Maybe Your Co-Workers Aren’t Trying to Drive You Crazy (Part 2)


In part 1 of this two-part series, we noted that some of your more problematic co-workers may not be trying to drive you crazy. Instead, they simply have a different personality type than you, and therefore a different approach to work. We described the nine types proposed by the Enneagram personality type system, ranging from the creative Individualist to the perfectionist Achievers.

In part 2, we explore some tips on how you can more effectively work with each type. Admittedly, these tips may take some patience and mindfulness to put into practice, cut they could turn a difficult or intolerable workplace situation into one where everyone wins.

If a Type One Reformer is driving you crazy:

Acknowledge their hard work. Reformers can sometimes get the implementation part wrong, but they almost always get an A+ for effort. Explain that you sometimes interpret their advice and direction as critical judgment, which doesn’t actually help you improve. Then Reformers can adjust their approach accordingly.

If a Type Two Helper is driving you crazy:

Ask them if they need some help! Mentors are often very reluctant to ask for help, because they see themselves being on the giving end – not the receiving end. But everyone needs help, Mentors included. Re-commit to a healthy interpersonal relationship. This may simply mean that you make it a point to say “good morning” and ask them how they are every now and then. Mentors need to have warm, positive personal relationships at work or else they can really get stressed out (and make everyone else stressed out, including you!).

If a Type Three Achiever is driving you crazy:

Help them be more efficient. This could simply mean that you automate a process that used to be manual, or you turn a two-step process into one. One of the fastest ways into an Achiever’s heart is to demonstrate that you are part of the solution when it comes to efficiency, not the problem. Ask them for advice on how you can improve. The mere idea that you aren’t settling on past or current accomplishments will be well-received. Plus, Achievers know all about getting better, and so the advice they share with you here could truly transform your career.

If a Type Four Individualist is driving you crazy:

Appreciate their integrity. When it comes to being unique – they are not trying to be different for the sake of different; they really feel that it’s their duty to bring something special into the world, whether it’s a new office building or the plan for the annual Christmas party. Tell them that their sensitivity is a gift that should work for them by helping them connect with others, not against them by isolating them on their disconnected island of activity.

If a Type Five Investigator is driving you crazy:

Be prepared to back up your opinions, suggestions, arguments, or positions with facts. You don’t have to arm yourself with citations worthy of a PhD thesis, but demonstrate that your views are based on thoughtful and objective analysis and reflection. Help them understand that taking too long to respond to emails, phone calls, or other information requests often leads to confusion, chaos, and a generally unintelligent and uninformed work environment – which Investigators themselves loathe, and often spend their whole lives fighting against.

If a Type Six Loyalist is driving you crazy:

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for stressed-out Loyalists? They don’t feel that people around them are listening to them. While you don’t necessarily have to believe or agree with everything that you hear, through active listening, you will actually learn something valuable that can help the whole team. Help them lighten up! Many Loyalists spend so much time worrying about what might happen that they can’t enjoy the smaller nuances of their lives. Invite them out for a coffee, or nominate them to plan a fun team building exercise. Loosening up often has a transformative effect on Loyalists.

If a Type Seven Enthusiast is driving you crazy:

Remind them of their unique, key strengths, which are to help people think and feel positive, focus on solutions, see opportunities instead of obstacles, and so on. These are not superficial talents! In fact, they are essential for change, innovation, and growth. Encourage them to use technology or other tools, like project management software or task-list apps, so they can be more focused and feel less pressure to do 1001 different things. This will not only help them avoid taking on more than they can handle, but it will allow them to finish what they start – which will make them feel amazing and help them make a bigger, better contribution.

If a Type Eight Challenger is driving you crazy:

Without getting into a fight, muster up the courage to stand up for yourself by defending what you believe in. At the same time (and this can lead to amazing transformations), stand up for the Challenger too! They often feel like they have to fight for every inch because they’re all by themselves. Realize that the assertive, direct approach that Challengers typically have is not a personal attack; it’s simply how they communicate (and how they want to be communicated with in return). At the same time, help Challengers understand that bullying or intimidating others doesn’t generate trust and respect. Supporting others so they can be courageous and strong, however, can create a kind of loyalty that transcends work and can last a lifetime.

If a Type Nine Peacemaker is driving you crazy:

Consider modifying your approach, especially when it comes to making requests. Peacemakers care about how you ask almost as much as what you ask. This doesn’t mean that you need to beg and plead. Simply be polite and see the difference! Help them focus on their own agenda or higher priority tasks. Peacemakers don’t want to let people down. But sometimes, by focusing too much on another person’s agenda or getting stuck in their routines, they can tune out what’s really important – and ultimately let many people down, including themselves.

Remember: it’s just a personality test. Obviously, each person is different, and this certainly includes people who may share the same personality type. What’s more, personality type systems such as the Enneagram are not meant to be used to figure people out in a manipulative or unethical manner.

That said, they can be a tool to help you understand and appreciate your co-workers – especially those who appear to be driving you crazy. What’s more, you may be able to help nudge or guide them in a new, better direction. That’s good for them, and it’s good for you and the rest of your work team!

PS: If you’re curious about your Enneagram personality type, The Enneagram Institute has a free test, though you will have to make an account to take it.

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