What Pushes Your Buttons? Here’s How To Get A Handle On Your Triggers - E-Mediate

What Pushes Your Buttons? Here’s How To Get A Handle On Your Triggers

Why is it so tempting to mess up the desk of that one colleague who is a total “neat freak?” And why do we take perverse pleasure in denying the office “egomaniac” the unwarranted satisfaction of taking all the credit for the team’s good work? It’s because we know, from observing their behaviour over time, just what pushes their buttons. And as human beings, we do like to poke the bear on occasion!

Sometimes, of course, button pushing is completely unintentional, and comes from a place of not properly understanding a colleague’s personality type. Consider this scenario: You innocently ask a member of your sales team to do something they actually find upsetting. This pushed their button of being required to do something outside their comfort zone. This unexpected reaction then pushed your own button – fear of not being liked.

Things could now go one of two ways:

Both of you resent each other, affecting productivity and the dynamic of your entire team. Or, the team member approaches you and explains how your request made them feel, and what it triggered. There is no blame and no guilt – only a genuine desire to hear and be heard, to understand and be understood.

The second outcome is clearly the most desirable, and it’s easily achieved when both parties are aware of their own, and each other’s personality types, and what triggers behaviours in each.

Behaviour And Personality

Behaviour isn’t random. True story. In different situations, we all display different characteristics, and react in different ways, but it all happens for a reason, and is influenced by our culture, genetic make up and personality.

Personality has been the subject of literally thousands of studies over the years. There are currently several models available that help us better understand our different personalities, and give us deeper insight into what causes certain behaviours in people within the different personality groups. Being aware of, and understanding, others’ personalities – particularly in the workplace – is a vital part of creating a good team dynamic. And being aware of our own personality type means we get a good handle on what motivates us to be better, and what triggers our negative behaviour.

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Triggers?

A trigger is something that happens immediately before an episode of challenging behaviour. Mental health professionals like to identify triggers in clients who’ve experienced trauma, as the trigger is an unwelcome reminder of that trauma. It could be a smell or sound, a particular environment, or the anniversary date of the trauma, for example.

In the workplace, triggers take on a different form. It could be that you are asked to do something that is in direct contrast to your personality traits. A perfectionist, for example, might be asked to hurry up and finish a task. Or perhaps they have to wait for a colleague to finish a report before they can carry on with the task at hand.

Understanding the different personality types of the people in your team means appreciating which requests or situations might trigger adverse behaviour. This knowledge can then help you either avoid these triggers altogether, or at least predict the resultant behaviour so that you are better prepared to deal with it. When we understand our own triggers, we feel more in control of our environment, and can manage our anxiety so that it doesn’t escalate into destructive and unproductive behaviour.

Enneagram Personality Triggers


  • Being criticised
  • Non-collaborative changes to a plan
  • Lack of timeliness in others


  • Being taken for granted or excluded
  • Another colleague being treated unfairly
  • Not being heard


  • Being set up to fail
  • Looking bad professionally
  • Being blamed for others’ poor work, or not receiving credit for your own work


  • Being slighted or ignored
  • Being asked to do something that goes against their values
  • Feeling envious


  • Being surprised or overwhelmed
  • Dishonesty
  • Being forced to give an instant emotional response


  • Lack of commitment or authenticity in others
  • Abuse of authority
  • Feeling under external pressure


  • Being confined, restricted or expected to do boring tasks
  • Unjust criticism
  • Not taken seriously


  • Being controlled or blindsided
  • Injustice
  • People underestimating their strength


  • Being in conflict
  • Having too many demands made of them
  • Rudeness in others

When you are aware of your patterns of behaviour, and what activates, or triggers, your emotional responses, you are better able to choose an alternative, more positive response.

To help you see just how effective Enneagram is at defining personalities, click here to take this shortened (but highly accurate) version of our Integrative Questionnaire. You’ll receive an analysis report telling you into which of the nine personality categories you fall, and the characteristics of that personality. Once you’ve taken the test yourself, why not share it with others in your team?

If you’d like to find out more about Enneagram, and the amazing impact it can have on your team dynamics and productivity, contact Ellen Edwards on 082 940 2486, or email her at ellen@emediate.co.za