How To Deliver Bad News, Based on Enneagram Type

The Enneagram is a popular tool in the workplace because it offers managers and employees a framework for successful collaboration. From communication styles to workplace triggers, the system provides a framework to de-code behavior and shows a path forward for a more harmonious workplace.  

But even in the best teams, mistakes happen, people underperform, and bad news has to be delivered. The good news is that the Enneagram gives us a way to soften the blow when we have constructive criticism to share with our underperforming colleagues. 

Below we offer you guidance on how to deliver bad news to your team members, based on their Enneagram type.

Type 1 Perfectionist: Be very specific

Be clear and specific when  delivering bad news to your Type 1 colleague. Outline exactly what they did wrong, why it is a problem, and how they can correct it. Be as gentle as possible in your communication because this is someone who might be playing the conversation back in their heads for months on end. 

With a habit of attention that goes to improvement, it can be easy for the rest of us to forget how self-critical Type 1s can be. Give your Type 1 a clear path to remediation so they can take action to correct their mistakes. 

Type 2 Giver: Stay friendly and non confrontational

Deliver the bad news in a friendly, non-confrontation way. Your Type 2 is someone who places a high value on their relationships so they will be worried their mistake or underperformance has  jeopardized their relationship with you. Yes, there is bad news and they need to hear it. But reassure them the relationship is intact and they are still valued.  

With a habit of attention that goes to the needs of others, this is someone who might be more focused on your reaction than the actual issue. Remember to check in with them a day or two later to help address any insecurities that might be bubbling beneath the surface.

Type 3 Achiever: Be discreet

Discretion is key if you’ve got constructive criticism to share with your Type 3 colleague. This is someone who is highly image-conscious, so being called out or criticized in front of their peers can feel devastating to them. The achievers of the Enneagram hate being associated with anything that feels like failure, so don’t be surprised if you get some pushback on your bad news. Try to stay as objective and unbiased as possible.

With a habit of attention that focuses on success, offer them a way to turn their failure into an opportunity. They like nothing better than turning bad news into good.

Type 4 Individualist: Give them time to process

Find an unhurried time to deliver the bad news. Don’t sandwich the bad news in between meetings, but rather carve out dedicated time to address the issue. The individualists of the Enneagram are sensitive and have intense emotions, so whatever you say will have deep reverberations. It is important to let them have time to process the bad news and respond. Be kind in your delivery and listen to their side of the situation.

With a habit of attention that goes to what is missing, your Type 4 might take the bad news more personally than you intended it. Work hard to make sure your criticism isn’t interpreted as a personal attack and remind them of what you value in their workstyle. 

Type 5 Investigator: Plan ahead

Do not surprise your Type 5 colleague with bad news. Send a message in advance explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering at least a general overview of the issue. This is someone who feels overwhelmed easily so take the edge off the meeting by letting them know in advance what will be discussed.  

With a habit of attention that gravitates to objective information, when delivering the bad news, stick to the facts. Numbers and data-driven results are the language of Type 5, so speak their language if you have to deliver bad news.

Type 6 Skeptic: Walk through the worst case scenario

It might seem counterintuitive to underscore all the negative implications surrounding the bad news, but make sure to walk your Type 6 colleague through these worst-case scenarios. Their mind will go there anyway, and it is better if you help them think it through. After you’ve covered the worst case, bring their attention back to the root cause of the issue and work together to implement fail safe procedures to avoid future problems.

With a habit of attention for worst-case scenario planning, it is important that you are there at their side as their mind starts calculating the most catastrophic possible outcome. Assure them they won’t lose their job, the company won’t go out of business, and their status in the team isn’t jeopardized.

Type 7 Enthusiast: Use the sandwich technique

You’ll need to adopt the sandwich technique to deliver bad news to your Type 7. The enthusiasts of the Enneagram have such a hard time processing negative information, they literally might not hear it if it is too direct. Start with good news, tell them the bad news, and close with good news again. If you soften the blow by sandwiching the bad news with good, they will be able to hear it most effectively.

With a habit of attention that avoids the negative, the problem is often making the Type 7 see the problem, so don’t close the meeting until you are convinced they fully understand the situation. 

Type 8 Leader: Get to the point

Get straight to the point and deliver the bad news directly. The leaders of the Enneagram are direct, and they appreciate it when you are, too. This is someone who doesn’t mind confrontation and who is interested in getting to the truth of a matter. No need to sugar coat the issue-they will respect you more if you just say it bluntly.

With a habit of attention that avoids vulnerability, make sure you’ve got your facts straight when delivering bad news. Type 8s often respond to vulnerability with anger so don’t be surprised if you need to de-escalate the conversation. 

Type 9 Peacemaker: Go softly

Type 9s are really sensitive to conflict so what might feel like a balanced, objective discussion to you might feel like a full blown argument to them. Try to address the issue from all angles as this will help them process the information. 

With a habit of attention that goes to harmony, reassuring them that the situation is correctable is important. They can become paralyzed in the face of bad news so offer them a path to resolution.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to deliver bad news and having the Enneagram at your side is one way to make sure the message gets delivered in the most effective way. One person’s communication style might be another person’s communication trigger so knowing your team and their personality style is essential for a harmonious, high-functioning workplace.  

Lynn Roulo
Lynn Roulo is an Enneagram instructor and Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches a unique combination of the two systems, combining the physical benefits of Kundalini Yoga with the psychological growth tools of the Enneagram. She has written two books combining the two systems. Headstart for Happiness, her first book is an introduction to the systems. The Nine Keys, her second book, focuses on the two systems in intimate relationships. Learn more about Lynn and her work here at