Dear Five Faces: I’m in my early twenties and am writing about my dad, we’ll call him Pete. He’s fifty and has been a marketing executive all of my life. He’s great at making things happen, which I think means he’s a Wood. The reason I’m writing is that his third administrative assistant in two years quit last week and he’s complaining that he just can’t find good help. I think he comes across as bossy and insensitive, which is why they all eventually leave, but honestly, he’s really a super guy. Is there anything I can say to him that will help him find and keep a good administrative assistant? Signed, A Caring Daughter
Dear Daughter: Your father is very lucky to have such a caring daughter. Good for you! If Pete has a career in marketing, you are probably correct: he’s most likely a Wood. Marketing requires focus, vision, and the ability to make things happen, which as you know, describes a Wood well. Also, as a career executive, he probably has a lot of responsibility, which Woods actually like until times get tough. When all is not well, Woods become stressed because they hate to be out of control. They react to this by clamping down to keep things from going out of control, which makes them look (and act) very controlling. In truth, it can be very hard to work for a stress, controlling Wood.
So how do you help him? The easy answer is to encourage him not to let things at work stress him out so much. But as we probably both know, with a Wood that’s much easier said than done. Success and accomplishment are deeply important to Woods and if something is getting in the way, it creates frustration. Woods value constant movement, and whether you’re talking about a person or a car, hitting a brick wall isn’t pretty.
The good news is that Woods have the innate ability to be flexible. Bamboo is the example frequently used to illustrate the pliant side of Wood. In our Five Element model, Metal is the element that helps keep Wood from becoming too rigid, and that will be the key to helping Pete: surround him with metal. Easy approaches include using the color white (the Metal color) in his office or gifting him with metal art to display at work. And while these will help, the most effective way for him to find and keep “good help,” is going to be for him to hire the right help.
Oftentimes, when a Wood hires an assistant, they think they want someone who can “do what needs to be done to take care of things.” The element that most personifies this is often Earth; they are caring, they like to be needed, and don’t like to say no. And hiring an Earth assistant might go well during the “honeymoon period” of getting to know each other, but it will be a difficult boss/assistant relationship to maintain over time. That’s because Wood and Earth relate via the Control Cycle in such a way that the Wood controls the Earth. This means that usually, a balanced Earth working for a Wood, especially a stressed Wood, will eventually feel over-controlled and need to leave.
What Pete really needs is a Metal Assistant. Metals honor protocol and order, are less emotional that Earths, and love to keep things under control (so they will not get out of control for him). Also, they sit on the Control Cycle for Wood. This means that when Pete is a bit stressed and out of control himself, his Metal assistant will be able to talk him down (Metal controls Wood). As a Wood myself, I can tell you that the gift of Metal smarts is often exactly what I need when I’m feeling stressed.
So if you can spend time helping your dad recognize the Metal traits he should look for in his next assistant, it is likely he will hire a balanced Metal for the job. If he does, I think you will be well on the way to helping your Wood father stay laid back and flexible at work. Good luck!