Ask Vicki: Relationship Advice Using the Five Elements

Our Relationship with Our Work Environment

Dear Readers:

Today’s blog is the third in a four-part series devoted to understanding how each elemental personality will likely relate to different environments and, more importantly, what can be done if we find ourselves stuck in a not very compatible match. Two weeks ago, we focused on how different climates and geographical locations relate to each of the five elemental personalities based on the Five Element model (depicted below). Last week we focused on how we relate to our home environment and looked at issues like decorating style, colors, energy flow, and furnishings.

This week we’re going to discuss how we relate to our work environment, whether we’re working in or out of the home. And while some of the same issues that we covered in discussing our home environment will also be important in our work environment, there are other issues – like who is in our work environment with us – that will also matter a lot.

The Five Element Model

The Concept of Work
Most adults in our world spend almost half of their time creating, accomplishing, protecting, producing, or designing something for other people. For some of us, it’s a hobby, but for most of us, it’s a job and we are paid in one way or another for the work that we do. If we do this work for ourselves, we are considered self-employed. If not, someone else is paying us and we work in the environment they provide. If we are self-employed, or the owner of the business where we work, we have a greater say regarding the environment in which we work. Much of what we discussed last week regarding home environment will be applicable to how a self-employed person creates their working environment. Last week’s post also dealt with people who work managing and taking care of a family and a home.

However, in the United States only about 30% of us work for ourselves. That means that almost three of every four people are given a space to work in by the people who employ them. This could be anything from a corner office in a high rise building to an operating room, or a classroom, or a factory station, or a gas station, or any number of other situations. And while the options may be endless, what is common to all of these locations is that we’re expected to do our best work in an environment someone else created. It will be important to personalize this work environment in whatever ways we can to bring a sense of support and comfort to this space. In this post we will cover ways that each elemental personality can accomplish that.

And while workspace is important, an even more critical aspect of our work environment can be the fact that many of us are required to spend a significant amount of time with other people – most of them strangers – while doing our best work. Our co-workers are usually not people we get to choose; we are grouped with them by someone else. Ideally, we work well together to do what we are paid to do. But the world is not always ideal, so it’s also important to figure out ways to get along with our co-workers as well as make our workspace as comfortable as possible. And of course, the Five Elements will help us do both. So let’s get started.

Our Work Area
The concept of a “work environment” can mean many things to many people. Some of us may have created a “work area” in the basement of our homes years ago. Some may have done that just this past year when working from home became a safer option given the pandemic. Some of us may already be back in offices in large cities as the risk of Covid is mitigated. Some of us may work in classrooms, or hospitals, or restaurants. And while we’ve all had to be flexible this past year, as things move back closer to normal, this is a perfect time to look at what our “normal” work situation was before the onset of the pandemic, see what might have worked well, and determine what we may want to change.

An important aspect of our work environment is the location where we actually do our work. Are we in a classroom? A hospital ward? An office or cubicle? A shared warehouse? Or the aforementioned basement room during the pandemic? And honestly, where we work doesn’t matter as much as how the space where we work affects us. I think the best way to approach this is to cover what will help create a generically good workspace for each of the elemental personalities, regardless of the job they do.

Primary Water personalities like to spend a great deal of time in their heads thinking, pondering, and imagining. Too loud an environment can be difficult for them, unless they work on a factory floor or someplace else where ear plugs are allowed. Water people also normally don’t do well in large crowds. For a primary Water personality, it could be important to have their own office, quiet workspace, or cubby area to help them set boundaries and do their best work.

Primary Wood personalities need order and organization. They need to grab the right tool at the right time, regardless of whether that tool is a scalpel, laptop, ruler, chef’s knife, or shovel. Wood people also like space, so working outside can be a plus for them. If inside, just like their home environment, a window with a good view will be important.

Primary Fire personalities don’t sit still well for long periods of time, so a work area that provides them room to move will be important. Fire people often do well working in large rooms with other people as long as they can learn to manage their desire to connect with those around them. Putting them in a small workspace by themselves will be very hard on the social Fire personality.

