"Every man, wherever he goes," wrote Bertrand Russell, "is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions that move with him like flies on a summer's day." If your boss's convictions are stifling you, take a number.
An enneagram number, that is. Michael J. Goldberg, author of "Getting Your Boss's Number," uses the philosophical system known as the enneagram as a tool for tailoring your actions to your boss's personality. Created by the ancient Greeks, the enneagram is today so ubiquitous that it's been taught at the Stanford School of Business.
The enneagram divides people and organizations into nine personality types, each with distinct goals and values. You might work for a Seven. Innovative and impulsive, Sevens hate grunt work and dealing with the bottom line. Working at fast-forward, they juggle several projects simultaneously and are known to double-book appointments.
Goldberg suggests concrete ways of dealing with Sevens and their loose leadership style: enforce boundaries and deadlines, embrace their enthusiasms, resist playing the heavy — Sevens avoid conflict at all costs.
Overuse the enneagram and you'll pigeonhole people. But used judiciously, it can help you understand your boss's motivations. It might even make those summer flies disappear.
Coordinates: $20. "Getting Your Boss's Number," HarperCollins, http://www.harpercollins.com .
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.