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, October 10, 2013


Some live in the past – holding on to the accomplishments of the past far too long.  They value tradition (often to the point that they will not venture from the past into the present).  They may have pictures of old teams and outdated certificates on the wall – living within their memories – holding on to days gone by as if they were still the most important times of their life.  These people find comfort in knowing “what was” rather than thinking about “what could have been” or “what might yet be.”  People living within their past often hold on to “the old ways” because they worked – never imagining they may not continue to work in a changing world.  “Fiddler on the Roof” was a movie about these individuals.  Strong, value-driven and steeped in tradition, the culture of the times often held onto tradition to guide their daily lives – but the family depicted found that letting go of the past was an essential part of moving into a modern era.  Individuals holding onto “what was” as they live “what is” often seek obstacles that might prevent them from changing rather than actively seeking opportunities that might lead them to things not yet realized.

Most individuals live in the present – finding both satisfaction and a belief that they are achieving their fullest
potential by fulfilling their routines and daily activities.  They rush from one task to the next without questioning why, knowing only that one thing must be done before moving on.  These “present dwellers” are firefighters.  They see a problem, throw themselves fully and totally into its resolution, then move on to the next issue.  They are always on the move, often frustrated (and seemingly frenetic), frequently too busy to enjoy the beauty around them.  They often appear to travel well beyond the speed of light – buzzing through anything unfortunate enough to be in their paths – moving erratically towards what they are convinced is a well-defined destination.  While these people are valuable “doers,” they may be unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor because “so much needs to be done in so little time,” usually running out of month before their projects are done and losing sight of “the big picture” as they rush to accomplish the “means” without thinking about the “ends.”   They may find themselves too busy “doing for today” to ever “dream of tomorrow.”

A precious few live within the world of “what could be…if only.”  They do not limit themselves to “what must be done” for they would prefer to dwell within the realm of “why not try doing it differently?”  Rather than accepting that tasks and objectives must be accomplished in a prescribed order they live in a world that questions the reason behind every action they take.  While they consider the past, they refuse to dwell within it – or to limit their possibilities to the realities of others.  Rather than perfecting “what is”, they prefer to do what must be done to build towards what has not yet been fully formulated.  You can recognize these individuals by their passion – by their outward expression of the attitude that nothing is ever quite good enough because it can always be improved.  They cannot seem to stop themselves from saying things like “…that is really good, but have you thought about…” or “That is a great start…” when you present a solution for their consideration.  Accepting “what is” as a destination is not an option as they prefer to linger just long enough within “today” to gather the resources necessary for them to spring towards the next opportunity.  The movie “Field of Dreams” would depict this world.  Considered by many to be dreamers who not only fail to act responsibly but also fail to recognize reality – these individuals truly believe that if they build a dream, something will come of it (and if they accept the status quo, nothing will ever change).

Where do you live in this world?  Do you live in the past – anchored within the tradition that has guided
people to security for years?  Do you live in the present – seeking to accomplish life’s daily tasks and challenges?  Do you live for a yet to be identified future – seeking progress today so that you can move into tomorrow?  Not everyone can be a futurist (nor can we all be historians or content to accomplish daily tasks).  We do, however, need components of all these characteristics – people dwelling within the past, the
present, and the future – to have a winning team.  It is important that we identify “where we live,” however, then embrace it as move forward.  In order to contribute to a thriving organization one must recognize and acknowledge his or her strengths (values and beliefs) and add to the overall good of their community.  When we recognize and embrace individual uniqueness – actively making it a vital part of each relationship (whether at work or at home) we begin to define what could be rather than focusing upon what is (or has been).  Only when one is able to move past yesterday’s history, beyond the (far too often) mundane realities of today while seeking the unknown possibilities posed by an undefined tomorrow will he or she be able to move from “what is” to “what could be.”  By focusing more on “why not?” than “if only…” you may surprise yourself how nicely your little world fits into the universe around you!