Dear Five Faces: I’m writing because last fall I began a new job as principal of our local elementary school. One of the teachers there appears to be an out of control Fire, and we’ll both be back this coming Fall. However, I’m not sure how to handle her. I’m an Earth with a strong secondary Metal, so being a principal really works for me. But this teacher, we’ll call her Jane, drove me nuts! She is flighty and what I would call terminally perky. She agrees to attend meetings, then doesn’t show. Or if she does show, she’s kidding around so much we can’t get down to business. The students all love her and think she’s fun, but they don’t have to mange her. I do like her, and want to manage her well, but I’m having a hard time. Any hints to help me out next year? Signed, Burned in Bellevue
Dear Burned: This is an excellent example of a conflict between your primary and secondary elements. As was discussed in a previous post about Earth and Fire relationships, your Earth will have a sense of connection with Jane because Earth and Fire relate on the Flow, or Nurturing, Cycle. Earth is the natural receptacle for fire, so Fires usually feel comfortable with Earths.
However, your “strong secondary” Metal relates to Fire via the Control Cycle, which can often take on a sense of conflict. This will be especially likely for you given that the dynamic works against you: Jane’s Fire will melt your Metal. The problem is made more difficult because you are Jane’s supervisor and your Metal will have entrenched ideas about hierarchy and appropriate ways for employees to relate to their bosses. My guess is that as a Fire, Jane probably isn’t lining up with your expectations!
The good news is that there are many ways for you to bring some stability to your relationship with Jane. But first, remember that what won’t work is if you stand in your Metal too strongly when relating to her. If she’s in a really Fiery place, it will be almost impossible for you not to feel threatened or challenged by her, which unless she has Wood as a secondary, won’t be her intent at all. Also, your Earth will be very uncomfortable if you feel any conflict between yourself and a staff member, so the best advice is to stay out of your Metal when dealing with Jane.
Instead, when you need to rein in Jane, use your Earth or maybe even your Water. Remember we said that Earth is a natural container for Fire? If you lead with Earth, Jane’s Fire will feel comfortable fitting into any structure you create from your place of Earth. Two examples of this would be setting a more Earth tone to your meetings so Jane’s Fire would be more contained, and engaging Jane’s own Earth around meetings (maybe asking her to bring snacks) so that her Earth helps contain her Fire. Just remember that Fire won’t fight or feel controlled by Earth. It’s the gentlest way to work with Fire, too, so should appeal to your own Earth.
Water is nature’s way of controlling Fire, and using Water energy is always a possibility with Jane, especially if she really is out of control. A simple way to help with too much Fire is to wear blue, hold your meetings in a room that is blue, or even have a small fountain nearby. You can also try to include inspiring quotes or visual as part of the meetings. Just know that if things get too Watery (for example, too much philosophic discussion), Jane’s joy and enthusiasm are likely to feel doused, which could make your Earth feel sad, and possibly even guilty.
You can also make sure that there’s nothing in the school or meeting environments that is building Jane’s Fire—no red, no loud music, etc. You want to help manage the joy of her Fire, not extinguish it. If you can do this, you will have a happy and fun school without the risk of your Earth and Metal going up in flames! Good luck!