When it comes to managing your staff, it helps to see beyond their external behaviors and reactions to your management style. Knowing your team’s Enneagram types puts these behaviors into context, helping you recognize the deeper drivers at play and to have compassion for them. Then you can start to adapt your management style for each type.

Below are some suggestions to help you manage each of the different types. But, based on your own Enneagram type, some of these will be easier to apply than others.  

This is why it's great to remember that being a manager is a personal development opportunity; it is designed to stretch you. As you go on this journey, make sure you have support - a mentor or a coach - whom you can talk to about your management challenges and who supports you to grow through them. 

Want to share a short video overview with a colleague? Here’s one.

Enneagram One

Enneagram Ones are very sensitive to criticism. So much so, they can imagine others are criticizing them even when they aren’t - including their manager. As they are motivated to avoid blame or criticism, it can take them a while to complete their work, especially if they are worried about getting it right. 

To manage a One effectively, try the following:

  1. Clearly communicate the standard you expect them to apply, and be precise about the processes, goal and your expectations. 
  2. As they tend to focus only on negative feedback, emphasize the positive work they have done and be very careful about how you deliver critical feedback. 
  3. To build a trusted relationship with them, demonstrate that quality matters to you. And when you make a mistake, own up to it and rectify the situation quickly. 

Enneagram Two

Enneagram Twos work hard to support their manager, wanting to ensure they like and approve of them. As they don’t want to offend you, they struggle to ask for what they need and may only do so indirectly, if at all. They need positive feedback and if they feel unappreciated they can be passive-aggressive or act out in different ways.  

To manage a Two effectively, try the following:

  1. Let them know you have their back and they can trust you to support them
  2. Provide lots of affirmation and positive feedback, especially when delivering any criticism 
  3. Be upbeat and positive, conveying that team morale is important to you, too

Enneagram Three

Enneagram Threes are driven by their definition of success, whatever that might be. And they are looking for a manager who will help them achieve it. They will be quick to implement your goals and plans, and enjoy the challenge of getting them done. They don’t like to feel micromanaged, or held back in any way, so trust them to work with minimal supervision. 

To manage a Three effectively, try this: 

  1. Discuss what success means to both of you and find common ground
  2. Listen to their ideas, provide clear parameters, then let them get on with it
  3. Help them succeed, but support them to slow down and learn when things don't go well

Enneagram Four

Enneagram Fours want to feel understood and supported by you. While Fours can have different emotional styles, it's important to keep the lines of communication open and make time to listen to them. Then, they’ll work hard to deliver their work, with a creative flair, while emotionally supporting others on the team. 

To manage a Four effectively, try the following:

  1. Allow them to vent their emotions; sometimes that is all it takes to resolve an underlying issue 
  2. Connect with them in a meaningful and authentic way to build trust
  3. Appreciate their creative vision and contribution 

Enneagram Five

Enneagram Fives want to keep things compartmentalized, maintaining boundaries around their work and personal life, around their work and relationships. With clear guidelines about their role and deliverables, they will work independently, preferably in a private space. They don’t like surprises, so avoid dropping any last minute changes on them. And keep personal discussions for after work. 

To manage a Five effectively, try to:

  1. Discuss time limits, private space, task requirements and check-ins upfront, and then respect those as much as possible 
  2. Communicate clearly and concisely, focusing on the key point and leaving office drama and emotions out of it 
  3. Allow them to work alone and independently

Enneagram Six

While it isn’t always obvious, Enneagram Sixes are driven to avoid bad things happening. So they need a manager who is consistent, trustworthy and keeps the line of communication open to talk through fears, doubts and questions as they arise. Otherwise, workflow will slow down. They can easily become suspicious of authority, so it's essential to be transparent and open.   

To manage a Six effectively, try to:

  1. Take their fears and worries seriously and help them identify what is real and what is imagined 
  2. Don’t get frustrated with a Six's questions; they are trying to ensure the project will go well
  3. Appreciate their ability to troubleshoot, assess risks and create contingency plans 

Enneagram Seven

Enneagram Sevens are driven to retain their freedom. They prefer managers who are “hands off” but friendly, casual and approachable. They will push back against any constraints they aren’t comfortable with, but will be overly optimistic about what’s possible, ignoring the reality of the situation. 

To manage a Seven, try to:

  1. Give them time to brainstorm and play with ideas and options

  2. Allow them to break the rules if it will help them get their work done

  3. Be sensitive with criticism: ensure its constructive while also providing positive feedback at the same time 

Enneagram Eight

Enneagram Eights are driven to be strong and don’t want to be controlled. If they sense you are not doing a good job, they will say something. But if you have mutual respect, and don’t allow the Eight’s passion and intensity to intimidate you, things can go smoothly. It helps if they can work independently and not feel like they are being told what to do.

To manage a Eight, try to:

  1. Keep them informed so they can manage their workflow
  2. Be direct, value their input and respect their opinion
  3. Engage in conflict with them; don’t back down if you disagree with them

Enneagram Nines

Enneagram Nines are driven to belong, hence they tend to play more of a support role than trying to be in the limelight. However, if they feel overlooked or excluded they can become passive-resistant, not taking the action they agreed to. They can be a bit too calm, not offering an opinion when asked or not speaking up when something is going off track.

To manage a Nine, try:

  1. Asking for their opinion, but giving them time to figure out what that is
  2. Engaging them in the process but don't insist they have to be involved
  3. Building a personal relationship with the Nine, getting to know who they are outside of work 

What’s next? 

If you don’t know your team’s Enneagram types, head over to Truity@Work where you can test all of your team through one intuitive platform. Once you know your team’s various Enneagram types,  start by observing what approach they are taking to work at the moment. What behaviors, strengths and weaknesses are you currently seeing play out? 

Then for each person and type, choose one approach you want to apply this week. Make a note of how it felt to try that and how they responded. 

It takes practice to learn how to adapt our style to different types and different situations. But it's a great feeling when you can see each person shift and rise after applying a tailored approach based on their Enneagram type. 

Samantha Mackay
Samantha is a certified Enneagram coach at Individuo and educator at Truity. She has found knowing her personality type (ENTP / Enneagram 7) invaluable for recovering from burnout and for working with her anxiety, chronic illnesses and pain. To work with Samantha visit www.individuo.life