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, January 28, 2014


When faced with difficult decisions, we all must make choices that are well thought-out and that lead to a planned “end point.”  When given a choice, far too many individuals take the path of least resistance – one that might appear to be more popular – rather than taking “the high road” wherever it may lead.  Perhaps its time we focused on acting ethically and consistently in our dealings with others (rather than acting out of convenience or in our own best interest).  “Integrity” not an object we can seek nor a destination we can find, it is the keystone to all human interaction – a path to follow as we seek to find meaning and fulfillment in our everyday actions.  Integrity is the “high road” upon which we should travel as we build meaningful, trust-filled relationships.  We must demonstrate integrity if we are to lead others (rather than following them blindly) as we travel through life.  Without integrity we cannot achieve consistency.  A path worth following must be based upon facts that are tempered by personal values which can be expressed openly and honestly to others if we expect it to lead to a predictable (and desirable) destination.  Travelling upon such a path will prove fruitful regardless of the circumstances that influenced your initial decision to embark upon that trail.

“Ethics” has become but a word linked to a particular situation or set of circumstances.  Such a linkage would indicate that one’s values and beliefs change depending upon whom we are with or what the situation in which we find ourselves may be.  In life, our environment and those we are with DO change frequently, BUT our value system – our ethics – cannot drift upon the winds if we are to remain an anchor to those around us.  In order to be a contributing part of the solution rather than a significant part of the problem, our values must serve as a rock-solid set of principles to establish and guide proper conduct. This set of principles should ALWAYS influence our decisions and choices, outwardly determining our actions, if we are to express integrity and establish credibility.  Unless our exhibited actions are natural expressions gained through training, experience, and an application of closely held principles in real life situations, however, those depending upon us for guidance will lose confidence in our choices and fearful of our leadership decisions – often seeking other beacons to lead them from danger.

Making purposeful choices – charting a course and sticking with it as long as it leads towards the destination we have chosen – will help us establish respect.  In order to avoid being more “stubborn” than “purposeful,” however, we should be prepared to change our mind (and potentially change our direction) should the situation around us (OR the facts upon which our initial decision was based) be significantly altered.  In life, the only thing that is certain is change – not the direction of change nor the likelihood of controlling change, only the knowledge that change will (and does) happen so we must be prepared to manage it.  The key to making change purposeful is being able to assess the nature of change and act in a manner that embraces the possibilities it brings rather than closing out the opportunities it generates.

Why would one assume the responsibility and accountability for the results of making decisions at the risk of
highlighting their own individual frailty?  Leaders often find themselves placed in a position to make or break relationships, ensure the success of a venture or institution, or bring about the failure of a dream with every decision they make.  Good leaders typically thrive on “making a difference.”  All of us like taking the credit for things when they “go right.”  A good leader will quietly accept the praise for a job done well (often spreading it graciously over the efforts of a team) but will also willingly assume blame for things that went wrong (often individually, sheltering “the team” from outside criticism).  Such a leader will not accept a negative result as being a “final destination,” rather viewing it as but a resting point along the road to success – an obstacle that must be identified, addressed, and leveraged in a way that adds (rather than detracts) value.  Becoming a good leader requires us to praise loudly while blaming softly.  An individual cannot assume this responsibility when he or she consistently strives for the acceptance of others for such transparency clouds the intent of our thoughts and actions.

As we work together to coexist (and, perhaps even more significantly, to co-contribute to the expression and accomplishment of our dreams), we should focus upon our destination as we move steadfastly towards its accomplishment.  There is never a wrong time to make the right decision in life (NOR a decision that cannot be changed should the situation, facts or circumstances change) as long as we dare to be ourselves.  We must be unafraid to demonstrate the strength of our convictions as we face (and overcome) adversity, guided by our morale compass, if we hope to lead others to safety beyond life’s dangerous and rocky shores.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


People face crossroads throughout their lives.  Some stressful situations are the result of unavoidable circumstances within our daily lives.  Most, however, are a result of our own individual failure to anticipate the potential ramifications of decisions we make (or choose not to make).  An idealist might ask how much stress can be avoided if timely and “correct” decisions that lead to a proper course of action are made BEFORE a difficult situation arises.  A realist would probably opt to consider how much stress is acceptable and what are the most likely avenues of escape when it becomes too much.  An optimist might look at stress as a proving ground – an opportunity to become stronger and prove one’s self-worth while moving towards a better place.  A pessimist might look at stress as a roadblock that makes the path impassable, causing one to turn around and seek the comfort of familiarity rather than forging ahead.  Some take accountability for their stress and share the success that might result from their efforts to move forward.  Others blame failure and complications on someone else while taking credit for gains and personally assuming any growth that might come from moving through difficult situations.

