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, June 6, 2013


Some people possess positive characteristics so distinguishing them from others that they seem to “walk on water.” Others seem to produce positive results in whatever they say or do. Their very presence tends to lift those around them to achieve greatness. We see them as “super stars” shining brightly above all others. These rare individuals do not need much guidance – rather they need clear objectives and general direction from a person willing to get out of their way as they move forward. Unfortunately, these individuals seem to be the exception in life rather than the norm.

We often interact with people seeking success at the expense of others or wanting to win by making others fail. They do not look to see who was stepped on during their ascension to the top or what rules might have been broken along the way. If we are honest with ourselves, rather than looking at how someone does things we tend to focus more upon their results – often elevating individuals to super star status based on the future they may bring without considering the carnage they may leave behind due to their lack of compassion. While many successful individuals rise to the top due to their own abilities, what should we do when we find that a person behaved inappropriately during their ascension? Do we ignore the “ways” in order to enjoy the “means” or should we act intentionally to address the unintended consequences of inappropriate behavior? Too many individuals assume all the credit while assigning only the blame – take the rewards associated with accomplishment while giving all responsibility for action to others. The choice we make speaks volumes to our character and the values we express to others as we live our daily lives.

When addressing a behavior that seems to be inappropriate, look inwardly before striking out. Did YOU do
something to establish (or allow) expectations contrary to generally acceptable practices? Might you have driven the individual into areas outside of his or her core competency (or comfort zone)? When encouraging change, consider the reasons the individual has been successful before condemning him or her for their shortcomings – what they have experiences as “rewards” for the behavior you are now deeming inappropriate. Before addressing an individual’s “bad behavior,” establish how much of the blame YOU should assume and deal with it. Once resolved, identify and address the actions that are causing the problem NOT the individual performing the actions. Attacking an individual behaving inappropriately rarely results in lasting change because, as much as we might try, people do not change much. Instead, address and modify the person’s behavior. Actions are more easily modified than people (who are highly sensitive to criticism) immersed in the drama of life.

Discussing inappropriate behavior is confrontational and never easy regardless of the relationship you may have with an individual. Before speaking, think about observable warning signs or clues YOU may have missed during the time leading up to the indiscretion. Mentally detail the individual’s strengths AND weaknesses (nobody is either all good or all bad – we are a combination of characteristics that make us unique). What is it about the individual that puts him or her above all others? Does the person possess the ability to grow or has the individual gone as far as they are going to go with the talents they possess? Are you willing to suffer a short-term disappointment in order to cultivate a long-term success? A realistic evaluation as to whether the individual is ABLE to grow (rather than simply being willing to try) must be an integral part of confrontation. We cannot force a person to change – he or she must see the benefits of altered behavior as being more significant than the rewards doing nothing differently.

Behavior can be modified ONLY when “the issue” can be addressed and steps can be taken (with consequences attached) to prevent it from recurring – and we should look both “within and without” when making this discovery. We often focus so much on correcting the behavior of others that we lose sight of our own shortcomings. Until we truly acknowledge that we must AND understand why we should change our own behaviors, we will not do things much differently than we are now doing them and should not expect our results to be much different than they have always been. Failing to recognize the need for continuous change and improvement – accepting the status quo as being the only acceptable solution – is perhaps the most inappropriate behavior of all!