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!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Leadership emerges during times of trouble, turmoil and strife.  It had been said that anyone can manage during good times – that even a “blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while” – but what do YOU do when the going gets tough?  While there should be very little difference in your leadership style (whether at work or at home) when you face unexpected hurdles, far too many “competent” individuals excuse their own actions by blaming or deferring to others.  Seeking short term-gain (popularity, acceptance, being “liked” by others) often damages long-term credibility when “it was not my fault” is the immediate response to every issue, problem or concern that faces us.  In that we are all human, however, we are bound to fall into the “credibility exchange” trap.

Examples of “decision deferral” and “blame game mastery” exist everywhere we look.  The Government tends to shift blame rather than assuming ownership of most situations – and (sadly) the American People tend to accept that transfer as being acceptable.  The current Administration blames our past President for creating the crisis in care within the Veteran’s Administration because when we began the war in Iraq during the past presidency we did not anticipate the increased need for care so “it is not our fault” that there are more veterans in need than there are providers to care for them. Our past State administration blamed the previous governing body for our financial woes – then took credit for any gains by claiming that the turnaround was a result of implementing initiatives started during their time in office.  Rare is the politician who will say, “It does not matter who caused the situation – we must work together to identify the root cause of the problem so we can concentrate on its resolution rather than focusing on fault.”

On a personal level, individuals within failing (or suffering) relationships often blame others on their “position in life,” think “if only something else had happened differently, I would be in a different place,” or simply walk away rather than assuming part of the blame.  Many people feel vulnerable when they accepting blame rather than shift it to others.  “It is not MY fault!” is far easier to say than “I am sorry – I was wrong.”  An apology should be the beginning of a new direction rather than the end of a poor choice.  It is not a conclusion – it is a fresh start.  Too many people feel they need to avoid all appearance of being “human” (making mistakes, expressing doubt, changing a direction should the conditions change) if they want to be respected –that “being right” trumps “being real” when it comes to relationships.

At work, many examples of responsibility shift exist.  Seemingly competent managers sometimes tell staff to
“look busy” because “top management” is out to cut staff and “we don’t want that to happen to us” when orders begin to drop.  By building a bond of mutual fear with staff, these managers avoid the “blame bullet” but will never become leaders.  Rather than becoming part of the solution their deferral of responsibility has made them an unexpected part of the problem. A leader will “take the bull by the horns” and face reality by confirming that things are tough (staff probably already knows this), telling them that something must happen to change the current situation (insanity is doing things the same way expecting different results), and painting a realistic picture of what might happen unless an alternative is identified.  It does not really matter WHO is to blame or WHY the situation currently exists (if, indeed, it was the fault of another).  What DOES matter is what will (or can) be done to move from where we are (regardless of why we are there) to where we want to be.

Life is not a paved highway that provides us one clear path to a known destination – it is a winding road offering many alternatives. Unless (and until) we move forward, we will fall back (or be run over by others as they rush ahead).  When we wait for (and ultimately accept) the solution of others we give away our ability to define our own destiny.  We forfeit the right to share any of “the fame” (but often hold onto the desire to isolate and transfer “the blame”).  Blame is situational – life is transactional.  Avoiding (or accepting) the obvious does not create change – it fosters complacency. Assigning fault excuses our condition – accepting responsibility and seeking resolution initiates change.   If we wait for things to happen to us (or expect someone else to lead us from where we are), our choices become obvious and our results limited to a narrow set of defined (and predictable) outcomes.  If, however, we react and respond to situations rather than planning and anticipating (or blaming and excusing) – we will find our lives full of unpredictable moments that reveal to us unlimited potential leading to undefined (and unexpected) possibilities.