The Enneagram at Work: Beware of Your Blind Spots!

The nine Enneagram types spell out the primary strategy we adopted to survive childhood. By the time we enter the workforce we have gotten so good at using our survival strategy, it makes complete sense to deploy it on our unsuspecting colleagues.

However, like every good strategy, it has a dark side—a blindspot we couldn't foresee when we started using our foolproof approach. Something that will keep us trapped, hurting ourselves and the people around us until we can step out of it.

For Twos, Threes and Fours their survival strategy stems from a core fear around their value and identity: being unwanted, being worthless or being insignificant, respectively.

  • The Two figures out the trick to making anyone like them, and focuses on being endlessly helpful to others. But who is looking after them?

  • The Three knows how to look successful in any group and constantly adapts their self-image to look like a winner. But when do they get to just be themselves?

  • The Four dives deep into her emotional world, looking for clues as to what makes them special. But do they forget that others can never truly see inside of them?

Survival strategies for Fives, Sixes and Sevens focus on avoiding pain: from others emotional demands, others actions and their own emotions, respectively.

  • A Five builds physical and intellectual walls to keep people from depleting their energy. But can they ever appreciate people as a source of support?

  • A Six constantly scans the environment for danger, prepared for any catastrophe. But when do they get to feel safe?

  • A Seven imagines everything is fabulous, beautiful and delightful, always. But when will they let reality in?

The survival strategies for Eights, Nines and Ones are a response from being neglected, overlooked or criticised. They respond by being strong, blending in or being excessively good.

  • With an Eight's constant show of strength, when do they get to be vulnerable?

  • If a Nine constantly blends in, when is it okay to stand out?

  • Being good all the time takes work, when does a One get to have some fun?

We unleash all of that the moment we walk into a new office, a new team or a new job. And showing up as our best selves requires accepting and working with our deeper fears.

Two's Workplace Blindspot

Twos excel at pleasing people. The strength they have honed over the years is reading a person's likes and needs, and developing a strategy for building a relationship with them before they have even spoken.

While helping others may appear altruistic, it is a strategy to serve Twos deeper need for being included in the group.

They will strive to provide excellent customer service, but can become exhausted, resentful and frustrated as no one is helping them in return. This can look like struggling to say no, set expectations and boundaries, sugarcoating feedback, and being nice even when they know they are being taken advantage of.

If they aren't yet ready to acknowledge their own feelings and needs, they will work on manipulating the situation to get their needs met without having to ask. Their survival strategy shifts into giving-to-get with ulterior motives, which will ultimately leave them more disconnected with people, but they won't realise they are doing it.

That's because they are blind to their own needs. To create more balance at work, they need to accept that clearly articulating their needs won't make them less likeable, or helpful.

Three's Workplace Blindspot

Threes are winners, compulsively productive and always looking good. Like a Two they are adept at reading people, although a Three is reading markers of material success. Possessions, assets, achievements, attractiveness, degrees, titles, cars, holidays, whatever the culture defines as success, they will work hard to acquire.

Threes love to work, keeping up the pace and the focus until the goal is achieved. Given their ability to read an audience, they are great at sales, adjusting their presentation style to meet the goal.

However, because the win is more important than the truth, they can cut corners, be unethical or aggressive. They will topple people who stand between them and their goals. The more they wrapped up in looking good and worthy, the less they know themselves.

Threes are blind to their need to be appreciated for who they are, not what they bring to the table. To create balance at work, Three's need to accept they are more than their work and take time to build relationships without the shiny armour.

Four's Workplace Blindspot

Unlike Threes, Fours are gifted at authentic self-expression, adept at accessing and empathising with deep emotions. They want to be appreciated for who they are on the inside, and seek to connect with others in the same way.

Fours will bring passion, dedication and creative thinking to work they find meaningful. They have an artistic eye and are gifted at making things aesthetically pleasing.

However they struggle with fakeness, efficiency over artistic expression, and when others feel weird talking about emotions at work. This can send them back into their internal world to understand what's wrong, while externally, they will appear to be moody and temperamental.

Fours are blind to the positive aspects of who they are and what they do. To find balance, Fours need to shift their focus to what's working and being grateful for what is good in their lives.

Five's Workplace Blindspot

Fives are quietly authoritative, maintaining strong boundaries from people in order to give their intellect space and time to work its magic. They will likely make original contributions in their field and enjoy sharing insights in an area they have deep intellectual interest.

Fives are self-sufficient and autonomous, quietly going about their work, collecting data and retreating to their office to analyse and process. More comfortable with information than people, they will be private, objective and self-deprecating.

But Fives are deeply uncomfortable with emotions, falsely believing that emotions, theirs and others, will deplete their energy and thus their ability for deep intellectual analysis. Isolating themselves from emotions makes it harder to feel connected and excited about their work and the people in their lives.

