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 27, 2015


Some people seem to possess positive characteristics so distinguishing them from others that they seem to “walk on water.”  Others seem never to make mistakes – everything they touch turning to gold – their very presence tending to lift those around them to achieve better results.  (While they truly ARE NOT always right nor do they ALWAYS make the right decision, they usually identify their errors and correct them quickly – before others can see negative results – rather than proclaiming them from the rooftops and revealing their woes for the world to see.)  We see them as “super stars” shining brightly above all others – and they often see themselves as being above the crowd and beyond the fray.  These rare individuals do not need much guidance – they simply need clear objectives and general direction from someone willing to get out of their way as they move forward to accomplish great things. 

Increasingly (and unfortunately), it seems that people often seek success at the expense of others or wish to secure the “gains” of winning through the failures of others.  These individuals do not look to see who may have been stepped on during their rise to the top nor what rules might have been broken (or at least bent badly) along the way.  Whenever we find ourselves facing the reality of another’s inappropriate behavior (whether it affects us personally or not) we should first identify how our actions (either explicit or implicit) may have condoned the behavior and what might we be able to do to alter that validation.  We should look inward before striking outward – did something YOU said or expectations you imposed upon another drive him or her into an area outside of his or her core competency, experience or abilities – but MUST NOT excuse the results by giving a pass on the behavior.  We should identify what kinds of “outside pressures” the person may be feeling that would make him or her act inappropriately BUT cannot excuse the behavior because of their inability to act appropriately.  When helping an individual correct his or her inappropriate behavior we should establish how much of the blame we might realistically assume BUT must not build the net of deflection so strongly that responsibility is shifted away from the individual and onto his or her surroundings, experiences or the actions of others so none of the blame is assumed by the “offending party.” 

Discussing inappropriate behavior with another is naturally confrontational and never easy.  In preparation, plan a course of action and a general direction that discussion might follow BUT do not “script” your conversation to the point that you end up “reading without leading” or talking rather than communicating.  In their haste to avoid confrontation, many assume all the blame for other’s poor behavior by praising their fulfillment of responsibility without passing on (or addressing) any of the actions taken to accomplish that what was done.  Make sure you have fully communicated your expectations, are willing to acknowledge your part (if any) in the inappropriate actions, then act swiftly in addressing (and changing) them so they do not continue to reoccur.  We can NEVER change behavior if we fail to address it, continue to ignore it or simply accept it as is because we would prefer to take the path of least resistance.  Rarely in life do the “ends” ever truly justify the “means” as we do not often perform tasks in a vacuum – in a place without regard for how the things we do affect others. 

People do not really change much – they tend to be what they were allowed to become.  Rather than trying to change people behaving badly we must identify (specifically) the inappropriate behavior causing the disruption then clearly and concisely communicate “why” that behavior must change – discussing the ramifications of continued poor behavior ALONG WITH the rewards of altered behavior.  Only by focusing on the negative impact of continued inappropriate behavior – by defining an effect that can be linked directly to the cause - while detailing the rewards of appropriate behavior will inappropriate action ever be diminished (though, due to our human nature, it will never be totally addressed!).  Ultimately, as with any change, we must make sure that the rewards of change are greater than the benefits of remaining the same – that more pain is experienced should one NOT change than might be experienced should they alter their path. 

We will never address inappropriate behavior as long as we accept it (why would someone change without a compelling reason or reward)?  Perhaps Pogo had it right when he said “We have found the enemy and it is us…”  Unless (and until) we refuse to accept inappropriate behavior, we have only ourselves to blame for its existence!