Primary Earth personalities usually like to have comfortable and cozy spaces. A space that they can make aesthetically pleasing will matter to the Earth person, especially if they can bring in a few items or photos from home (the center of their world). They also like the ability to form relationships, so contact with colleagues – perhaps in a common lunchroom – will help work feel good to them.

Primary Metal personalities are another group that benefit from space to call their own. Clutter and messes don’t go over well with them, so a space they can keep to their exacting standards will be important. Metal people have a great deal of structure, too, so the ability to keep things organized will also matter to them.

If we find ourselves working in a situation that doesn’t support our elemental personality, it will be important to take whatever actions we can to make the area more energetically comfortable. If our work environment drains us, we need to bring more of our element into it. Here are some quick suggestions for each elemental personality:

For Water people, this could mean adding a fountain on a desk, blue walls or wearing blue clothing (even blue underwear helps), or better ear plugs.
For a Wood person, this could mean adding a potted plant in the room, green walls or wearing green clothing, or drinking lots of lemon water.
For a Fire person, this could mean adding a raku clay pot on a desk, red walls or wearing red clothing, or listening to cheerful music while working.
For an Earth person, this could mean keeping favorite snacks handy, yellow walls or wearing yellow clothing, or talking a quick walk outside, if possible.
For a Metal person, this could mean adding a metal sculpture on a desk, stark white walls or wearing white clothing, or drinking Red Clover tea.

If our work environment creates an excess of our energy, we can use the Five Element model to determine which element manages us on the Controlling Cycle and bring more of that energy into our space. For example, Metal controls Wood on the Controlling Cycle, so a person with too much Wood energy would want to embrace some of the suggested ways to build Metal energy in their environment. And it goes without saying that if we are self-employed, it will be much easier to create a work area that supports us and our work than it will be if we work in an environment created by someone else. But it can be done!

Our Work Colleagues
Unless we are artists or authors, few of us work in solitude; we usually have co-workers in our working environment. And while we can choose our friends, we usually can’t choose our work colleagues. But the people in our work environment are often one of the biggest factors in how we feel and perform at work. Because of this, a good understanding of how our primary elemental personality and the elemental personalities of our co-workers interact on the Five Elements model will help us create and maintain a positive energetic environment.

But we can’t expect our fellow employees to take a “What’s My Elemental Personality?” test, so how can we determine it? The easiest way is observation. Here are some simple clues regarding who we might be working with:
• If the person is very creative, always talking about art, movies, or philosophy, moves slowly, thinks before they answer a question, and either loves or hates the color blue, it’s a good chance they are probably a Water personality.
• If the person is a great planner, always discussing future events, moves quickly, seems always to be in a hurry, can tend to be bossy, and either loves or hates the color green, it’s a good chance they are probably a Wood personality.
• If the person is fun to be with, always laughing or telling jokes, lives for the moment, loves to party, is happy to speak to large crowds, and either loves or hates the color red, it’s a good chance they are probably a Fire personality.
• If the person is caring and compassionate, always asks how you are, moves rhythmically, often brings in treats for everyone, can’t stand conflict between employees, and either loves or hates the color yellow, it’s a good chance they are probably an Earth personality.
• If the person is very analytical, always discussing past events, moves rigidly, is always precise, can tend to be snobby or haughty, and either loves or hates the color white, it’s a good chance they are probably a Metal personality.

But don’t believe that all Nurturing Cycle relationships will be peachy and all Controlling Cycle relationships will be fraught. That just isn’t true. Both types of relationships can be heaven or hell depending on how balanced the individuals are. But understanding how we relate with our co-workers will always help us build good relationships with them and smooth out the tough parts when they happen. And this is a huge part of making our work environment the best it can be!

Next week we’ll discuss how to manage our energies as we move back to spending time in temporary locations like stores, restaurants, theatres, and even the houses of our friends!