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, October 28, 2015


Communicating effectively is a process.  If viewed as an event, change will not be lasting.  People must become involved in transition, their ideas encouraged and fostered, with credit for positive change being given to them while “blame” for failure is assumed by whomever is truly responsible – and often by Management (or yourself) if no one act or event can be identified as being “at fault.”  We must focus on “fixing the crime” rather than imprisoning the perpetrator.  We should draw a verbal line in the sand and discuss “going forward” rather than stressing over things already said and done that cannot be taken back.  What good is it if we take the time to identify WHO left the barn door open while the animals are wandering further from home with each passing moment?  We must prioritize our communications to make them part of an effective process – beginning with what must be accomplished or resolved before taking the time to establish who is at fault or what was done to cause the problem.  Sometimes we learn more from failure than we do from success – failure often being a necessity for change – as long as learning from failure is a positive one-time experience rather than something repeated without consequence.  When others are involved, engaged and provided with transparent communications BEFORE change happens they tend to pull together for the “common good” rather than for their own personal gain.

As employees become invested in the organization, management often is seen as the galvanizing communicator of change rather than the initiator of hysteria.  Decisions regarding processes change and workforce adjustments are easier to implement when employees feel involved in the business’ direction.  Knowledgeable employees having the ability to speak up (being heard rather than ignored) usually understand the need for change, often anticipating it long before Management is willing to act.  In personal situations, communicating effectively by seeking input from those involved and asking for ideas rather than ALWAYS providing solutions will help us to accomplish more by expending less time, effort and energy.  It is always more effective to have two or more invested parties working towards the resolution of an issue or concern than it is to “do it all alone” (even if you think that doing things yourself will get them done right). 

Whether large or small – manufacturing or service – privately or publicly owned – businesses must exhibit a
“selfless, thankless perseverance” if employees are to become key initiators of change.  Praise loudly (while correcting softly) must be the mantra of leadership-driven change.  Credibility is the cornerstone of employee involvement (which, if tarnished, must be painfully rebuilt over a long period of time).  Providing feedback on the accomplishment of key outcomes is necessary to measure the effectiveness of change.  Involving employees (whenever possible) in the decision-making process helps both good and bad news be more readily accepted.  The same principles, when universally applied to any relationship (not just those we have in a work setting) will accomplish great things through the “pulling together” of diverse thoughts, ideas and perspectives as new paths are discovered and unimagined destinations are revealed.

Communications must be transparent, credible, and honest if employees (or those you speak with on a regular basis) are to trust the message and believe the messenger.  When entering a situation where good people are working hard to do what they feel best – but losing effectiveness because of misdirected activities and inefficient processes – we should ask questions (IF we want to make a difference) such as:
  • Why is this activity (process/choice/conversation) being done 
  • Is there “redeeming value” to the effort or is it needless busy work that takes time that could be better invested elsewhere?
  • How could this be done differently?
  • How much am I to blame for the situation?
Unless (and until) we ask to clarify – to identify the “what and why” of any given situation – we cannot begin to resolve an issue or truly make a difference (other than continuing to be a part of the problem rather than the initiator of a solution).
Effectively communicating with anyone is a journey rather than a destination.  As with any journey, begin by taking one step at a time then move forward while keeping your eye on the goal ahead (rather than seeking validation from where you have been).  Living in the past tends to isolate us from our “present” and prevent us from reaching our future.  Do not seek absolute comfort in where you are and what you have accomplished.  Being content with having become all you think you can be allows us to accept less from ourselves and others around us – giving up on all you might yet become or holding another back from reaching a new plateau from which to move forward.  Do not become so absorbed with yourself that you cannot hear other voices around you – becoming so locked into the accomplishment of your goals, aspirations and objectives that you fail to recognize new and unexpected opportunity. 

We communicate effectively ONLY when first we listen (using our two ears) and observe (with our two eyes) BEFORE speaking (using our one mouth) or acting (guided by our uniquely singular brain).  When we fail to prioritize our communications in this manner – when we act before observing or speak prior to listening – our efforts will be critically flawed.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Some people sleep without dreaming and awaken rested.  Others dream while sleeping and awaken inspired.  We must dream what we wish to accomplish before we can expect anything to happen.  What kind of life could be based on the premise that what “is” will never change – that bringing the beliefs, values, ideals and accomplishments of several together should serve only to advance the group to a position that society might deem as “possible” rather than elevate each proportionately based on the individual effort expended?  How can light be shed into the darkness if we are afraid to open the window to a world of possibilities?

Some (particularly those afraid or unwilling to learn from failure) proudly proclaim that setting low expectations will keep them from ever being disappointed.  They live life by meandering aimlessly upon roads paved by others – avoiding unexpected detours or excursions – finding comfort and security in the things that they know (and have seen) work.  Those setting no (or low) expectations – fearing the pain of failure more than anticipating the rewards of success – may survive in life but will not experience the “thrill of victory OR the agony of defeat.”  While accomplishing that which is expected and predictable they will rarely thrive or achieve their full potential. 

We de-energize our relationships when we focus upon the shortcomings of others.  When we pull others down – highlighting their deficiencies in an effort to elevate ourselves – we may rise to the top of a pool of mediocrity but will rarely reach the pinnacle of individual success to which we can pull others.  How can we expect our accomplishments to be maximized if we focus upon what could go wrong rather than trying to identify what alternative path or direction might provide better results?  Rather than seeing failure as a destination that should be avoided at all costs (or exploited for personal gain), perhaps much could be gained by viewing it as a springboard to success – a flexible base that could bring us back from the depths to an innovative or previously untested solution.  Believing that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is an opportunity not yet realized rather than a train heading towards us on a collision course reflects the assimilation of dreams into daily reality.

Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable results in our believing failure is a probability (or at least an acceptable end result).  If, however, we acknowledge deficiencies as bumps in the road, relentlessly moving forward as we seek to accomplish our dreams – refusing to accept a disruption in our expectations as an “end game” to our efforts – we will find new ways to make things happen.  Destiny becomes an inflexible reality only when we allow ourselves to be limited by a lack of expectations and a fear of failure.  

All individuals have a past comprised of actions taken, relationships forged and things accomplished and a present comprised of the things they choose to do and relationships they maintain.  The future, however, is defined by what we allow ourselves to accept as a destination.  If it is the memories of what we once had, we limit ourselves to things already experienced.  If it be the comfort of what we have achieved, we limit ourselves to that we have achieved.  If, however, our future is defined by the dreams and expectation expressed within pages of a book not yet written, our possibilities will remain pathways to a reality limited only by our blind acceptance of those things we accept as truth or beliefs we accept as unalterable.  When our dreams become the things we anticipate and expect rather than simply things held tightly within the privacy of our individual hearts – when we awaken to the inspiration of our dreams as we accept the reality (and probability) of things once thought of as but possibility – ONLY THEN will we begin to realize our full potential by embarking upon paths once hidden beneath the sands of time.