excellence, which are traits I see in myself. I am aware that my internal standards are sometimes unreasonable, and because of that, I struggle with holding others to impossible standards and delegating properly. Being intentional about delegating tasks and giving latitude in the way people do things has been an area of growth for me.” —An Enneagram 1 Media Producer
- This list has several Enneagram testing options to choose from, ranging in price from free to $60+.
- I recommend reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Ian also has a podcast about the Enneagram.
- The Enneagram Institute is an Internet hub full of Enneagram information—perfect for beginners wanting to learn more about the Enneagram.
- If you’re more of a video person, InnerLifeSkills offers a free, 90-minute introductory Enneagram course. The course is broken down into several shorter videos so you can watch the videos over a period of time, if you choose.
- The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
- Atomic Object
- The Enneagram Institute
- Yellow Co.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.