We can all be fools at times, doing foolish things that don’t get us what we really want. In honor of April Fool’s Day, I thought about some of the most foolish things I’ve seen individuals of each Enneagram style do based on habitual or unconscious type-based reactions. Of course, many of the rest of us might have done similar things, but not in the same way or for the same reasons. The stories are all real; the names have been changed to protect the foolish!
Fool # 1 – Enneagram One: Carla
When consultants Carla and Theresa entered the executive suite to talk to the president of a highly traditional company, Theresa noticed that Carla was holding a MacDonald’s cup, half full with Coca- Cola. When Theresa calmly reminded Carla that she still had the cup in her hand and to throw it in the trash – less they violate executive suite protocol — Carla adamantly refused. When the president’s secretary offered them tea or coffee on fine china and, looking askance at the MacDonald’s cup, said “Oh, let me take that from you,” Carla still refused, albeit politely. Later, Carla was furious with Theresa, arguing, “Just because this is my first time meeting with a company president doesn’t mean you know better than I do how to behave in the executive suite!”
Note to Carla: If you could admit you don’t know something or that you made a mistake, you would be so much better off. Lighten up, loosen up, and remember that just because you think something’s right doesn’t make it so. Sometimes Ones would rather be right than be effective.
Fool # 2 – Enneagram Two: Kevin
When Kevin offered to assist a consultant he admired who was doing a free professional workshop, he knew the consultant had already asked four others to be in that role. However, the consultant readily accepted Kevin’s offer and gave him an overview of his role: during a half-hour segment of the program, Kevin was to circulate among 15 participants to address any questions they might have. With 5 assistants doing this, they could readily cover the 65 attendees. However, throughout this portion of the program, all Kevin did was sit with one participant the entire time, leaving the remaining 14 entirely alone. When the program was over and the consultant asked Kevin about this, he said, “Oh, this person was a good friend of a high school buddy of mine and I couldn’t stop talking to him.”
Note to Kevin: Wow, you lost your priorities. Do you think the consultant would want to work with you again? And what was that about: “… couldn’t stop talking to him?” Better to have said, “I lost my way here, putting relationships above what I committed to do. I am sorry.”
Fool # 3 – Enneagram Three: Natasha
The Cost of Success
When Natasha and her manager were discussing her past performance and her boss remarked what an excellent worker she was and offered her a year-end bonus of $6000, Natasha refused, asking instead for an hourly wage increase of $2 more per hour. Stunned, Natasha’s boss asked why she would want a $2 hourly increase when the year-end bonus would net Natasha several thousand dollars more overall. Natasha’s reply: “An hourly increase demonstrates that my work is more valued since I measure my success on how much I am worth per hour, not per year. “
Note to Natasha: Maybe you should recalibrate how you measure success by challenging your own mental models. What you did was really not in your best financial interest and may have made you appear less professional than you actually are. Something to think about!
Fool # 4 – Enneagram Four: Daniel
Daniel, a highly educated engineering director, was well respected but also criticized by senior management for over-protecting those who worked for him and creating a siloed engineering function that seldom engaged or integrated effectively with other parts of the organization. Nothing thus far had been able to get Daniel to be more responsive to these critiques until, the day he received this leadership feedback based on interviews from the entire organization: “You are a respected leader in the organization, and this goes beyond the engineering functions, for the following reasons:” The reasons didn’t matter to Daniel; what did was that he was respected throughout the company. In that very moment, Daniel opened up the engineering function to communication, planning, etc., with other parts of the company. He gave this simple explanation: “Fifteen years ago, when I worked for another organization, I received 360 degree feedback from my direct reports that I did not sufficiently support them.” Shocked and deeply hurt by this information, Daniel vowed to never let this happen again.
Note to Daniel: Let go of old hurts and antiquated ways of behaving, as if the new is the same as the old. You can absolutely do this, but you have to really see what you are doing first, challenge yourself, and be willing to open up once more. You may get hurt again, but when you learn to let it go and not hold on so tightly, it will be far easier. Of course, this is easier said than done, but you can!
