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Conscious and unconscious personality at work: an application of the Enneagram typology. Dr Anna Sutton PhD at Leeds University Business School. What is it?. “dynamic system of nine personality types that empowers you to better understand yourself and others”

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Conscious and unconscious personality at work: an application of the Enneagram typology

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Conscious and unconscious personality at work: an application of the Enneagram typology

Dr Anna Sutton

PhD at Leeds University Business School

What is it?

  • “dynamic system of nine personality types that empowers you to better understand yourself and others”

    Helen Palmer and David Daniels, MD

    Enneagram teachers

  • “something to do with naked encounter groups in California”

    Prof Chris Allinson

    My supervisor!

A quick intro to the Enneagram

  • Personality typology

  • 9 types based on unconscious “worldview”

  • Diagram summarises theory:

    • Circle: “wings”

    • Arrows: Changes in stress and security

  • Also has 3 subtypes for each type

But is it real?

  • Wagner (1981)

    • reliability of type decisions

    • Significant differences between types on MBTI and Millon-Illinois scales

  • Questionnaire studies show distinctive type profiles on:

    • 16PF (Warling 1995)

    • Adjective Checklist (Dameyer 2001)

    • NEO PI-R (Newgent 2001)

    • OPQ-32 (Brown and Bartram 2005)

Study 1

Investigating Conscious and Unconscious Personality using the Enneagram

Personality in the workplace

  • Personality is:

    • Unique pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours

  • Conscious or Explicit personality

    • A “character description”

  • Unconscious or Implicit personality

    • “Hidden” motives or reasons for behaviour

  • Drawback of self-report

    • Need to include conscious + unconscious


  • Personality psychology fragmented

  • Enneagram types combine descriptions of cs and ucs aspects

  • Is the Enneagram Typology valid?

    • Benefit Enneagram community: solid evidence for the types

    • Benefit Personality psychologists: bring together fragmented field


  • Rich descriptions of type  Specific hypotheses

  • Questionnaire survey

    • Big Five traits (self-report)

    • Personal Values (self-report)

    • Implicit motives (semi-projective)

    • Job outcomes


  • 75% female

  • 46% UK & 37% USA

  • Good range of ages:

    • Mean age = 53.5, S.D. = 10.7

  • N = 416

  • Min 30 of each Enneagram Type


  • Individual hypotheses about each type:

    • 69 made, 53 confirmed

    • Of non-significant relationships, all but one in right direction

  • Good evidence for the validity of the types

Validation of Enneagram types – Big Five traits

Extraversion - Confident, sociable and outgoing, with a positive attitude and a focus on the outside world

Validation of Enneagram types – Values

Achievement - Being successful by demonstrating one’s ability in ways other people will recognise and acknowledge

Validation of Enneagram types – Implicit Motives

nPow – implicit motivation to have impact, control or influence over another person, group or the world

Predictive ability of Enneagram – Job Attitudes

Job-related Self-Efficacy – extent to which employees consider they can do everything their job requires of them

Predictive ability of Enneagram – Job Choices

Study 1 Conclusions

  • Enneagram valid model of personality

  • Unique relationships of E-Types to established personality models

  • Impact of E-Type on job outcomes

    • Both short term (attitudes) and long term (choice of occupation)

  • Combines both explicit and implicit personality

Study 2

Self-awareness in the workplace:

An application of the Enneagram

Personality instruments in the workplace

  • Assumptions:

    • Self-awareness can be improved

    • Self-awareness is beneficial

  • The “Sadder but Wiser” paradox: Reflection and Rumination


  • Can self-awareness be improved?

  • What outcomes are associated with self-awareness in the workplace?

  • 2 workshops designed to improve self-awareness:

    • Generic training

    • Enneagram-specific training


  • 80 participants in 3 workshops

  • “switching replications” design

  • Quantitative analysis – change in SA, relationship with job-related affect and coping strategies

Quantitative results

  • Control: no effect of questionnaire

  • Self-awareness:

    • General workshop: ST drop in Reflection

    • Enneagram workshop: LT drop in Rumination

  • Job-related affect:

    • Reflection associated with +ve affect (Contentment and Enthusiasm)

    • Rumination associated with –ve affect (Dissatisfaction and Depression)

  • Coping Strategies

    • Relationships strengthened in long term

Qualitative Analysis

  • Open-ended question in final questionnaire

  • 63 responses

  • Used grounded theory to examine emergent themes and develop categories

  • Then content analysis

Qualitative results

But majority went on to describe the effects!

Why this discrepancy?

Changes not perceived as dramatic enough?

No noticeable effect

I think that the workshop has had very little effect, if any, on my work life

Most commonly reported effect

New insights into self

Facing weaknesses

Interaction with others

Understanding / Acceptance of self

This helps me avoid taking the reactions of others personally and will help me deal with others better in the future

Feel better knowing that I am not the only person who behaves and thinks the way I do

Unusual as most effects were “internal”

Made active changes

I have also realised that others in the team have vulnerabilities which has helped me to respond in a more effective / empathic way

It has made me more assertive in making space for me

Limited to Enneagram workshop

Comments often related to specific Enneagram type


I still have to take the time out and really develop further as there are some parts (as with any [type]) of myself that do really need looking at in order for me to become a better person

Study 2 conclusions

  • Self-awareness can be improved and is associated with positive job outcomes

  • Effects of workshops mainly internal but did include specific, active changes

  • Workshops had differential effects

    • Enneagram useful beyond workplace

    • Tools vs Framework

    • Future development

Overall Conclusions

  • Study 1

    • Enneagram useful for integrating models of conscious and unconscious personality

  • Study 2

    • Self-awareness can be improved

    • Enneagram training has beneficial effects in workplace

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