How to Avoid Workplace Burnout, Based on Your Enneagram Type

Statistics show that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, and stress causes about one million workers a day to be absent from their job. Beyond lost days, work-related stress is responsible for over 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs a year. Workplace stress is a serious problem, but the good news is that there are tools to combat it. While the sources of stress may come from your boss, your workload, clients, or coworkers, your reaction to stress is within your control.

Recognizing the triggers of stress and the signs of burnout are critical in avoiding the longer-term effects, which may include anxiety, depression, impaired mental function, and full-blown breakdowns. The Enneagram provides a valuable roadmap to deepen your understanding of your work-related stress triggers, as well as tools to bring you back into balance. Below we offer you a guide to avoiding workplace burnout, based on your Enneagram type.

Type 1 Perfectionist:  Habit of attention goes to improvement and getting things right.

Stress triggers: Mistakes being made by themselves and work colleagues is a major source of stress for Type 1s. They like to be in control and can feel frustrated when others don’t meet their high standards. Being insufficiently prepared or working in a disorganized, unstructured work environment can be triggering for Type 1s. They are highly attuned to criticism from others and may hear sharp words where none were intended.

Signs of burnout: When Type 1s are highly stressed, they become easily irritated, short-tempered, tense, and may burst out saying things they later regret. Imperfections and “incorrect” behavior, both in themselves and others, become magnified in their minds. They may express extreme frustration or outright anger.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 1s come back into balance when they gain perspective of a situation and realize mistakes are part of any professional experience. When their focus moves from extreme attention on the tiny details to the big picture, they are more able to relax. Somatically, they benefit from long, deep breathing and breathwork to burn out inner anger. Play is therapeutic for Type 1s.


Type 2 Helper: Habit of attention goes to the needs, wants, and desires of other people. 

Stress triggers: Fear of letting their team members down and disappointing others is a central source of work stress for Type 2s. Being unable to repair or heal an interpersonal workplace issue, even one that is not their own, can be anxiety-provoking. Feeling unappreciated, unseen, or disrespected can be enormously triggering.

Signs of burnout: When Type 2s are highly stressed, they become anxious, insecure, self-doubting, and may become physically exhausted. There can be an undercurrent of anger or suppressed rage that bubbles up. They can become avoidant, combative, or both.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 2s come back into balance when they practice self-care. Getting enough sleep, healthy eating habits, and regular exercise form the foundation for good self-care. Because their focus naturally goes out to other people, spending time alone engaging in things they enjoy is important in combating work stress and burnout.


Type 3 Achiever: Habit of attention goes to achievement and success, particularly in the eyes of other people.

Stress triggers: Anticipating professional failure, a disregard by others of their work goals, having their reputation tarnished, and concerns about “looking bad” in front of their work colleagues are sources of workplace stress for Type 3s. Obstacles that threaten their achievement and fear of failure can be exaggerated in their minds.

Signs of burnout: When Type 3s are highly stressed, their hardworking tendencies amplify and may become full-blown workaholism. Their behavior becomes hyper-driven, highly anxious, and they may be verbally sharp and aggressive. Extreme competitiveness is often present. Conversely, if they feel they can’t reach their goals, lethargy and depression may enter the picture.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 3s come back into balance when they slow down, accept the possibility of not being “the best,” and experience stillness. From this place of inaction, their judgement improves, they can speak from their hearts, and they ultimately become more effective both personally and professionally. Somatically, doing practices that require them to keep their eyes closed (such as meditation or some forms of yoga) is beneficial as they must focus within.


Type 4 Individualist: Habit of attention goes to authenticity, creative expression, and what is missing.

Stress triggers: Feeling unseen, rejected, or misunderstood in the workplace are sources of stress for Type 4s. When they are under too much pressure, feelings of envy intensify as they compare themselves to their colleagues and chronically find themselves lacking. Their tendency to take things personally becomes acute, and they may lash out in anger or frustration, or conversely become withdrawn and avoidant.

Signs of burnout: When Type 4s are reaching burnout, they become moody, easily agitated, accusatory, overly self-reflective and self-blaming, and overly emotional. They may experience anxiety, sleeplessness, or depression. As their emotions intensify, they may feel unstable and drained. Their behavior may become erratic.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 4s come back into balance when they find parity between rational thought and their emotional world. In this state, they acknowledge but don’t over-identify with their feelings. Somatically, long, deep breathing as well as breathwork, to process and release emotions, can be useful. A daily gratitude practice can also be extremely helpful.


