Dear Vicki: For the past three years I’ve worked really hard to build my interior design company. We have had some pretty lean years but finally, during the last six months, the orders have started flying in. We have gone from not enough work to too much work seemingly overnight. And while that’s a great problem, my assistant has suddenly changed. Geri has been wonderful at keeping the office streamlined and tidy, paying bills (not always easy in bleaker times), and researching successful ways to promote our company. We used to joke back and forth in the office and even enjoyed occasional lunches together. Lately, however, her sense of humor is non-existent and she has taken an almost adversarial position with me. If I ask her to order something, she either ignores me or suggests something else that looks cheap to me. I’m really trying to ramp up my work as we grow and take on more clients, but I feel like she’s sabotaging me. I hate the thought of firing her, but what choice do I have? Signed: Frustrated in Franklin
Dear Frustrated: First, congratulations on the success of your business venture. These can be difficult times for start-up companies. It takes vision, determination, and hard work to create something out of seemingly nothing, traits that describe the Wood element perfectly. You don’t mention what element you think you are, but you have to have a good amount of Wood to do what you are doing. A key attribute of a primary Wood element is the need to succeed. And while that’s part of what kept you going during the hard times, you will probably not be satisfied with the success you have now. Your comment about “ramping up” your work suggests that you are hoping to keep things growing. A “bigger, better, more” approach to work is a very common Wood perspective.
On the other hand, Geri sounds like she could be a primary Metal element. “Streamlined and tidy” absolutely describes Metal people, as does the ability to research better ways of doing things. Metals are generally kind and supportive people who enjoy intellectual repartee as long as they feel things are under control. And therein lies what I think is your problem: the incredible growth of your company has probably created a work environment that feels a bit out of control for Geri. Metals need to feel in control, so they tend to clamp down to create the control they desire. And while this works well for Geri, it won’t feel good to you because of the dynamic between you.
First and foremost, you and Geri relate on the Controlling Cycle, with Geri’s Metal energy controlling your Wood energy. And while that isn’t an automatic guarantee of problems between you all the time, during stressful times there is a high likelihood that there will be friction between you around control. Metals like to feel in control and Woods hate to feel out of control. But if Geri has stepped up her control of the office, that’s probably what you are feeling, so let’s take a look at what is happening.
As a business owner seeing her dreams come to fruition, you want to build on your growing popularity by upping both your game and clientele base. This is natural for Woods and they will often keep building without paying close attention to the consequences. Many seemingly successful businesses fail because they over extend themselves without the resources to support the growth. It’s possible that Geri is trying to avoid this by refusing to order the materials you request or suggesting less expensive ones. And while it isn’t her place to over-ride your desires, based on the friendly relationship you two shared in the past, she may feel it’s okay. Said another way, she likely believes she’s really helping you by keeping an eye on the bottom line. And she’s probably right. But for you, it feels like she’s throwing brick walls in front of you whenever you get up a good head of steam.
The truth is that both of you are probably exceedingly stressed by the rapid growth of your company. There has to be a lot of Wood energy flying around your office right now not just because of you, but because your company is in an expansive Wood phase. Too much Wood energy calls forth more Metal energy to prune the Wood back to balance. So rather than firing Geri, I suggest that as the owner of the company, you take the necessary steps to bring your company back to balance. And Geri is the perfect person to help you.
Set aside a time to speak with Geri about how you’re feeling. She probably already senses it, but having things out in the open will make it easier to clear the air. Then, I suggest you ask her to help you determine how other companies have managed controlled growth. As a Metal, Geri will be the perfect person research the level of planning support you need. This will also help Geri feel like something is being done to control things so she doesn’t have to. And at a more subtle level, this action will introduce into the business the Metal energy of seeking wisdom from the past, which will help balance the excessive Wood energy of expansion.
The bottom line is that you are going through a delicate time in your company and in your relationship with Geri, but the two of you have exactly what is needed to guide your company forward. The end result can be not only financial success for the business, but a friendship that stands the test of time. Good luck!