What if: Your Expertise Is Ignored?


The scenarios are the highlight of the annual Enneagram Panels. Each year, I present the panel with four hypothetical situations in which something unexpected happens. In such cases, we often fall back on our automatic responses, which can reveal quite a bit about type. I ask each person to tell us how he or she would feel, what they would think, and what they would say and do. Here are the responses from the first situation presented to the 2016 panel.

Situation: You are invited to participate on a committee based on your expertise in a particular area. But once you join the committee, you find out the chair doesn’t want input from anyone; she only wants to tell everyone what to do.

Type 1: I would feel disappointed. I would ask “what’s the point?” And I probably would stop going. I probably wouldn’t say anything.

Type 2: Poor person. I would feel sorry for them because they wouldn’t know how to really run a committee. I would think they weren’t very bright, there was something was amiss, or they were fearful of communicating so they felt that they had to control. Also I’d wonder what Enneagram type they are. I would probably try to engage the person by asking them questions to see if they were truly closed up or if they were willing to open up and communicate a little better—to get a dialogue going.

I might manipulate the situation by flattery or asking for advice just to communicate better. But if it was a committee that I really didn’t care about, and I didn’t feel that the mission statement was purposeful for me, I would probably make an excuse that I had something else and I would decline to stay on the committee. But I would probably try to make a friend on the committee if it was something I did like, and then we would have fun doing whatever task that person assigned us. We would just do it our way.

Type 3: Given my aggressive type and my love of image, I would be furious that someone was going to tarnish my reputation. I have been invited because of my reputation and expertise and you don’t want to listen to it? So what do I think? Right, lady (to the chairperson). I would talk to her and say, This is not how this is going to work. If she was opposed to that or wasn’t listening, then I would go to her supervisor. If that didn’t work, then I would be the rabble rouser and we would have a mutiny, and we would get going.

Type 4: I would feel let down to find that someone who seemed to want my input didn’t really want that. I would think she’s a controlling person who doesn’t value the opinions of others. I would probably not say much if I felt my opinion wasn’t valued and would discuss it with the others on the committee to see what they thought. If possible, I would try to quietly withdraw from the situation. I would speak up if she’s saying something within my area of expertise that is wrong, but I wouldn’t like doing that because I’m not comfortable with confrontation.

Type 5: I would be suspicious of the chairperson’s motives, but I would not confront her directly. I would just ask her questions that would force her to make answers that would reveal her intentions. But I would also be very relieved that no one is asking me to be the leader.

Type 6: As soon as the Type 3 on the panel started speaking, I noticed myself running to my 9. Because if she’s being the bulldog, I’m going to be the peacemaker. But what’s interesting is my center, the 6, gets completely left out because I’m just going to adapt to whatever’s going on because this is obviously a dangerous situation. How do I feel? I don’t have any feelings. Because what’s really going on is I’ve taken this entire thing personally. I’m worth nothing.

I’ll end up thinking a lot about all of this and all the ways that this could have been handled. I’m typically overwhelmed with possible ways to respond because I can’t always figure out well, if I respond this way to the idiot in charge, it’s going to upset my friend over there. So there are all these possibilities I’m imagining and thinking through. We’re very busy. I would look for either a clear entrance point where the idiot was wrong and point it out and disassemble them, which is my 3. Or I would look for a connection with the person so I could foster some kind of genuine connection and then operate from that place of strength.

Type 7: I would be extremely irritated that I’ve wasted my time. I’ve taken time out of my day. I have other things to do that were important that I gave up in order to help with this project. I would probably, depending on the situation and who the leader actually is, either voice my opinion and leave or I would just get up and walk out.

Type 8: I would also be wasting my time, and I would think this is not going to be fun. But I would actually call her out on it in front of the group, in a nice way. Something along the lines of: you have a group of people here who really know their stuff and that would like to be involved. Why don’t you let them do what they do best and take some of the pressure off yourself? And then I’d call attention to each person’s strengths for her to pick from. And if she didn’t, I’d leave.

Type 9: I would be very resentful. That’s how I feel. And I would think that this is a waste of my time and a waste of my skills. If she wasn’t willing to hear my suggestions—this is my flight stance—I would quit the committee.

How do you think you might react in a similar situation?


One response to “What if: Your Expertise Is Ignored?

  1. Robert Campbell

    If I were in this situation, as a 5, I would not speak up until I had heard a few others speak. Then I would bring up some obscure point that most don’t know about. This will give me talking time as others may ask questions. At this point he tenure of the group has changed. Now, if we get to a more real situation. If people with “expertise” are invited, there will be bunch of 5s in the room. I assume that we all know each other. However, with me there, who has a few more pinches of extroversion than most 5s, and is known to go into the 8 area, I have to be careful not to be thrust into leadership if I really don’t have time for it. If I am thrust in as an assistant leader, then I will make up a program that is uber detailed in order to wear other people down. If a lot of my stuff isn’t liked, my dispassionate self isn’t bothered — none the less I’ve broken the lock on the group. The 5 in me has probably tried to figure out everyone else’s Ennea-type, In my own career, I have been in a significant number of meetings where 40% or more are 5s, the back office crews of people. The hardest people to work with are threes who like being single-minded and having to confront a 5 who revels in endless possibilities.

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