Type 5 Investigator: Habit of attention goes to resource management (including time and energy) with a desire to remain autonomous and free from outside demands.

Stress triggers: Having important information relating to a project or deliverable withheld, having their workplace autonomy threatened, and being surprised by unanticipated demands from their boss or teammates are sources of stress for Type 5s. When under intense pressure, concerns of being overwhelmed become large in their minds, and they may become extremely sensitive to any outside requests or demands.

Signs of burnout: When Type 5s are reaching burnout they become highly withdrawn, depleted, and drained of energy. They may isolate themselves, avoid others, become emotionally shut down, and may become depressed. They may feel hypersensitive to all elements of their environment.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 5s come back into balance when they stay engaged and actively voice their concerns. To address their growing discomfort, they set realistic boundaries but don’t withdraw. Somatically, they can learn to communicate more clearly, directly, and loudly using their voice. Keeping a strong immune system is important for Type 5s.


Type 6 Skeptic: Habit of attention goes to danger and possible threats to their security.

Stress triggers: Being asked to make important professional decisions without adequate time to assess all potential risks, having colleagues not take their concerns seriously, and being asked to violate rules are sources of stress for Type 6s.

Signs of burnout: High anxiety, circular thinking, indecisiveness, and excessive self-doubt are signs of burnout for Type 6. Decision-making slows as worst-case scenarios are considered and reconsidered. Type 6s may become highly reactive, expressing anger, aggression, and imagining negative intentions in other people and situations.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 6s come into balance when they connect with their inner guidance and become clear and decisive. They combat burnout by imagining multiple possible scenarios, not just the worst-case ones. Somatically, long deep breathing and breathwork to bring them out of the uncertain future and into the present moment can be very beneficial.


Type 7 Enthusiast: Habit of attention goes to the positive, the new, and future possibilities.

Stress triggers: Micromanagement by a boss, feeling controlled or limited in any way, having their professional ideas dismissed repeatedly, being forced to focus on the negative scenarios for extended periods of time, and loss of personal freedom are sources of stress for Type 7s.

Signs of burnout: Manic activity coupled with a relentless focus on the future, and high anxiety masked as an inability to focus and follow through on tasks, are signs of burnout. Anxiety can also manifest as excessive talkativeness (or uncharacteristic quietness), sleeplessness, or an inability to be still.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 7s come back into balance when they accept limitations as part of a regular business environment and learn to recognize and manage their anxiety so they can follow through on their tasks. Somatically, relaxation techniques, including long, deep breathing and focused breathwork to lower anxiety, are helpful.


Type 8 Leader:  Habit of attention goes to power and power dynamics.

Stress triggers: Feeling vulnerable in front of their boss, challenged by colleagues, or experiencing a loss of control in their work domain are all sources of stress for Type 8s. Type 8s are also very sensitive to feelings of betrayal and can hold a grudge against someone if they feel let down.

Signs of burnout: Taking big, dramatic action faster than usual, becoming aggressive, controlling, punitive (seeking revenge), becoming excessive to the extreme are all signs of burnout for Type 8s. Extreme stress can also manifest as withdrawal or even physical sickness.

Tools to combat burnout: Type 8s come back into balance when they manage their reactivity, slow down their rush for action by contemplating the long-term consequences, and when they recognize their impact on others. Somatically, long, deep breathing and breath work practices to manage their anger and reactivity is useful.


Type 9 Peacemaker:  Habit of attention goes to harmony.

Stress triggers: Feeling pressured to make quick decisions at work, feeling behind in their workload, being in the center of conflict (even if it is not their own), feeling unheard by their boss or work colleagues are all sources of stress for Type 9s. Type 9s are also very sensitive to feeling taken advantage of by their coworkers or boss.

Signs of burnout: Avoidant behavior, confusion and forgetfulness, overt or covert refusal to do work tasks, irritability, and sleeplessness are all signs of burnout for Type 9s. Overactivity in unimportant work or pastimes as a way to self soothe is another sign of burnout.

Tools to combat burnout:  Type 9s come back into balance when they face their avoidant tendencies and focus on their true priorities. Advocating for themselves, taking a stand on an issue, and stating what is true for them all lower their stress. Breathwork practices to build energy are also very beneficial as low energy can be a sign of burnout for Type 9s. 

Try this meditation to get your energy moving.


In summary

As you can see, there are different workplace triggers for each Enneagram type. Recognizing your own sources of stress and signs of burnout are important first steps in coming back into balance.  Self-care, including somatic practices like breathing exercises, offer valuable tools to win the battle against workplace burnout.

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