Biz Strategies: Using personality theories to learn more about employees

For almost 75 years, the Myers-Briggs personality inventory has made Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types useful in people’s lives.

The theory’s essence is that random variation in behaviour is actually quite orderly and consistent because it’s due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

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Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs method of identifying 16 personality types circling in the areas of: extraversion or introversion; sensing or intuition; thinking or feeling; judging or perceiving. Over the years, employers have used this tool for insight into how a person may work — how they think, make decisions and absorb information although it doesn’t necessarily address core emotional needs.

Conversely, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator is a theory that everyone emerges from childhood with one of nine types dominating their personality, with inborn temperament and other pre-natal factors being the main determinants of our type.

The nine types are: reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger and peacemaker and below is an overview of the qualities of each Enneagram type.

Type 1: The reformer

Reformers are rational, principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. The term “Type A” comes to mind and they are ruled by to-do lists and thrive in structured environments with clear guidelines.

Type 2: The helper

Helpers are the caring, interpersonal type wanting to make a difference in the world. They are demonstrative, generous, possessive people-pleasers.

Type 3: The achiever

Achievers are energetic, pragmatic, driven and image-conscious. They are success-oriented, motivated by achieving big goals and thrive on competition. Achievers are drawn to high-profile advancement opportunities.

Type 4: The individualist

Individualists feel different from others with a tendency to be sensitive, introverted, idealistic and creative. They want careers that allow for self-expression and align with personal values.

Type 5: The investigator

Investigators are perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated. Their interests tend to be more practical than creative. Working on a big project alone is a slice of heaven.

Type 6: The loyalist

Loyalists are engaging, responsible and security-oriented. They are personally invested in their jobs and work relationships so commitment and stability are important to them. They are risk-averse and expect loyalty from everyone.

Type 7: The enthusiast

Enthusiasts are energetic, busy, fun loving and restless. They see life as an adventure and possess open-minded personalities but can be distractible and scattered.

Type 8: The challenger

Challengers are strong-willed, powerful and dominating and can be confrontational. They will assume responsibility, make decisions and just want to be trusted.   

Type 9: The peacemaker

Peacemakers need harmony in themselves and their environments. Empathetic, reassuring and agreeable, they avoid conflict whenever possible and find punitive office rules and passive-aggressive behaviour unsettling.

A high-level view of these two systems doesn’t do justice to their respective complexity.  And while their “types” have some common elements, they actually measure different things. The Jungian types measure conscious preferences in four specific areas.

The Enneagram is focused on unconscious motivations.

Perhaps it is those differences that can actually set the stage for them to work well together by joining the Enneagram’s feeling right-brain to Myers-Briggs’ thinking left-brain.

Both theories undoubtedly adhere to Isabel Briggs Myers’ premise that when people differ, knowledge of type can lessen friction, ease strain and reveal the value of differences.

Cathy Goddard is the founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for six consecutive years. Please cast your vote at

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