Fives are blind to the value of emotions and having deeper relationships with people. By realising that they are not at the whim of others emotions, but rather have the ability to generate their own energy they can start to allow people into their work and life.

Six's Workplace Blindspots

Sixes are gifted troubleshooters, seeing trouble coming a mile away. They are deeply skeptical of authority which keeps them attuned for ulterior motives and are skilled at assessing risks, and analysing scenarios.

Sixes think in terms of contingency planning for worst case scenarios. They are calm in a crisis, as they have considered all the possible scenarios and the best response to them. They will slow down a process to ensure all the risks have been considered and it's safe to proceed.

However, as Sixes are always looking for what will go wrong, they often overlook what is going right. They struggle to turn off their danger scanner, and their constant doubt about people's motives makes it hard to trust people, including themselves.

Sixes are blind to their own fears, projecting them onto the outside world. To create balance Sixes can develop inner confidence, connecting to their feelings, intuition and inner sense of power, to direct their own life and release the fear of being at the mercy of external forces.

Seven’s Workplace Blindspots

Sevens are the optimistic visionary, imagining all sorts of future possibilities, drawn to anything fun, exciting or intellectually stimulating. They are the office brainstormers, the unlimited optimists, and enthusiastic supporters of any crazy idea.

Sevens enjoy work as long as its quick paced, fun, meetings are quick and no one instantly shoots down their ideas. They bring a positive spin to any challenges, and use humour and charm to win people over. Sevens love to be distracted by new people and new ideas that keep their minds and bodies in motion.

Sevens do not like to slow down and it can be hard to talk to them about what isn't working, and they might lose enthusiasm for a project if you do. The fear of boredom drives them to keep up the pace, and would rather exhaust themselves than slow down.

They blind themselves to reality to avoid feelings like anxiety, pain, discomfort and boredom, fearing that these emotions have the power to trap them forever and thus limiting their existence. Sevens benefit from accepting there is beauty in the present moment, and will find balance by slowing down.

Eight’s Workplace Blindspot

Decisive, powerful and larger than life, Eights fearlessly move things forward. Direct, assertive and opinionated, they are adept at establishing their own power base from which to act.

Filled with self-confidence, Eights are clear on the long term direction and continually move forward without fear of failure, challenges, conflict or anything else that threatens to slow down a project. Eights easily command respect, taking charge at times in a rather bullish way, just ordering people around.

Their aggressive style will intimidate some people, driving them away. Others will struggle to share their opinions when an Eight is in steamroll mode. All of which result in an outcome that, if the Eight is willing to be honest with themselves, is not what they truly intended.

Eights are blind to the power of vulnerability. They perceive their feelings, and that of others, as a weakness others could manipulate them with. Instead, Eights can find balance recognising the strength in feelings, how they make them more approachable to others, and provide greater clarity over who you are.

Nine’s Workplace Blindspots

Nines are gifted at building consensus and creating harmony at work. They are skilled at diplomacy, and seeing the commonalities in opposing positions.

Nines set aside their own agenda, going out of their way to help others, friendly and agreeable, they automatically find ways to defuse the tension by being witty, gentle and kind. Not quick to make a decision, they take the time to understand everyone's perspective and align with the group.

Nines try not to stand out in anyway. They will never confront you rather, "forgetting" to do what you asked for. Saying yes when they really mean no. All of which creates conflict and disharmony.

Nine's blindspot is their own opinion. Their inability to express an opinion creates conflict, especially when their resentment of being overlooked translates into passive-aggressive behaviour. Nine's start to acknowledge it's okay to have an opinion, to be stressed or angry.

One’s Workplace Blindspot

Ones are the masters of quality control. They strive for excellence in all they do, building and following processes that only lead to the highest quality outcomes. Anything less than 100%, is wrong.

One’s incredibly high, almost unattainable standards, are set by their strong inner critic. The inner critic sees errors and inconsistencies everywhere, which must be addressed if the One is to ensure a job is well done. Detail-oriented, ethical and responsible, Ones consistently focus on doing the right thing.

They also want to ensure everyone else is doing the right thing. Ones 'help' frequently translates as criticising others. Frustrated by others lackadaisical approach, they will take on their tasks, fearing if they don't everything will fall apart.

The One’s blindspot is their inner critic, and not appreciating how it drives them towards unattainable standards. The self-criticism undermines their self-confidence, and criticising others just pushes them away instead of helping them. Ones can start by acknowledging their inner critic isn't truly a part of them, frees up some mental space to explore that everything is always perfectly imperfect and the world won't fall apart if we have a little fun at work.

Wrapping Up

None of us can help inflicting some of our childhood survival strategies onto our colleagues, and it certainly makes work a little more interesting. Accepting that none of us are immune from needing to stare a little harder at our own workplace obsessions, will go a long way to making the office a little better for everyone.

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