Sales Employee Way Over the Top

Dear Vicki: Last fall I hired a new salesman for our small tool and die company. Ivan came with a stellar track record, so I felt lucky to get him. And for the most part, he has proven to be excellent; our sales are way up. He is funny, very outgoing, and what in the old day we used to call a “live wire,” which I guess is part of what makes him so good at his job. Initially, he was well liked by most of our employees, but as time has passed, several people have come to me privately complaining that Ivan is “too much” or “demanding.” We’ve all ignored it, but lately I’ve considered firing him because he often exhibits inappropriate behavior and doesn’t seem to take the job seriously. There’s a right way and wrong way to do things, and making a sales call dressed like the Easter Bunny isn’t right. At least not for me. I discussed this with my wife, who studies the Five Elements, and she suggested I write you. She said she thinks Ivan is a Fire/Wood. I hate to lose the sales he generates, but he is starting to wear us all down. Signed: Bothered Boss

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Dear Bothered Boss: Your wife has done you a great service by identifying Ivan’s elemental personality. Once we understand someone’s priorities based on their elemental personality, their behaviors make more sense. We can also begin to understand why they bother us, or in some cases, thrill us. Your wife didn’t pass along what she thought your primary element might be, but based on your letter I suspect you are a Metal personality. So let’s take a look at what might be going on between you, Ivan, and your staff.

As a Metal personality, you value order and propriety. In your letter you said:  “There’s a right way and wrong way to do things.” This is pure Metal, as is a desire for structure and boundaries, and a need to honor them. But Ivan’s Fire won’t care one bit about boundaries or protocol. His Fire can be all over the map, often for the sake of being entertaining. Fires have very little structure. Think of it: In nature, Fire isn’t really physical; it is heat made visible. Trying to rope in a Fire can feel like an impossible task. So why is Ivan able to manage the structure necessary to keep a steady job? His saving grace is his secondary Wood energy. Wood is the second most structured element (after Metal), so that is what helps Ivan keep his act together, so to speak.

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Co-Worker Sabotaging Her Over Control

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.

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Adult Son Distancing Himself from Mother

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my son Jacob. He graduated from law school four years ago and moved to New York from our small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up, Jacob was a quiet, studious child. He was something of a loner, but always seemed to appreciate the love and attention my husband and I showered on him. We supported him through college and grad school, were always so proud of him, and felt his continued gratitude. But since he started work as a corporate attorney, he has changed. He often won’t return our calls, interrupts or loses his temper when we do talk, is pretty critical, and has generally turned into a not so nice guy. Children change as they grow, I know, but this seems very dramatic. He has put a lot of pressure on himself to advance in his career, but why is he so different? It feels like we’ve lost him. Did we do something wrong? Signed: Puzzled in PA

 

Dear Puzzled: You are correct: Children do change as they grow. They learn about the world and their place in it. They make new friends and grow from these new relationships. They take continuous steps to become more independent. But they usually don’t change so dramatically over the course of just four years, so I think there has to be something else going on with Jacob. Let’s see if we can figure it out.

You don’t mention what primary element you think he is, but the fact that he was a quiet, studious child means he would likely be a Water or a Metal. His choice to practice law, however, would require the structure necessary to withstand the rigors of law school. That structure would be seen in both Metal and Wood. The overlap here is Metal, which also fits with the fact that the attention to detail necessary to practice corporate law usually sits in Metal. And this is just a guess, but your worry and concern about your son, and the fact that you so easily assume you might have done something wrong in raising him, suggest that you are probably a primary Earth element. This means that you and Jacob relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model with your Earth feeding his Metal.

On the surface, this should be good news for both of you. Earths love family, children, and helping people. Metals often expect attention and support, especially from Earths. Your relationship of parent to child also supports this natural flow of energy from Earth to Metal in the model. So what isn’t working? Why has he changed seemingly out of the blue?

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Husband “Bridging” with Others Too Much

Dear Vicki: I am writing about my spouse, Caleb. He is an elementary teacher and a truly loving husband and father. As an attorney, I often work long hours and he is always there to take care of our children, and me. Caleb is perfect in so many ways, but he does have one trait that is a real problem. When we are with friends, he tends to share aspects of our life at home that I would rather not have shared. It is nothing terribly personal, just little things that I feel other people do not need to know. I have mentioned this to him before and he says he will change, but that has not happened. I do not know that much about the Five Elements, but reading what you have on your website, I suspect Caleb is an Earth. Can you help me understand – and change – him? Signed, Private in Pennsylvania

Dear Private in Pennsylvania: This is an interesting issue. On the surface, if Caleb is sharing minor details with others, it shouldn’t matter. And it probably wouldn’t matter to most of the elemental personalities, especially another Earth. But as an attorney, you most likely have a good amount of Metal, and Metals value privacy. Metals also tend to compartmentalize aspects of their life, clearly delineating what is work, what is home, what is public, and what is private with the goal of keeping them separate. Earth people rarely make this level of distinction. More importantly, sharing what’s going on for them is an important way Earths connect with others.

You say you want to understand your husband, so let’s start there. Yes, Caleb is most certainly an Earth person. And for an Earth, building bridges and connecting with others is very important. Earths are also much less discriminating than some of the other elements, so for them a connection is a connection, no matter where it’s found. When Caleb shares information or events from his life, it’s a mechanism for weaving a bridge between himself and others. And this is usually such an automatic response in Earths that it’s likely he doesn’t stop to ponder the issue of appropriateness before he speaks. So what can you do?

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She Has Too Much Fire With New Boss

Dear Vicki: In your blog posts you’ve discussed control and what it means relative to the Five Elements model. I understand the theory that control is important to maintain balance and that each element has an element that is meant to control it. But in reality, this control stuff can be a problem. I’m a Fire person and whenever I’m around a Metal person, (someone who seems uptight and rigid to me), I can’t help getting super fiery with them. Sometimes that means I panic, but usually it means I flirt or go overboard with sharing way too much, too soon. I know Fire is meant to control Metal, but can we sense that we’re “meant to control” someone and react without thinking? This has become a real problem lately because my new boss is a Metal guy and I’m having a hard time not coming off as inappropriate. Help! Signed: Fire in Frisco

 

Dear Fire: The quick answer to your great question is yes, we can sense when we are around someone on our Controlling Cycle. But we can also sense when we are around someone on our Nurturing Cycle. And we can oftentimes sense if either are manifesting a balanced version of their primary element, or are out of balance. This is usually very unconscious and is part of the apparent mystery behind instantly liking or disliking someone when we meet them. The state of their primary element, and how it relates to our primary element, are very subtle aspects of the like/dislike dynamic we have all experienced.

Our elemental wiring is a core part of our personalities. As we discussed in a post last February, our primary elements are just like tuning forks. Ting a tuning fork and other tuning forks will always respond. At an elemental level, we will resonate in harmony with an element on our Nurturing Cycle and can sense a slight disharmony around an element on our Controlling Cycle. And honestly, sometimes what we sense around someone on our Controlling Cycle can be more than a slight sense of discomfort, depending on whether they control us or we control them.

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