Dear Five Faces: I’m writing for my brother, Ted, who “sort of” understands how the elements interact, but said he doesn’t know enough to write in himself. Anyway, he’s having trouble with a co-worker who appears very hostile toward him. They work with a group of people in an accounting firm, and no one has private offices – they all have cubicles, so sound carries. Ted is a Metal/Earth, and while he’s very good at his job, he also likes to socialize with his co-workers. But whenever he does, this particular co-worker (we’ll call her Ann) gets furious that he’s making any noise at all. It appears Ann wants the whole office to be deathly quiet so she can concentrate. It’s bringing the whole place down. How can he handle this? Signed, My Brother’s Helper
Dear Brother’s Helper: Bravo to you for stepping up to help Ted. Office dynamics are always interesting because, within reason, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way for co-workers to interact. Some offices have company events and encourage socializing, others much less so. But outside of the tone set by the company, how people get along at work really will depend on their elements. After all, a relationship is a relationship!
You know that Ted is a Metal/Earth, which means he will be great at precision (thus his success as an accountant). But his Earth, if a strong secondary, will influence his desire to connect with his fellow co-workers. That means standing around the proverbial water cooler chatting, or laughing at jokes with others, will be important to him. It sounds like Ann is a primary Wood; the fact that her reaction to socializing and noise is to become “furious” indicates this. We can assume that her secondary isn’t Earth or Fire, because either of those would make socializing important to her, too. So she is either a secondary Water or Metal. A Wood/Water would probably not last long in an accounting firm, so I’m guessing Ann is a Wood/Metal. This would make her very structured and fits well with her apparent approach that work is for work, not any kind of play.
So what happens when a Metal/Earth (Ted) relates to a Wood/Metal (Ann)? One would think they should get along well since they both have Metal, right? Well, as Ted and Ann have shown us, that’s not always the case, especially at work. And if we look at their primary elements, we’ll get a sense of why. Ann’s primary Wood will be all about personal success and achievement. For her, she is at the office to accomplish work, and anything that stops that will be frustrating for her. Ted socializing makes noise, which distracts her and gets in the way of her success. The fact that Ted leads with Metal energy will make the whole situation much worse for Ann, because Metal controls Wood. It is possible Ann will “feel” like Ted is personally trying to get in her way. It’s irrational, and even Ann might admit that if asked, but we all feel the effect of Control Cycle energy at subtle, but very real levels.
Another issue Ann is likely to have with Ted is the fact that at work, any degree of Earth energy isn’t going to feel appropriate. Her Wood will naturally want to suppress Earth (Wood controls Earth), and if she perceives too much Earth energy, her Metal will feel overwhelmed by it (too much Earth suffocates Metal). I can guarantee you that it’s not going to be naturally easy for Ted and Ann to get along at work, but Ted’s Earth will want to make things better, so here are a few suggestions for him.
First, Ted will do well to be conscious of how much noise he makes near Ann. He shouldn’t let it control him, but could think of it more like a courtesy, something easy for an Earth to do. Second, small amounts of Earth energy directed at her should feel good to Ann. Her Metal will feel fed by the Earth, and her Wood will feel special (which Woods love) if she is noticed in a positive way. Remind Ted that Woods value individual accomplishment, so any positive comments he can make to Ann about her work successes will be important. But remind him he must be genuine – Woods will usually sense idle flattery right away.
If Ted can tap into his Earth and be inclusive with Ann, plus use his Metal to be genuinely kind to her (Metals are some of the kindest people on the planet), he should be able to shift the dynamic between them. And if he does, I suspect the whole office will send him a thank you card!
Oddly, if Ted and Ann were romantically involved, it might actually be easier. But that’s a subject for a different day. Bottom line, this particular Metal/Earth/Wood mix isn’t naturally an easy professional combination. Metals and Woods are usually pretty serious about work and Earth just gets in the way. But a little Earth greenery can bring a connectivity and softness that makes work nicer and more productive for the structure of Metal and Wood. It just has to be done in the right balance. Tell Ted good luck!