The Enneagram: Creating Meaningful Relationships in the Workplace
Several years ago, I learned about the Enneagram, and although it has similarities to other personality assessments, what really drew me in was the depth of information the Enneagram offers for each type of personality and how valuable of a tool it can be in navigating all types of relationships.
Enneagram Personality Types
The Enneagram classifies people into nine basic types based on their personalities. A person’s dominant type is characterized by their ideals, fears and desires, representing who they are as a person in their most basic motivations. While each person has a dominant type, the types are all interconnected, and you may observe qualities from each type in your own personality.
The Enneagram is an incredibly useful tool for self-introspection and personal growth. There are different levels for each type and that creates a framework to understand healthy, average and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes for a person. When looking to use the Enneagram as a tool at work, these same ideas can be used to create a more inclusive workplace where team members are valued for their unique perspectives and attributes. Understanding your own type, and those of the people around you, can help create healthier relationships by cultivating greater understanding and empathy.
Understanding Your Enneagram
My team recently participated in a short and fun drawing exercise. Though we are not artists, we took five minutes to draw out our personalities and lives as it relates to our Enneagram number. We then shared the drawings and each person briefly described what they drew and why. The key purpose was to focus on how each team member identified the aspects of their personality and how they chose to communicate those to the group. It was also a way for our team to be more open and vulnerable with one other.
The exercise showed my team how similar we all are. All of us drew some version of groups of people to represent our family and friends. There were many representations of animals, as well as drawings depicting a home/safe place, and symbols that represented our versions of happiness. However, the most interesting part was that we each described why we drew those symbols differently. For example, for me as an Enneagram 2 (often referred to as “The Helper”), my drawings represented the people in my life who I can provide for and who I count on in return. My coworker, a type 7 (“The Enthusiast”), drew hers to represent her extroverted nature and desire to create fun experiences for those in her life.
We all have ways of dealing with uncomfortable situations and handling criticism. But how feedback is given or how information is communicated can make all the difference. Knowing the personality of your boss when you approach them about an issue that you’re facing at work could not only benefit you, but also make them more receptive to conversations in the future. Addressing a concern with a co-worker may resolve the problem much faster, without anger or other negative consequences, if you can take the time to consider how best to approach the situation. In this same vein, being aware of how you receive information can also help mitigate any negative responses.
Whether it be used individually for personal growth, or as a team building exercise in the workplace, the Enneagram provides an opportunity to get to know yourself and the others around you in a valuable and meaningful way. There are a ton of resources online for more information but to take a free test I recommend this one (Eclectic Energies Enneagram Tests (free) and for more information about the system and each of the personality types, The Enneagram Institute is a great place to start!
Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.
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