The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I recently spoke with an individual ready to pursue additional education so that she could switch fields completely and move as quickly away from her current job situation as possible. While she enjoyed the WORK she did, she did not respect her boss, was disappointed that an excellent co-worker recently left the organization, and felt the Organization’s Board of Directors had “no clue” as to what was happening within the company NOR did anyone care about its future. Her choice was to leave what she enjoyed to seek a greener pasture (as she had done before) – to be as but water over the dam, flowing freely from one situation to the next. Before talking about these issues, however, we talked about several different things when we met.

Her boss (new to the organization) did not have the proven experience or demonstrated ability to do his job. She was so wrapped up in her own feelings and frustrations, however, that she had never asked him how he felt, what he wanted to do (or needed help doing), or where he saw the organization going. She had talked herself into running away from what she liked to do (she liked “the work”) because of things she did not know OR seek to influence (she knew nothing about either her boss’ or the Board’s plans for the organization’s future). She was like a river flowing rapidly along its banks – blindly moving towards a fall from which there would be no return.

We eventually moved her past the rapids into an area of relative calm. She began to examine what she liked about the job (AND the organization), what she disliked, what she would need to see from a different position should she move. Many of the things she was seeking were deeply imbedded within her current position but she had been so busy looking at “what was not” that she lost sight of “what was.” We then discussed what (if anything) she could do to help maximize the “good” things about where she was while minimizing the “bad.”

There are many ways to move from one situation to another – but often we embark upon the most obvious escape route before seeking alternative resolutions. We do not simply draw a line in the sand from which we can begin anew – we call in the heavy equipment to excavate a trench that will isolate us from our situation once we have crossed the line. While such tactics WILL move us forward, they often create pain and close the door on any possibility of returning. Perhaps there are “kinder and gentler ways” to move from a bad situation to a better one than to burn our bridges – no matter how good that might feel in the heat of the moment.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


We learn to play many games as children – unfortunately resulting in us learning as much how to follow as to lead. “Simon Says…” is a game played by many a child where creativity and originality are discouraged in favor of doing exactly what is asked, allowed or permitted. Many lessons in life MAY be learned by doing what we are told but far more can be gained through experience. My wife and I took dance lessons several years ago in preparation for a family wedding and an anniversary cruise where I found myself being told “that is not what we worked on…” or “where did you learn that?” often during the learning process. While the instructor tried diligently to transform me into a graceful instrument of dance, she probably became as frustrated with my asking “Why WON’T this work?” as I was by her saying “You are not yet ready for that!”

“Follow the leader” is another childhood game that discourages individuality in favor of simply blending in with a following throng. There can be only one leader while, by necessity and design, there are a multitude of followers. If you are fortunate enough to “lead”, you can pretty much choose your road to success by deciding where the group will go and how it will get there. If you are among the many followers, however, it is hard to have much say in where you are going because you become too busy watching those ahead of you while trying to stay out of the way of those behind you.

In order to grow and develop we must take the principles of what “Simon says…” by watching to see what works THEN building on the learned concepts by expanding them beyond their original intent. We must “follow the leader” BUT only long enough to learn what direction we are going so we do not become lost when going there. It has been said that one learns all there is to know in life by the end of the kindergarten. While I do not believe this (entirely, I DO feel that paying attention to some of the principles taught through children’s games can help us to overcome many of the challenges and opportunities presented by life as we grow older.

I wonder what “ring around the rosy” or “duck, duck, goose” might teach us if we looked at them from a learning (rather than from a playing) perspective…