Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m having trouble with a woman who works for me. I run a small accounting firm where Greta has been a valued employee for eight years. I don’t know as much about the Five Elements as I do about accounting, but I suspect Greta is a Metal. She has been on time, thorough, precise, and steady the whole time she has worked for us. She also remembers birthdays and listens when people have problems, so is well liked in the firm. However, earlier this year Greta had her first child and since returning from maternity leave, she has made several minor mistakes in her work, seems preoccupied, and has allowed her desk to become more messy than usual. She has a major thing for sugar now, too, and actually brings cookies for the office. I’m concerned about this change as it has required me to be much more hands on than I used to be and I don’t like the distraction. I want to focus on innovations for our business. Is this a motherhood thing for Greta or something else? More importantly, will she ever get back to the stellar employee she once was? I’d hate to fire her, but it may come to that. Signed: Responsible in Rochester
Dear Responsible: You are facing a situation that many employers face when an employee becomes a mother: Things change. Greta has a new top priority now, which is her child. She also has hormones flooding her body that reinforce this shift in priorities. She is bound to be different, but that doesn’t mean she won’t remain a valuable employee. You don’t mention how long Greta has been back from maternity leave. If it’s only a few weeks, I suggest you cut her some slack a while longer. She is most likely running on fewer hours sleep than usual since babies wake often during the night. She is also trying to juggle the numerous demands associated with her changed family and still do an excellent job.
Excellence matters to Metals, as you have seen over the past eight years with Greta. And that hasn’t changed for her; she will still do her best for you. But you will need to give her time to make order out of the wonderful chaos her baby has added to her life. As a Metal, Greta will find the process and structure necessary to juggle her work and family life successfully because that’s what Metals do. They excel at creating a hierarchy that allows everything to work smoothly. However, right now Greta isn’t just a pure Metal. She is a Metal with a strong secondary Earth. Let me explain.