Law School Faculties and the Enneagram

Finally, the day came when Professor X retired. You and your friends on the faculty attended her goodbye party and smiled and clapped at appropriate moments. But inside, you whooped and hollered and sang a little song, something not quite as mean as “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead,” but close. Then, even better, Professor Y got a lateral offer from another school. You shook your head mournfully in hallway conversations and agreed that this was a serious loss. But, again, to yourselves, you and your faculty friends murmured “Score! Another one gone and another one gone….This place is actually going to be great!”  This could go on for a while. And yet eerily, the faculty discussions seem to be repeating themselves.  The subject matter may change, but your new colleagues seem to have stepped into the shoes of the missing ones.  Sure, there are some updates.  The faculty did not replicate itself cell for cell. Still, there are times when you feel like you are playing a game of whack-a-mole. Just when you thought one was underground for good, up pops another just like it. (This phenomenon is not confined to law school faculties, nor to faculties of any kind. Think of any workplace you have inhabited, except perhaps the coffee-shop-home-office. Also, the “You” is fungible.  Maybe You are Me. (See recent Schlag post.) But maybe You are not-Me and waiting for Me to retire or leave.)

Why the feeling of Groundhog Day? Maybe there are only so many types of people. Nine, to be exact. That is the idea behind the Enneagram, a personality typing system that was formalized in the 20th century, but has roots that go much further back in history.

(Which one are you?)

The Enneagram, like all of the various kinds of personality testing and typing (Meyers-Briggs, etc.), has an allure. It is fun, in a navel-gazing way, to try to figure out what type you are and to think about how knowing this might unlock your potential, or make you a better human being. The Enneagram describes the healthy and disintegrated versions of each personality type, the types to which each type is drawn, and the types with which each will always have the most friction. The other thing about the Enneagram that is appealing, and perhaps weirdly comforting, is that even if everyone achieves their healthiest versions of themselves, vast differences in outlook, demeanor, and sense of what is right and just will remain. In other words, in some sense we will always be stuck with the same nine people. (There are, of course, many ways to arrive at a similar conclusion without accepting the Enneagram as the explanation.)  So maybe instead of waiting for people to retire or depart for other schools, we should aim to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, and to cultivate a workplace where that is true for as many people as possible.  To paraphrase John Lennon, we can be nine but live as one. Now that ought to be easy…

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2 Responses to Law School Faculties and the Enneagram

  1. Sarah — wake up, wake up, your not on the river anymore! Your collegues are reading this. IIt’s right on, though. So I’m making it required reading for my clerk ’cause he won’t ever have to step into a law school to take the bar exam.


    • Sarah Krakoff says:

      What?! You mean people can read this? What have I done?! But seriously, I did not mean it to be specific to faculties. (Admit it…there was someone, at least one, at NNDOJ whom you wished would move on.) Nor is it specific to anyone in particular. I meant it to reflect how everyone feels about a small community at some point. They imagine it would all be better if only so and so would leave. But it is never true. We are all stuck with each other, and would do better to work on the background health of the community as a whole than to wish each person away. And actually, the background health of my work community is very good right now. But don’t tell anyone!

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