Dear Vicki: I’m writing about a co-worker of mine who I’m pretty sure is a Metal. Jim always follows the rules, arrives exactly at 8am and leaves exactly at 5pm, and is fastidious in his work. We’ve been at the same small structural design firm for several years and usually get along just fine. But for the past few months, Jim’s acting like a completely different guy. He used to be pleasant and a hard worker, but now he is often what my grandmother used to call “prickly.” He’s argumentative, disagreeable, and makes rude or insulting comments under his breath (but still loud enough to be heard). We’ve ignored this at work – our office manager says Jim is going through his second divorce – but it’s really becoming uncomfortable. I dread going to work for fear that a loud argument will break out between Jim and Frank, our sales manager, who can be overbearing himself. Is there something I can do to help Jim, and other people in our office, stay happy with each other? Signed Worried in Wisconsin
Dear Worried: Jim is lucky to have such a caring and considerate co-worker. He does sound like a Metal, and while you don’t mention your element, I suspect you are a combination of Metal and Earth. To enjoy structural design work suggests that you have the meticulousness and precision of a Metal. But it’s your Earth that’s upset about Jim’s rudeness and the potential for conflict at your small office. Your sincere desire to help Jim also speaks of Earth. And Frank, your sales manager, may well be a Wood because the outgoingness of Woods usually makes them great at sales. The fact that he’s a Wood will also make Frank more sensitive to out of balance energy coming from Jim. Let’s take a look at how you might help Jim and your office “stay happy with each other.”
First, it’s important to remember that you, as an Earth, relate to Jim on the Nurturing Cycle, with your Earth feeding Jim’s Metal. This will make you feel somewhat “motherly” toward Jim and is probably a factor in your desire to help him. Frank, on the other hand, relates to Jim on the Controlling Cycle, with Jim’s Metal controlling Frank’s Wood. This dynamic alone can create an undercurrent of tension in your office; Woods usually don’t like to be controlled. And as an aside, you probably do find Frank somewhat overbearing because he relates to you on the Controlling Cycle, with his Wood controlling your Earth. The fact that your Metal controls Frank’s Wood probably allows you to hold your own with him, but it’s your Earth that wants peace in the kingdom.