Water, Metal, and the “S” Word: Structure

Dear Vicki: I run an assisted living facility and as a Metal, I take pride in what I do. I have a wonderful crew of people who help me make the place as comfortable for the seniors as possible. However, one of my employees constantly gives me trouble. His name is Peter, and he’s caring, compassionate, extremely creative, and impossible to keep in line. Whenever we have a plan in place, without asking Peter will change it on the fly. Without permission, he buys more craft material than we budgeted, brings in treats for the residents, or reads to a few of our seniors well past lights out. I have reminded him of our guidelines dozens of times. He seems surprised and contrite, but nothing changes. And if I clamp down and create stricter boundaries for him, he becomes uncharacteristically reactive. I think Peter is an Earth, so I’m surprised that we don’t get along better. We relate on the Nurturing Cycle, right? Everyone here loves Peter, and he’s a very valuable part of our team, but I think I need to let him go. Can you help? Signed: At Wits End

Dear Wits End: Clearly, Peter does care about your facility and your seniors. And yes, the caring, compassion, and devotion he exhibits for his work does suggest that he has a lot of Earth. However, I also think that Peter shows a lot of Water characteristics, too. Not sticking to guidelines, creativity, changing things at the drop of a hat, these are all behaviors that are quite natural for Waters. They like to flow wherever they want, whenever they want. Rules are for other people, not them. And of course, your Metal isn’t going to like this one bit.

The fact that Peter has a lot of Earth is probably why you hired him. You do relate to Peter via the Nurturing Cycle. His Earth feeds your Metal, which works for you because every supervisor likes to feel supported by their employees. However, when Peter is in a Water place, which I think is more often than you realize, it is your Metal that feeds his Water. And while supervisors know they need to support their employees, Metals tend to want to do that only when it works for them. At their core, Metals don’t like people demanding anything from them. They’d rather present themselves, their wisdom, their skills when the time is right for them. So I suspect that the attention Peter’s Water requires from you is part of the problem. But it’s not the main problem. There’s a bigger problem when Metals and Waters clash, and that’s the issue of structure.

Structure goes to the heart of what defines a Metal. Process, protocol, the “right” way to do things, these are all near and dear to a Metal’s heart. And for good reason. Metals have seen the whole of a cycle and know what works the best and what doesn’t work as well. Perfection is a driving goal for Metals, so managing effort for optimal result matters. This makes a Metal’s approach to life more structured than any other element. However, innovation rarely comes from Metal. It usually comes from Water and/or Wood, and it always requires the ability to think outside of the box, and this sits in Water.

As a Water/Earth, Peter will be creative and imaginative in ways that help others. You have probably seen this time and again. And while his Earth will want to keep you happy, his Water will care little for your rules and guidelines, which you have also seen. When you try to fence him in, his Water will resist – Waters really do hate being limited – and he will flow around them. But it’s important to remember that he’s not intentionally trying to break your rules, he’s really just going with the flow of his newest great idea. And if you push, if you try harder to structure him, his Water will naturally flow away from you toward Wood (Wood follows Water on the Nurturing Cycle), which makes matter worse. His Wood will feel controlled by your Metal. This is what’s happening when he becomes “uncharacteristically” reactive. His Wood is feeling threatened.

If you want to keep Peter on your team, there are ways you can manage him that I don’t think will be too difficult for you. I agree that you are probably a primary Metal, but the fact that you are passionate about helping these seniors suggest to me that you have a secondary Earth. If you can manage Peter more from your Earth, I think you’ll be surprised how well things will go. First, Earth is about balance, which will be good for everyone. Second, your Earth will bond with his Earth because Earths are all about connections. In truth, I think you will find that a working relationship with Peter will be much easier Earth to Earth than Metal to Water. It will also be much easier for you to manage his Watery tendencies from your Earth because Earth is what controls Water (Earth and Water relate via the Controlling Cycle). You can build your Earth in any of the many ways I have suggested in previous posts here. Surround yourself in yellow, wear tigers eye or rose quarts crystals, drink lemon balm tea, etc.

If you can step away from the fact that your Metal is upset that Peter isn’t following your rules and allow your Earth to embrace the good intentions behind what he does, I think things will go much more smoothly. And when you to have to talk to Peter about guidelines and rules, which with a Water is hard to avoid, coming from your Earth will make a big difference. When you speak to him from your Earth, his Earth will resonate with you and take it in. And even his Water will take it better because Earth is the natural guide for Water. With your Metal, Earth, and Water together, you and Peter really can create something beautiful for the seniors. I wish you the best of luck!


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