He Needs an Assistant: Who Should He Hire?

Dear Vicki: I am writing about my father; we’ll call him Greg. He’s fantastic at making things happen, is the most amazing multi-tasker I know, and is actually a great father, just not very warm and fuzzy. He’s been in business, specifically marketing, for most of his career, and changed jobs two years ago to head up a national marketing and sales force for a large corporation. The reason I’m writing is that he’s had three administrative assistants during those two years. The third quit last week and now he’s complaining that he can’t find good help. I love him, but when he’s stressed, he can come across as bossy and insensitive. Is there anything I can say to him that will help him find and keep a good administrative assistant? Signed, A Caring Daughter

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Dear Caring Daughter: Your father is very lucky to have such a caring daughter. Good for you! And this is an interesting relationship question. Work relationships are just as important as our personal relationships, but are often more difficult.  That’s because at work, we’re usually more invested in our performance than our relationships.  But work relationships often make or break our performances, so let’s see what we can do to help you help your father.

If Greg’s business career has focused on marketing and sales, it’s highly likely that he is a primary Wood personality. Marketing requires focus, vision, and the ability to make things happen, while sales requires multitasking and an ability to put yourself out there in the name of a product, brand, organization, etc. This sounds pretty close to how you described your father.

Greg clearly has a lot of responsibility in his new job, which Wood people perceive as a reflection of their importance, so usually enjoy – until times get tough. When significant problems arise, the stressed Wood personality will usually take dramatic steps to keep things from getting further out of control because nothing takes a Wood person down faster than chaos. This clamping down makes them seem very controlling, or as you put it: “bossy and insensitive.” And as Greg’s history with assistants has shown, it can be very hard to work for a stressed, controlling Wood. So how do you help your father?

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Her Business Partner is Shirking Responsibilities

Dear Vicki: Abby, my close friend and business partner, has been acting very strange lately. We have a small public relations firm and she’s the organization and power behind it. I’m the enthusiasm and presentation side. It’s worked out really well and our little firm has grown steadily over the past five years. The problem is that our business is stalling right now because Abby hasn’t been very organized or powerful lately. She’s been low-key, distant, and sort of stuck in the past. When I ask her what’s going on, she denies that anything is wrong. I know her only daughter recently moved out of state, but Abby made it through a contentious divorce a few years ago, so I can’t imagine Shelley’s move would affect her this way. As her business partner, I feel it is my responsibility to let Abby know we need her to snap out of it. What can I do to help Abby get back in the saddle? Signed, Losing Steam 

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Dear Losing Steam: It appears that you and Abby have a great set-up in your business. As the organization and power behind your firm, I suspect that Abby’s normal elemental personality is Wood. As we have said here many times, Wood people are focused visionaries who are great at running things. You, on the other hand, sound like a primary Fire personality. Fire people are nothing if not enthusiastic. They also are comfortable in front of others, which makes them excellent actors, salespeople, and presenters. Finally, you and Abby relate to each other on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, with Abby’s Wood feeding your Fire, which as long as you both stay balanced, works great for everyone.

I believe that the key to your current problem rests in the fact that, at the moment, Abby is not a balanced Wood personality. In fact, I think it’s possible that she isn’t acting from her Wood personality at all these days and that’s what’s hurting your business. It sounds like what’s happening for Abby is that she’s experiencing a temporary stint as an out of balance Metal personality. When you describe Abby’s behavior as low-key, reserved, and stuck in the past, you are definitely describing characteristics of an out of balance Metal person.

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Is The Teacher Too Outgoing?

Dear Vicki: I have been an elementary school principal for decades and love my work. My goal is always to keep the school running in an appropriate manner and support the students, who I care about deeply. Last year, I started at a new school and one of the teachers there, we’ll call her Jane, was a real challenge to manage. I’m dreading working with her again this year. She is outgoing and often very flighty. She agrees to attend meetings, then doesn’t show up. 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 manage her. Honestly, I do like her and want to do right by her, but I’m having a hard time keeping her in line. Any hints on how to make this year more successful than last? Signed, Burned in Bellevue 

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Dear Burned: This is an understandably difficult situation. Based on your description, I suspect that Jane is a primary Fire personality, which means she will be a lot of fun, very popular, and also difficult to contain. You sound like you care about doing a good job and have very specific ideas of how you want things run. But Fire people have very little structure, so usually aren’t great at coloring inside the lines, so to speak. And yet, there are definitely ways you can engage with Jane to help bring her onboard.