Fool # 5 – Enneagram Five: Charles
At an informal business dinner, Charles told the woman seated next to him how he disliked people who talk about their children. Although married, Charles and his wife had decided against having children themselves, opting instead for pursuing their careers and dedicating their time and energy to their relationship. The dinner companion was relieved she had not mentioned her children during the conversation, but knowing Charles to be an Enneagram Five, was also startled he was willing to share such strong feelings with her. Even more stunning was the e-mail she received from Charles the next day: “Nice talking with you last night at dinner. Thought you might enjoy seeing our cat, ‘Snookims,’ dressed in her Halloween sombrero.” – Charles
Note to Charles: Isn’t “Snookims” a child to you and your wife? Are you compartmentalizing, perceiving a cat with a name like “Snookims” dressed up for Halloween as not-a-child, but a real child as something different? You really are sentimental, even if you don’t express it directly. By the way, “Snookims” is cute, but maybe skip the sombrero?
Fool # 6 – Enneagram Six: Alana
April in Paris
Alana, an American who has been studying French in Paris for the past year, is turning 40 and sees her biological time clock ticking away. Upon returning to California for a two-week visit, she spends three hours on her cell phone yelling, screaming, and berating her French boyfriend for refusing to marry her and being unwilling to have children.
Note to Alana: Watch that Six counterphobia and reactivity after frustration! Anyone ever known a man (or a woman, for that matter) who would acquiesce to marriage and children after being demeaned, accused, and deluged with screams?
Fool # 7 – Enneagram Seven: Jason
Jason, a 48 year-old attorney for a global law firm, is newly single with his eyes set on two things: attractive women and being selected for a high-level management position within his firm. His biggest obstacle to the latter is his tendency to be unfocused, to make jokes too frequently during tense times, and a general perception in the firm that he doesn’t take life or work too seriously. There is no obstacle to the former, at least in Jason’s mind. When he gets feedback from his bosses that he needs to stop dating women from the office – some single, others married, but all attractive – and especially not several women from the office at the same time, Jason retorts: “How dare they say that this is having a negative impact on my being taken seriously at work. They have no right to restrict my personal life, and 20 years ago, these same guys were chasing secretaries around the desks.”
Note to Jason: Get some boundaries! No amount of reframing or rationalizing is going to change the situation. If you want to be taken seriously at work, keep your personal life outside the boundaries of work, and if you are dating several people simultaneously, keep this to yourself. When you work in organizations, there are limits. When you want to be taken seriously enough for promotion, there are rules of the game to be followed.
Fool # 8 – Enneagram Eight – Jessica
Credit Card Bonanza
When Jessica started working for the company, she was given a company credit card to use only for company business, with clear directions that it not be used for personal purchases. So when her boss found repeated personal charges on the card — for example, a canoe rental at a lake, take-out food from a local gourmet restaurant, and more – her boss took her aside and said, “Since you know the credit card is only for company business, but there are multiple personal charges on this card, I want to ask why?” Jessica’s reply was simple: “I wanted to see what I could get away with.”
Note to Jessica: What is the purpose of pushing the boundaries and rules? You know you will be caught and either have to pay it back or, with repeated offenses, lose your job. Maybe you enjoy the challenge and the confrontation. These are important things to think about.
Fool # 9 – Enneagram Nine: Ralph
The Fallen Tree
When the tree fell over his driveway that holiday weekend, Ralph could not get his car out of the garage and called several local tree removal services. Finding one that was willing to work on a Sunday, the tree was removed and hauled away within two hours. Five days later, Ralph received a whopping $3000 bill in the mail. For days, he vexed over the excessive price and what to do. This continued for several weeks, during which time Ralph slept fitfully and he received 5 calls from the tree removal company demanding their money. During this entire time, from the first request for service until payment, Ralph never once discussed money with them. Eventually, he sent them $3000 and still feels resentful about it, perceiving the company as having taken advantage of him.
Note to Ralph: Yes, you probably were taken advantage of, but you were complicit in this. Why didn’t you ask how much it would cost either on the phone before they came out or once they were there, but before the work began? What about your ability to negotiate a lower and more fair price once you received the bill? Really, it’s all about finding your voice and using it rather than avoiding tensions and conflict. What an expensive lesson!