We all strive to be part of a harmonious and well-functioning workplace, but the reality is when you work with other people, there are miscommunications and expectation misalignments. The Enneagram offers a structured way to understand these disconnects and provides a framework to resolve workplace triggers.
What is a trigger?
A trigger is when one person unknowingly violates the expectations of someone else. Triggers are part of any extended relationship and can, in fact, provide a useful tool to disclose unspoken expectations.
A typical business relationship follows the arc below:
- The beginning of the work dynamic characterized by hope and promise.
- A honeymoon phase with idealization and a strong desire to create a pleasant and effective work environment.
- A trigger when one person unknowingly violates the other’s expectations. These triggers are often noticed but not communicated to the offending party.
- A conflict due to an accumulation of unresolved triggers. If issues aren’t raised at this point, the working relationship becomes strained and may cease to function effectively.
- A restart in which the issues have been aired and expectations are reset.
One person’s trigger may be another person’s work style, so open communication is key to resolving workplace irritations. Below we offer workplace triggers and how to manage them, based on your Enneagram type.
Type 1: Perfectionist: You like getting everything correct, and this can lead to absolute thinking as you tend to see the world in black and white, right and wrong, perfect and imperfect. Your high standards can make you hypersensitive to criticism, so your triggers center around feeling your contributions are not being valued or that others are not meeting your standards. You react strongly if you feel you might be responsible for a poor outcome, and you are sensitive to anything you see as inefficient or a waste of time.
How to manage your Type 1 triggers: Ask yourself if you are listening with an open mind and heart. It can be easy for you to become narrow-minded and rigid around your belief that you know the right way, and everyone else is wrong. Are you able to create space for a deeper understanding and become curious, rather than critical, of why someone did what they did?
Type 2: Giver: You like being helpful and supportive, and personal relationships are important to you, so your triggers center around feeling taken for granted, unappreciated, or not feeling heard. Saying “no” is hard for you, and you can get irritated when you feel your supportive nature means you have work unfairly piled onto you. You may hold your resentment inside, but it comes out eventually, either in an explosion or in passive-aggressive behavior.
How to manage your Type 2 triggers: Ask yourself if you are directly expressing your own needs. Other people may not be as sensitive to the needs of others as you are and may be inadvertently taking advantage of you. Are you able to develop your ability to advocate for yourself, say no to a request, and delegate work to others?
Type 3: Achiever: You love achieving your goals, and with your go-getter attitude, you often set the bar for the rest of the team. Your triggers center around failure and not looking good professionally. You want to be seen as the best and are sensitive to image issues, so being publicly embarrassed or made to look bad is something you feel intensely. You also hate it when you don’t get the credit you feel you deserve.
How to manage your Type 3 triggers: Ask yourself if it is possible that you have been avoiding discussing anything that doesn’t make you look good and if there is some merit to what the other person is saying. Would it be possible to present a more balanced picture of yourself and your work?
Type 4: Individualist: You want to make a meaningful contribution, and authentic behavior is important to you, so your triggers center around being ignored, feeling unseen, or being asked to do work that doesn’t support your values. You feel your emotions intensely, and even a seemingly minor remark can reverberate for days in your mind. You also get triggered when others don’t make space for your emotions.
How to manage your Type 4 triggers: Ask yourself if you are displaying emotional objectivity and balance. While your emotions are real, they are also ever-changing and may not be the most reliable guide for action. Would it be possible to balance your emotional response with a more objective reaction?
Type 5: Investigator: You like working independently in a contained environment with clear expectations, so your triggers center around surprises, undisclosed tasks and expectations, and ever-changing requirements. You understand the world through logic and reasoning, and the emotional world is often avoided or unexpressed. Any breach of honesty or confidence is also a big trigger for you.
How to manage your Type 5 triggers: Ask yourself if you are expressing your feelings fully and letting your colleagues understand your concerns. Effective teamwork requires communication and collaboration. Are you able to adopt a more collaborative approach to new information and changing requirements?
Type 6: Skeptic: You naturally see what could go wrong or be a threat so your triggers center around feeling that your concerns aren’t being taken seriously or that others are operating in a careless or ambiguous manner. Your mind easily projects into a dangerous future which means you like to have all risks and threats uncovered and thoroughly discussed. Any lack of commitment, pressure to decide with incomplete information, or unsystematic review of risks will likely evoke an intense reaction from you.
How to manage your Type 6 triggers: Ask yourself if you are accurately distinguishing between projections and insights. You have a tendency to only see negative outcomes in situations and to assume the worst in others, leading to a reality distortion. Are you able to see a situation objectively and not assume the worst-case scenario is the only outcome?
Type 7: Enthusiast: You like having a lot of freedom to get your job done on your own terms, and you appreciate variety and a stimulating work environment so your triggers center around being micromanaged, tightly controlled, or being assigned repetitive, mundane tasks. Because you are sensitive to feelings of boredom, being asked to perform administrative tasks or to participate in extended meetings can trigger you. You hate being told what to do and may have issues with anyone you feel is exercising heavy-handed authority.
How to manage your Type 7 triggers: Ask yourself if you can work through painful feelings and stay focused on the longer-term task. You can have themes of avoidance and are triggered from what you view as a lack of freedom. Are you able to work through difficult feelings and stay focused on the goal?
Type 8: Challenger: You like to be in control and decisive thinking comes easily to you so your triggers center around indecision, indecisiveness, injustice, and feeling out of control. Getting to the truth is a fundamental value of yours meaning that indirect communication or anyone who doesn’t take responsibility for their actions can trigger an intense response from you. You are also sensitive to injustice, particularly if it is directed at weak or vulnerable team members.
How to manage your Type 8 triggers: Ask yourself if you are sharing your vulnerabilities and uncertainties with others. You tend to project powerfully in a domineering way, and this can create imbalances in your working relationships. Are you able to share your softer emotions and your honest concerns?
Type 9: Peacemaker: You like harmony, and you hate conflict so your triggers center around disturbances to a smooth, accommodating work environment. Inconsiderate, brash, insensitive communication is something you feel intensely. You are also sensitive to feeling unseen and overlooked. Because you are so easygoing, you can be taken advantage of, and this too can be a trigger, even though you might not express it directly.
How to manage your Type 9 triggers: Ask yourself if you are taking a clear stance on issues and expressing your true feelings. It is easy for you to subjugate your opinions in an effort to avoid conflict, but this isn’t the best response and often leads to bigger problems down the road. Are you able to engage in healthy conflict to achieve true harmony?
As you can see, the triggers of one Enneagram type may be the work style of another. The best teams understand the communication style of their team members and are able to work together in a collaborative and supportive way. The Enneagram can act as the Rosetta stone for human behavior and offers the workplace a valuable tool for better collaboration.