Based on your deep caring for your students and your goal to keep the school running in an appropriate manner, it is likely that you are a primary Earth personality with a strong secondary Metal personality. Earth people usually care deeply about children and Metal people care deeply about doing what is right or appropriate. The good news is that the Earth part of your personality should get on well with Jane. In the Five Elements model, Earth and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle with Fire feeding Earth. This implies that, if you were honest with yourself, you probably enjoy Jane as much as the students do. The challenge for you rests in the relationship between your strong secondary Metal personality and Jane’s Fire personality.

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New Boyfriend Makes Her Laugh, but Will It Last?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I had the great misfortune to fall in love with a wonderfully funny and outgoing guy. We met on a blind date and he’s like no one I’ve ever been with before. I laughed more than I’d laughed for years that first evening, so naturally agreed to see him again. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, which is so not me. All of my well-ordered ways seem to have gone out the window since Tad’s been in my life. And while part of me finds this exciting, another part is afraid that I’m losing who I am. I’m new to the Five Elements, so am unsure of my primary elemental personality, but can tell you that I’m a software programmer, if that helps. Oh, and Tad is a salesman who is very active in our local theatre. Surely this relationship can’t last, so should I just stop seeing him now before it really hurts? Signed, Losing My Way

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Dear Losing My Way: Normally, if you are both adults and are both having fun, I would ask why would you want to end the relationship. However, I suspect that what might be going on for you is that time with Tad sometimes feels a little uncomfortable. While it is fun, it probably also comes off as a bit out of control, which makes you feel like you are losing who you are. So, let’s look at why that might be.

Your belief that you should probably end the relationship with Tad before things get too crazy for you, coupled with concern about losing control and your occupation as a software programmer, suggest to me that you are a primary Metal personality. Metal people care deeply about order and process. They do detail very well, too, so make excellent programmers. The top priority for most Metal personalities is the ability to maintain control at all times. And finally, in the Five Elements model, endings sit in the Metal element. There is little doubt in my mind that you are a primary Metal elemental personality.

Tad, on the other hand, sounds a lot like a Fire elemental personality. Fire people don’t value order or process. In fact, they usually find too much order rather boring and drab. Fire people appreciate spontaneity and fun, which as you have aptly noted, isn’t something Metal people usually experience on their own. The ability to jump quickly from one place/project/idea to another is a hallmark of the Fire personality. In fact, this spontaneity is one of the major reasons that Fire people are not only great at acting, but also selling. They can easily go wherever the part – or the sale – needs them to go. But, this means that the life of a Fire person is usually the exact opposite of the well-ordered and structured life of a Metal person. So, what does that mean for your relationship?

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Move to New City Brings Out the Worst in Her Sons

Dear Vicki: I have two teenage sons who used to get along well, but lately seem to be at each other’s throats. Jack, age 17, can come off like a know-it-all but, in his defense, he is very smart. Timmy doesn’t like Jack correcting him or telling him what to do, especially in front of others, but he’s still young enough (14 years) to make poor choices. I think Jack is just trying to help him, but when he does, Timmy really blows up; he has a very quick temper. I know that siblings can fight, but I’m concerned because since we moved to a new city for my husband’s job a few months ago, they seem to be fighting more and more. I thought the boys would be excited by the move, but apparently not. Any suggestions on how to help them get along? Their constant squabbling over everything is getting unbearable. Signed, Battle Weary Mom

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Dear Battle Weary: To paraphrase Shakespeare, the course of sibling love never did run smooth, at least all the time. Siblings are often each other’s first friends, but also sometimes, first enemies. In the case of your sons, I’m sure you know that some fighting and competition is natural, especially in two boys so close in age. But if it gets out of hand it can hurt them both, so let’s look at what might be going on between them and see what we can do to help.

I suspect there are two primary dynamics at play between Jack and Timmy and, unfortunately, neither works to Timmy’s advantage. First, Timmy is the youngest, so from that perspective Jack will always appear to have the “upper hand” as the older brother. Second, if we look at their individual elemental personalities, I suspect they relate on the Controlling Cycle of the Five Elements model. In adults, Controlling Cycle relationships can take on a sense of support, but in children, it usually feels exactly like it sounds: controlling.

Based on your descriptions and the dynamic that has developed between the boys, I believe that Jack is a primary Metal personality. Metal people are usually very smart, know they are smart, and are very happy to share their wisdom with everyone. Stressed Metal personalities can become critical, controlling, and dismissive, and moving to a new city is stressful for people, whatever their age. For Metal personalities, letting go of things that matter is never easy, either, so a move to a new city will likely be especially hard on Jack. This may be partially why you are seeing his “know-it-all” behavior more with Timmy now. Metal people value control to keep their life stable. That sense of stability and control has gone out the window for Jack because of the move, so he is probably struggling some now and Timmy is bearing the brunt of it.

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