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"Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for many people, but the chaos became personal for me last month when the art gallery where I’ve worked for 20 years was sold. As an artist and homemaker, I so appreciated that the previous owner was a kind, gentle soul who ran a gallery that allowed for the joy of discovering art to steal over his patrons in a quiet way. But he retired and the new owner, Mr. Miller, is a bombastic man who thinks he needs to hit people over the head with ads, promotions, and events to increase attendance. The chaos he creates on a daily basis terrifies me. What can I do?"...

Dear Vicki: I work for a large advertising firm and have been very successful at making good things happen for my company. I was recently promoted, but now things aren’t going so well. My responsibilities include managing a department of what we call “creatives” (the people who actually develop and produce the ads) and it’s a nightmare. They are excellent at what they do (we have won many awards), but they miss deadlines, skip conference calls, dress in an extremely casual manner even around our corporate clients, show up late, you name it. And no amount of chastising from me seems to work. I like my work and up until now have done an extremely good job for my firm, but managing this group is like herding cats and I’m clearly failing. What can I do to get them to tow the line? Signed: Hates Cats   Dear Hates Cats: I had to chuckle at your sign off.  In truth, I suspect you don’t really hate cats. Rather, you hate situations that are “out of control,” and that gives us a good idea of your primary personality. Both Wood people and Metal people have a strong relationship with the concept of control, but their needs are quite different. Metals need to feel that they are in control and Woods need to avoid the chaotic feeling of being out of control. The fact that you are good at making things happen at work suggests that you are a Wood personality; Metals are usually better at understanding why things happen than making them happen. As a Wood, you bring a great deal of structure to everything you do. In fact, of all the Five Elements personalities, only Metal has more structure. And that structure will usually stand you in good stead in any corporate environment. Unfortunately, you have landed in one of the few places where that isn’t necessarily true. When managing overly creative people, artificially imposed structure often doesn’t work. Let’s see how we can help. Highly creative people usually have a lot of Water energy in their personality make-up. The two reasons for this are that imagination sits in the Water element and the Water element has very little structure. Think of water in nature: it has no structure of its own but will conform to any structure offered, be that water glass or riverbed. This is both the bad and good news for you. Left to their own devises, Water people will usually go with the flow wherever that flow might take them, which allows them to follow their creative muses as need be. However, it does make managing them a bit like herding cats. But just like in nature, Water people will usually take any reasonable structure offered them, so you should be able to impose some managerial structure. The key point here is that the structure must be reasonable from the perspective of a Water, not a Wood. We’ll come back to this later. Another issue you need to consider if you are...

Dear Vicki: In your blog posts you’ve discussed control and what it means relative to the Five Elements model. I understand the theory that control is important to maintain balance and that each element has an element that is meant to control it. But in reality, this control stuff can be a problem. I’m a Fire person and whenever I’m around a Metal person, (someone who seems uptight and rigid to me), I can’t help getting super fiery with them. Sometimes that means I panic, but usually it means I flirt or go overboard with sharing way too much, too soon. I know Fire is meant to control Metal, but can we sense that we’re “meant to control” someone and react without thinking? This has become a real problem lately because my new boss is a Metal guy and I’m having a hard time not coming off as inappropriate. Help! Signed: Fire in Frisco   Dear Fire: The quick answer to your great question is yes, we can sense when we are around someone on our Controlling Cycle. But we can also sense when we are around someone on our Nurturing Cycle. And we can oftentimes sense if either are manifesting a balanced version of their primary element, or are out of balance. This is usually very unconscious and is part of the apparent mystery behind instantly liking or disliking someone when we meet them. The state of their primary element, and how it relates to our primary element, are very subtle aspects of the like/dislike dynamic we have all experienced. Our elemental wiring is a core part of our personalities. As we discussed in a post last February, our primary elements are just like tuning forks. Ting a tuning fork and other tuning forks will always respond. At an elemental level, we will resonate in harmony with an element on our Nurturing Cycle and can sense a slight disharmony around an element on our Controlling Cycle. And honestly, sometimes what we sense around someone on our Controlling Cycle can be more than a slight sense of discomfort, depending on whether they control us or we control them. In your case, you probably do sense the Metal vibration when you are around someone who is a primary Metal. And if they are rigid and out of balance with too much Metal energy, your Fire will want to help them regain balance by pouring on the Fire energy to melt the Meal back to pliancy. This is especially easy for Fires to do because they lack structure so often don’t have the best boundaries. But you are right, this is not a great way to act with your new boss, so let’s look at how you can manage this situation. To keep your Fire from flaring at work, you need to look to the element that is meant to manage Fire, which is Water. Building your own Water energy while at work should help you keep the flare-ups to a minimum. Easy ways to build Water (other than...

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. For example, if the ambiance in the restaurant gets stale and old, people won’t want to come back. If things aren’t running smoothly, people won’t want to come back. If the staff is sullen, tired, and lacks engagement, people won’t want to come back. If the food is terrible, people won’t want to come back. And if the business doesn’t make money, the restaurant will close and then people won’t be able to come back. For the restaurant to be successful, it takes balance and active participation from all of the elements. And that means that, as a Fire, you need to be able to work with Waters, Wood, Earths, and Metals, as...

Dear Vicki: I know these are difficult times for many people, but the chaos became personal for me last month when the art gallery where I’ve worked for 20 years was sold. The previous owner was a kind, gentle soul who ran a gallery that allowed the joy of discovering art to steal over his patrons in a quiet way. But he retired and the new owner, Mr. Cardon, is a bombastic man who thinks he needs to hit people over the head with ads, promotions, and events to increase attendance at the gallery. And honestly, maybe he’s right; I have no idea if the gallery was making money before or not. But for me, it was a sweet place to work, and now it’s not. The chaos Mr. Cardon creates on a daily basis terrifies me and makes me want to quit. What can I do? Oh, if it helps, I’m pretty sure I’m a Water/Earth. Signed: Terrified in Tennessee Dear Terrified: It’s always difficult where there’s a change in leadership, whether at a personal or national level. We tend to appreciate reliability and steadiness, and by definition, change will disrupt this. Your situation at work is an excellent example. The previous owner was someone you enjoyed working with, someone who created an environment that pleased you and made you happy. As a Water/Earth, quiet and comfortable will be very important to you. Water carries full yin energy, an energy of withdrawal, peace, and silence. Earth is about comfort and long-term connections. You clearly found a perfect job at the gallery and it sounds like you had 20 years of happiness there. But now that’s changed. The new owner, Mr. Cardon, sounds like a Wood. Remember that Woods like personal accomplishment. Quietness and sameness usually aren’t appreciated by Woods; they enjoy shaking things up to make their mark. The good news is that Woods are usually excellent planners, so there should be some degree of reasoning behind what Mr. Cardon is doing. The best you can hope for is that he is a balanced Wood who has a reasonable plan for the gallery. This would mean that the chaos you’re experiencing will eventually subside into a more stable routine of events that he deems effective. The worst-case scenario is that he isn’t a balanced Wood and life at the gallery will be forever changed while he owns it. Either way, you have options for making this time of transition easier for you. First, remember that as a Water/Earth, you relate to Mr. Cardon on both the Control Cycle (Wood controls Earth) and the Nurturing Cycle (Water feeds Wood). Unfortunately, neither of these will be particularly pleasant for you right now. For your Earth, the disruptions to long-standing connections and stability that his new policies are creating have literally caused an earthquake in your world. The balance you were used is gone. However, your Earth can rise to the occasion and eventually settle into new patterns once you’re clear what they are. Earths are good that...