Employee Personality Test: The Enneagram in the Workplace

“You must be a Seven.”  If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. Someone close to you, or maybe even a complete stranger, identifying you by a seemingly random number.  This usually comes on the heels of you doing or saying something that seems to pique the interest of the other person.  Maybe you know what the number means, so you engage in a discussion.  Or, perhaps you don’t know what the number means, and you don’t have time to find out, so you smile politely and get on with your task.  Whether you realize it or not, someone analyzed you using a personality test called the Enneagram. 

Image of the number seven, referring to the Enneagram personality test.

So, what is this mysterious numerical system that so many people use to examine themselves and one another?  Well, let’s find out.  Hopefully we can uncover the benefits of an employee personality test, and learn how the Enneagram in the workplace can be a useful tool for hiring and retaining employees.

Me, Myself, and… I Don’t Know Who I Am

When I first realized my own number, I was actually a little taken aback.  It was so opposite of what I had always thought about myself.  Nevertheless, when I sifted through the loose sediment of my personality, it all made sense when I reached the core of who I am.

Like so many others, I had taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, among other free online personality quizzes.  In fact, there is quite a market for people who long to deeply understand themselves.  So, at first I thought the Enneagram was yet another self-help philosophy. I thought they must want me to download the app and buy all the swag proclaiming my number. I wasn’t buying it, though.  Nope.  I already figured out my personality a long time ago, and I didn’t need further confirmation.

However, the difference between the Enneagram and so many other personality tests is that it not only identifies your personality, but also what motivates you.  The motivation piece is what separates the Enneagram from the rest.

The Enneagram in the Workplace

So, why would an employer want to administer an employee personality test, anyway?  After all, the employees have already been hired.  Therefore, shouldn’t personality types be clear after looking at résumés, conducting interviews, and working with employees for so long?  Well, not necessarily.  In fact, it is quite possible to know someone for a lifetime, and not really know a person’s personality type.  More importantly, we might not have a clear picture of what motivates that person.

Furthermore, we are in a unique time in history where people are facing a myriad of fears and challenges that are increasing stress levels.  Employees are returning to work post-pandemic, and civil rights are finally center stage, with increased focus on anti-discrimination policies.  Employee-centric workplaces recognize the need to understand employees, in order to help foster a peaceful and productive workplace.  So, this is truly the time to start making the employee personality test an integral part of your business.  Welcoming the Enneagram in the workplace will open the doors to so much more possibility than you could imagine.

Administering an Employee Personality Test

Image of the hands of a person selecting a neutral face between a smiley face and frownie face on an employee personality test.

Let’s discuss some important items before we get started.

First of all, personality tests can be a little intimidating, so proceed with caution.  Not every employee will be willing to participate in this social study, of sorts.  In fact, some people might feel it is an outright invasion of psychological privacy.  They hold their cards close, and they don’t want anyone seeing inside their heads.  In fact, that kind of response could be quite indicative of their personality type.  Therefore, you will want to make this activity optional for employees.  However, you could make it a mandatory part of the application or interview process for new hires.

Second of all, you shouldn’t use a personality test as a weapon against employees.   Someone’s number should never be a justification for discriminating against or terminating employees.  So, even though the results might tempt you to respond in a negative way, avoid that reaction at all cost.

Third of all, the employee personality test can be a fun team-building activity.  If you take the right approach, and clarify that the Enneagram in the workplace is meant to help and not harm, then they are likely to be open to the idea.

Finally, pick a comprehensive site for assessing employees’ personalities.  Tools such as Crystal are user-friendly, and do a great job of analyzing data and teaching people how to interact with others based on their personality type.

Employee Personality Tests and Enneagram Types

Now for the fun part:  the Enneagram types.  The first thing you should know is that there are nine distinct types, and each number represents a different set of personality characteristics.  Ian Morgn Cron and Suzanne Stabile detail the nine types in their book The Road Back to You.

  • Type ONE: The Perfectionist.  Ethical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.
  • Type TWO: The Helper.  Warm, caring and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.
  • Type THREE: The Performer: Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and avoid failure.
  • Type FOUR: The Romantic.  Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their oversized feelings and avoid being ordinary.
  • Type FIVE: The Investigator.  Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.
  • Type SIX: The Loyalist.  Committed, practical and witty, they are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.
  • Type SEVEN: The Enthusiast.  Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences and to avoid pain.
  • Type EIGHT: The Challenger.  Commanding, intense and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.
  • Type NINE: The Peacemaker.  Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, they are motivated by the need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict.

Wings

While some types might partially fit you, there will be one type that more accurately fits you.  Additionally, each type has what’s know as a “wing,” which is another type that influences your dominant type.  So, don’t disregard the relationship between the numbers, because they can provide greater clarity.

Furthermore, know that there is a spectrum for each type, ranging from healthy to unhealthy.  This is part will shine the most light on ways to develop people.  The goal is to work to arrive at a healthy level for your number. Using the Enneagram in the workplace can help with that.

I’ve Taken a Personality Test.  Now What?

Ok, so you’ve done the careful work of administering the employee personality test to your willing employees.  Now, the employees who participated know their numbers, and they are busy crying in their cubicles, especially those who are just realizing they are unhealthy sixes.

At this point, remind your employees that this newfound understanding is a great launching pad for positive change.  No one should wallow in their sorrows about their number, because no number is “better” than another is, per se.  Additionally, each number has positive and negative attributes.  So, use this as an opportunity for employees to reflect on their number, and consider how it can relate to work relationships and productivity.

I’m Not a Seven

It may take you and your employees a little while to figure out personalities and motivation.  In the end, it’s worth the time and effort.  Contrary to what many people had told me, I am not a Seven.  It turns out I am an Eight with a Seven wing.  Although I am solidly an Eight, my heart longs to be a Nine.  What does all this translate to?  Basically that I am spontaneous and fun when times are easy, but I am impulsive and confrontational when I see injustice, and although I despise the side of me that can’t keep quiet, the reason for my challenging disposition is because I want people to understand each other in order to get along.  A little convoluted, perhaps, but that’s me in a nutshell.

If we can learn more about ourselves and what motivates us, it will put us on the path to understanding others, and the reward will be like ripples on a pond.  Incorporating an employee personality test in interviews and annual reviews can be helpful and enlightening.  So, consider the enneagram in the workplace, as it is the perfect tool for the job.

Photos of employees smiling happily and two people shaking hands across a table in a conference room.

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