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!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


What forms a boundary for you? Is it your life experience? Perhaps things you did (or did not do) as a child? Do you have too much respect and reverence for the past? Have you become so comfortable with things the way they are that you feel no need to change? Might fear of the unknown keep you from travelling an unknown path or seeking a new direction? Are you holding yourself back from fully contributing to your world by immersing yourself in all you have – content with “what is” at the expense of “what could be?” Whatever reasons you may have – be they real or imagined – one must continue to learn and apply their knowledge in today’s world or they will begin to wither and die.  Waiting for life to come to us is no longer an option. We must constantly seek the outer limits of our self-imposed boundaries and work hard to reach beyond them if we are to grow. Should we choose not to grow, we become obstacles sitting idly in the way of others as they seek to move forward – roadblocks in the path of potential success.

How can we inject fresh perspective into the things we do and the way that we approach the future? How can we recognize that “what is” may not always be – that something different might be appropriate? Living within the past is like reaching for a comforter while sitting on the couch. Life would be much more fulfilling if you were to stand on the rooftop and reach for the stars!

Traditions should never become the destination you seek nor an excuse used to keep you from reaching beyond your present reality. Far too many individuals hide behind a sense of tradition rather than seeking new possibilities. Recognizing and valuing the past is a good thing. Holding so tightly on to the past, however – grasping it to the point that you cannot move forward – is a detriment to healthy living.

When one takes more pride in where they come from (be it national origin, gender, race or religion) than in where they are they become disconnected with reality. When one holds so tightly onto their past that there is little room left to create a new “present,” their expectations become more accommodating than assimilating. Rather than seeking new ways to utilize their gifts they tend to hold onto the old, becoming a millstone around society’s neck rather than an enhancer of its continued growth. When one expects more than they can ever wish to contribute – when they seek more than they are willing to give – when they ask for more than they are willing to share – they have stepped beyond the boundaries of tradition into the realm of entitlement. One must continually give in order to gain – knowing another will refill them through a reciprocal sharing – in order to expand their sense of past into a bright tomorrow.

There comes a time in all our lives that we must begin to stretch our sense of limitation. For some this may come in the form of exploding the walls surrounding them so that a fresh new start is inevitable. For others less willing to test new waters or travel upon unfamiliar roads, perhaps simply opening the windows and doors wide enough to escape the room that restricts them could lead to different perspectives as they begin the journey towards a new beginning.

We should not judge our lives by the number of “finishes” we experience but rather by the number of “starts” we initiate. We should not seek glory only in finishing the race for there are unlimited opportunities we find along the way. When a destination is our only reward it minimizes the growth we could have experienced as we move forward from one temporary resting place to another. Do not seek today as a destination for it is but a springboard to a new (and unknown) tomorrow. Learn from your past so you might gather strength and confidence within your present as you prepare to leap forward into a future holding unlimited possibilities.

Monday, October 8, 2012


There have been countless articles and books written about how to properly influence and motivate people. Dale Carnegie once made a fortune telling us how to “Win Friends and Influence People,” By now almost everyone knows that we must “get the right people on the bus…” if we are going to run a successful organization. We even know how to “color our parachutes…” so that we can land on our feet if something goes wrong in our business. Life, however, is not always rosy – it often comes fraught with lessons, landmines and labyrinths. No road is ever as straight and narrow as anticipated nor is success as easy to find as outlined within the books others write.