We all play a significant role in our own happiness (or sadness) yet can be major contributors to those same feelings in others depending upon the decisions we make and the directions we choose to take.  Dealing with people is an art.  In order to advance ourselves we must often provide others a “safe passage” so they can come along beside us as they actively contribute.  We should consider each situation we face – each decision we make – as an opportunity to find not only those parts of a solution that might be “partially true” but also what could be “potentially false.” As we provide a path for others to follow (which will hopefully allow them to become a “trailblazer” at some point in time), consider the following:
  • Knowing what you want is half the battle.  Expressing what you want WITHOUT stifling creativity by saying how to do it is the other half.  The first question is a half truth – people should not be told exactly how to do things all the time – but they MUST be told what is expected if they are to achieve any fulfillment from their contributions and assisted along the way should they run into temporary obstacles or experience set-backs.
  • All people bring a degree of experience and expertise to any situation.  They probably would not be in a position to offer their opinion if they were not at least marginally able to contribute to the resolution of an issue, concern or problem.  As soon as you think (and in some way express) that a question is “stupid,” you have lost all respect.  Not everyone knows the right answers (nor do many know the right questions!), so we should not expect people around us to act without some form of feedback or direction.  Allowing someone to run in whatever direction they choose might be good for their endurance BUT undirected effort and activity can create frustration, waste time and produce ineffective results.
  • People are (and should be) expected to contribute to the resolution of a problem or the elimination of troubling situations by applying their individual skills and abilities.  They must also receive appropriate praise and effective correction – targeted towards improved performance – if we expect them to leverage their unique gifts as we develop and implement mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Worrying about things or situations around us is a good thing.  Hiding reality from others is not so healthy. While people contributing to the resolution of a situation do not all need to know the same information, the DO need to know SOME information in order to act.  If we wish to be an island, expect to receive the limited rewards that a self-contained eco-system might provide.  When we want to receive all that is available to us – to benefit most from the efforts that a group can contribute – inform those around you what is going on, what will (or will not) work, what obstacles exist (and which are merely bumps in the road) and how they can help.  Letting others become involved is not a sign of weakness – it allows them to get involved in choosing the path to take so that there is “buy-in” to the path chosen – whether it is the “best path” (in our own opinion) or one that will (eventually) lead to the same destination.
Sometimes a “definite maybe” is the best way to work with those around us – expressing neither a strong directive nor an unarguable premise before asking for input and listening for a response from those around us. Provide a passageway by looking back while moving forward – by reaching out while holding back – by running ahead while encouraging others to follow – allowing us to move forward together.  Life does not stand still for anyone.  Allowing others to think their road is a straight and narrow passage to a known future as they travel upon a defined route does nothing to help them grow – it simply allows them to exist!  Providing passageways for them to consider as they move forward in life, however – being available as a resource should the need arise without becoming the only source of direction when the going gets tough – will help develop those around us into functioning contributors to our great society.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Why is it that when “all has been said and all has been done,” many continue to seek what more they might say and what else they can accomplish?  They seem unwilling to close the door – to move on once a decision has been made – continuously second guessing themselves to the point that “all that was said” becomes meaningless noise and “all that was done” loses its significance.  What may have been a great solution to a tough problem becomes a rest stop rather than a destination.  Rather than dousing the flames they smolder – ready to reignite as they devour our time like a fire feeding upon dry leaves in a forest.  Rather than being put to rest so their talents can be channeled towards the resolution of other issues – so that they can move on to climb other mountains – the steps they have taken and the accomplishments they have experienced become the goal rather than the springboard for future success.  When you feel that “all has been said,” quit speaking and start acting.  When you sense that “all has been done,” turn away from the closed doors so you can begin opening new ones.

It is never wrong to change your mind or shift direction IF the conditions or factors that led to your decision change.  It IS wrong to avoid making a decision or setting a course of action because you fear you may have to change your mind.  When we become paralyzed by our analysis of a situation – unable (or unwilling) to accept the validity of our thought processes once an issue has been identified and a resolution formulated – we establish insurmountable roadblocks that prevent us from moving or doing anything.  We become pawns
to the process rather than stewards of the solution.  We become bound by a need for absolute certainty, losing sight of the possibility that “a fix has been found” allowing us the freedom to consider new opportunities and challenges.  When we focus on finality rather than simply seeking closure, we stifle our ability to innovate.  We limit our ability to take calculated risks that may open new doors when we exerting all our energy nailing shut the doors behind us.  We must shift our vision forward if we wish to let go of the past so we can move ahead into the future – allowing ourselves the luxury of turning around to face forward rather than walking backwards towards an unseen cliff.

In order to thrive we must learn to innovate rather than finding comfort in what always was (because it may never again be)!  We must learn to think of alternatives (rather than simply “doing what is expected") if we wish to taste success.  We must apply our knowledge to new situations rather than memorizing answers to questions that have already been (or may never be) asked.  When all is said and done, our emphasis must be on recognizing accomplishment rather than rewarding effort – or people around us will continue to try proven solutions rather than accomplishing great things.

Everyone wants “change” but few take the time to define what “change” truly entails.  What lies ahead for us?  Is the light at the end of the tunnel one of Hope or is it one of unavoidable Disaster?   Listening to promises of change is never a bad thing in and of itself.  Such promises, however, should always identify what is being targeted AND what the alternative will be.  Seeking change just to alter the present is hollow unless we know – and are willing to accept – the alternative opportunities available when we decide to change (OR the consequences that will necessarily follow should we NOT change).

Before accepting the premise “all that could possibly be spoken has been said and all that could be accomplished has been done,” think about what might be possible (rather than dwelling upon those things that have  already been accepted as feasible or worrying about things that may not work).  Identify where you want to be – intentionally thinking about what must be changed (and what should be left the same) – before seeking the promise an unrealized future may hold (or worse, accepting only the reality of an already fulfilled past).  Embrace the opportunities that an uncertain future offers, moving deliberately forward in an effort to grow from them, rather than worrying about things you cannot control or obsessing over change that is going to happen regardless of what you may (or may not) do.

Individuals either embrace the opportunity of a new tomorrow by consciously (and intentionally) leaving
behind what is not working as they seek what might work OR they are swept up in someone else’s vision without thinking about its ramifications.  Do not fear change – fear only those things AND individuals that refuse to change as you seek to expand your present-day reality into a fresh new tomorrow.  Closing one door usually opens another – but it does not eliminate the opportunity to reopen the door should situations change.  All may never be said – and all may never be done – but we all should recognize and acknowledge “stopping points” from which we can move forward if we ever hope to hear what has yet to be said or experience what has not yet been accomplished.