The Sparks of Fire and Metal: Structure and Control

Dear Vicki: I’m having trouble with a new boss and wonder if you can help. Alex was brought in last month to manage the restaurant where I work as a waitress while I’m in college. It’s a well-respected chain and I make good money, but it’s no longer fun. Alex has a dreary personality; he’s a real downer. We all used to laugh and joke around a lot, but since he’s been there, it seems like the joy has gone out of everything. Alex doesn’t like any of us, either, especially me; he’s cut back my hours and told me to get some rest. Really? He’s such a control freak. I’d planned on staying in this job until I graduate next year, but now I’m not so sure. My mom knows a lot about the Five Elements – she’s the one who suggested I write you – and she says I’m a Fire and Alex seems like a Water or Metal to her. Can you help? I don’t want to quit my job. It’s so fun. Signed: Waitress in Wautoma

Dear Waitress: I agree, your job can be great fun. I worked as a waitress while in college and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is usually a fair amount of camaraderie between the staff in a restaurant, plus the customers are out for a good time. You probably do well there, too, because your Fire tendency to be outgoing and enjoy connecting with people is perfect for working as a waitress. But for a restaurant to run well, not everyone should be a Fire. Can you imagine what it would be like at work if everyone always said “Yes!” right away, if no one stopped and thought through the ramifications of a specific decision, or took time to submit the food and beverage orders weekly? It would be chaos and the restaurant would soon be out of business.

In fact, your restaurant is a perfect example of the Five Elements model in action: it needs all of the elements to be successful: Waters for creativity and envisioning potential, Woods for getting things done, Fires to keep people happy and engaged, Earths to handle the food, and Metals to manage the business end. As the Five Elements model says, if any part of this gets out of balance, the whole will suffer.

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