There are two sides to every story – a “heads” to every “tail.” We cannot have a “yin” without a “yang,” nor do we often experience an end unless we (at some time) initiated a beginning. What happens to the “common ordinary folk” who often put themselves before others – that tend to dictate a course of action before they seek input from others? Are there lessons that we can learn from their INADEQUACIES that will help to strengthen our own adequacies? What happens to those who tend to “tell” rather than to “sell?” Who operate from a fortress of individual strength rather than from a sea of shared tranquility? Are they destined to fail or do they simply fail to succeed? Identifying some negative styles that poison both interpersonal relationships and personal success might be the first step to avoiding the dark implications they can bring – and to avoiding them before they can stifle our accomplishments.
  •  Mistrustful individuals can appear successful, but their apparent abilities often hide a deep distrust of others. They are relatively pessimistic, however, expecting to be mistreated by the world and are overly sensitive to criticism. They tend to find fault in others so they can appear to be stronger – to tear others down rather than building themselves up. Mistrustful people hold on to power, assign blame, and encourage secrecy. An organization OR a relationship led by a mistrustful individual tends to become a reflection of his or her individual personality. It can be successful IF the mistrustful individual is more often right than wrong in his or her misguided decisions BUT such a foundation tends to breed fear rather than freedom…suspicion rather than sharing.
  • Fearful individuals tend to be conservative, live by the rules, perform dutifully, and like to please others. They frequently, however, lack innovation and are so afraid of failure they would rather not act than do something perceived as wrong should it not be successful. Fearful people may WANT to move forward but constantly reign themselves back because they would rather "never have loved" than to have “loved and lost.” Relationships based on fear MAY be successful (little confrontation with single-minded focus) but rarely will they fully engage both participants nor fully leverage the contributions that all involved might have otherwise been able to make. 
  • Stubborn individuals can appear to be independent and freethinking. An optimist might paint them as being “dedicated” or “committed to their principles.” A realist might describe them as being procrastinators tending to work at their own pace, rarely changing direction or listening to the thoughts of others. Stubborn people often move forward NOT through their impeccable motivational skills but rather because they wear down their challengers by speaking incessantly without listening. It is one thing to take a “road less travelled” as long as you do not lose sight of your destination during the trip. It is altogether different, however, to simply hold out until everyone comes to your way of thinking – to wear them out rather than to work together to develop a mutually beneficial trail. 
  • Arrogant individuals often lead through charisma, confidence, and powers of persuasion. When pressured, they need recognition and “strokes,” frequently at the expense of those around them. They take all the credit for success and assign all the blame for failure. Feeling that they (personally) cannot fail, arrogant people surround themselves with agreeable people willing to sacrifice independence and a strong self-concept for the security of living a sheltered life within someone else’s shadow. Living (or working) within the shadow of arrogance may provide temporary relief from the heat of daily living but it will choke out individual growth – eventually stunting one’s potential much like a flower buried deep within a dark forest. 
  • Perfectionists are industrious, careful, and maintain high personal standards of performance – standards that may be too difficult for others to achieve or maintain. They can be relied upon to get things done, but must often do everything themselves to make sure it is done right (OR oversee others so tightly that they may find it difficult to breathe!). Their micro-management alienates others, causing staff to wait for specific directions (so that projects will not “be done incorrectly”) and personal relationships to languish (as equality is not a reasonable option). A perfectionist’s over-involvement may allow an organization to appear efficient and a relationship to seem fully functional for a short time BUT the truth will eventually set those involved free as one person cannot a kingdom build.
Because we are human, these characteristics reside within every one of us to one degree or another. Successful individuals tend to recognize their weaknesses and negative traits, pulling themselves (and those around them) forward in spite of their shortcomings. They compensate for inadequacies by relying on the strength of others. They acknowledge their own imperfections and draw upon other’s complimentary skills to overcome them. Great managers and builders of sound relationships are not immune from these negative characteristics – they simply rise above them by learning more about their own abilities (and inabilities) and about how the strengths of those around them can contribute to long-term success.

Mismanaging an organization’s resources often causes business to fail. Mismanagement of our personal lives and relationships may keep us from seeing our dreams brought to fruition. Become all that you were meant to be – and give back freely all that you have been given – by striving to achieve those proven characteristics we read great leaders possess while recognizing the negative characteristics that impact us all so we can avoid them to the best of our abilities.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


One of the greatest freedoms our country offers is the unrestricted right to express our opinion within the voting booth. Many feel that their single voice does not make a difference so they chose to muffle it by not voting – but when we do not speak, how can we claim victory (or complain when what we want is not implemented)? Choosing not to vote is a blatant disregard for the freedom we have to express our views within a system that all too often closes out the opinions of private citizens. Many individuals living elsewhere would (and are currently) fighting to have the rights we are freely given - yet many prefer to let others make decisions for them by failing to exercise their right to vote.

This November offers us the opportunity to participate in an election that might truly make a difference in our daily lives. Both parties are running on the plank of "change" this year. The fulfillment (or failure to fulfill) past promises does not seem to weigh heavily in this election. Newscasters seem to be creating news through intense analysis of what is being said and discussion about polls trying to form public opinion rather than simply reporting on what has happened. A lack of fact-based accomplishments are minimized while a plethora of opinion-based accusations and empty promises are maximized by the media - a group seeming to want to write history through strategic projection rather than report on what has happened. Whether a candidate speaks for the people or for the party seems not to matter this year – it is a year of transition in which opinions based on nothing but words and whispers might carry the day UNLESS we take our responsibility seriously and listen to what the candidates are saying this year as the elections near. As you approach this opportunity to express yourself, do not take it lightly.

Regardless of political affiliation, we all have the right to express our personal opinions within the voting booth. Far too many, however, forfeit their right to voice an opinion by withholding their vote in a form of “silent protest.” Of those voting, many act on the recommendation of a reporter, newscaster, friend, union, church or past history rather than upon solid information gathered through intelligent research. Look into each candidate’s accomplishments to verify their ability to deliver on campaign promises. Understand and make sure you can embrace their values before you support them as your elected official. Vote with your head this year – looking into each candidate and issue thoroughly for yourself so that you can make an informed decision.

This year's election offers two distinct choices - one being more emphasis on an individuals ability to create prosperity with less government support and programming, the other focusing more on increasing societal support through more and bigger government programs. The paths are as divergent as they can possibly be - built upon two drastically different visions for what our future should look like. Consider not only the hope and change promised this year by both parties but also how the words you hear can be brought to fruition - and whether the sacrifice needed to make them a reality makes sense OR is simply dust in the wind.

Your vote CAN make a difference (as can your NOT voting!). Rather than continuing to suffer in silence, let your actions shout from the voting booth! You may (or may not) end up being part of the solution but at least you will no longer be part of the problem. Do not remain a passive spectator to the action that is unfolding in front of you this November – be an active participant in the formation and implementation of life-changing agendas. Make sure you can make an informed choice on our leadership options and on our ballot agendas. Our country was built upon these unalienable rights - do not allow them to languish within a sea of neglect!