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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Angry Husband Now Depressed and Withdrawing

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my husband. He’s a great guy and a good provider, but he’s always been a workaholic. He wanted to get ahead in his job and he did. He’s been the CEO of a small accounting firm for years, but now it’s in the midst of being taken over by a larger firm. Dan fought it, but the Board thought it was a good move, and it probably is for everyone except him; he’ll be out. Dan has always been a fighter, and his anger was a force to be reckoned with, but a few months ago that changed. Instead of an angry bull, now he’s sullen and withdrawn. I could manage his anger, but I’m not sure what to do with this. I’ve studied the Five Elements some and always thought Dan was a Wood personality, but now I’m not so sure. How can I help him? Signed: Worried Wife


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Dear Worried: Dan is blessed to have such a caring wife. And while there is much you can do to help him, it goes without saying that he may also need the help of a professional counselor, so please do keep that in mind. Dan does sound like he has a Wood personality. The need for personal accomplishment accompanied with some form of recognition (title, financial rewards, visibility, etc.) does matter a great deal to Woods. They are most happy when they can keep moving toward that goal. But if something gets in their way, an out of balance Wood will succumb to anger. For them, the outward expression of anger still feels like movement, although it’s rarely very productive. In fact, the prolonged expression of anger usually ends up being counter-productive for the situation and harmful for Woods and the people closest to them. Few Woods actually want to be angry all the time and I think this is what’s driving Dan’s behavior right now. Let me explain.

When a Wood expresses anger, it’s usually because something they want to do or see happen isn’t unfolding as they would like. Woods in positions of authority often learn that the occasional angry outburst will motivate employees (and family members) to get things going to avoid additional outbursts of anger. Not a great management technique, but sadly successful in many cases. Fortunately, most Woods eventually come to the understanding that their anger isn’t doing anyone any good. When that happens, and the Wood realizes that nothing they do will get the desired results, if they are energetically balanced they will assess the situation and change tactics.  But if they are unable to do this because they are either unbalanced or unable to find an alternative tactic, to avoid the continued expression of anger, a Wood can shut themselves down. And yes, this can look a lot like depression.

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New Brother-in-Law a Total Idiot

Dear Vicki: I work at our family car dealership and put in long hours. I’ve done what it takes to be the top salesperson most months and as the oldest son, I plan to inherit running the business when my parents retire. My sister also works here, but only part time, and does well selling. Frankly, selling comes more naturally to her (she’s outgoing and funny), but I work harder. Recently, her new husband lost his job managing an art gallery and started working here. No surprise, he’s failing miserably. He isn’t an outgoing person (which I find an absolute necessity for selling), and I’ve caught him reading at his desk instead of working his files. I don’t like him all that much – I have no idea what my sister sees in him – and now having to work with him every day is driving me nuts. He’s a slow, pondering guy who isn’t particularly charismatic (also important in selling) and seems to have brought the whole sales team down. Everyone’s sales are off, even mine! How do I get rid of him without upsetting my sister? Signed: Top Dog

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Dear Top Dog: Well, you certainly are clear regarding what does and doesn’t work for you. Success and accomplishment clearly matter, which suggests that you’re a Wood personality. Woods are very much into individual accomplishment. They are also great planners and corporate ladder climbers. Your “plan” to inherit leadership of the family business also speaks to a Wood’s tendency to cast themselves in the lead because leadership equates to success in their worldview.

I suspect your sister is a Fire because the outgoingness and enthusiasm Fires have for almost everything makes them natural sales people. Your quiet, inner-directed brother-in-law who loves to read is probably a Water. And you are correct, Waters are rarely naturally good at sales; they really don’t like engaging with other people that much. Your desire to get rid of him is understandable, but that probably isn’t going to go over well with your sister, and possibly your parents. However, there are ways to help with your frustration, which by the way, is a very typical Wood response to something that isn’t going well. Let’s look at what’s playing out in your dealership relationships from a Five Elements perspective.

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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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