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, February 25, 2016


Today’s world is afloat with facts, data and information yet it seems that problem-solving skills are slipping through our hands like water. We read newspapers (sometimes), watch news (occasionally), page through magazines (when available) and check out our electronic resources (constantly) – knowing what is happening (almost before it happens) throughout the world – yet little time is devoted to “why” the “what” happened.  When we are provided with all we ever might need to know about situations, however, without the need (or opportunity) to form our own opinions, we have difficulty trying to apply our knowledge to unrelated circumstances.  Our senses seem overly stimulated by details, information and opportunities to the point that we do not feel the need to fully identify issues before moving forward with (in hindsight) untenable solutions. We run before we walk – seemingly oblivious to the fact we might fall or cause great harm if we rush to a place where others might know better than to wander – our impatience ruling the day. We choose to ignore the fact others have come before us – relegating their experiences (both wins and losses) to a silent history of the past rather than including their insights into our ongoing thought processes as we look ahead to that which has not yet come to fruition.

Many can memorize facts that might be applied to resolve recurring situations but far too few can ask the “right questions” that would allow for the formation of a “best” solution when presented with a new challenge. We often seek answers before fully formulating a question – wanting a resolution NOW without a moment’s hesitation. We want to be entertained (rather than informed), agreed with (rather than challenged) and given what we feel is appropriate (rather than identifying the needs of and providing for others).  We pursue the impossible (or at least the improbable) rather than finding comfort in the reality of “what is” and extrapolating it into that which has not yet become – far too often leaping ahead to what might seem to be the obvious conclusion without thought or direction rather than moving intentionally (and thoughtfully) forward after identifying the root cause of a problem considering all possible solutions.

It really does not matter which path you take when you are lost – if you know not to where you are going nor from what you are moving, any progress is better than no movement at all.  In order to transform knowledge into wisdom – to apply what we know towards the resolution of our concerns, challenges and difficulties – we must take the time to analyze the information around us prior to acting.  In order to make decisions count we must anticipate our potential destination(s) before moving from one situation to another – we must plan where we want to be before leaping from the frying pan into the fire. While it is true that one rarely fails if they do not establish goals, success hinges upon the creation and attainment of targets so we can recognize when we have accomplished our individual dreams (or recognize when we have simply moved forward towards the fulfillment of a goal without yet coming to a full resolution). It is nearly impossible to make a poor choice or move in the “wrong direction” when one does not care where they are going nor worry about how they will get there.  Little credit, however, can be taken (or praise given) for unanticipated results generated through unplanned actions, unexpected resolutions or unrepeatable processes. 

Discretion was once the rule – it is now an exception to the rule. Integrity was once an integral part of an individual’s make-up – it is now but an insignificant backdrop to life’s everyday drama. Relationships once rooted in honesty now seem built upon circumstance and fed by individual desires. It seems that the application of information to create a viable solution – taking the risk required to make a difference by thinking and acting in a uniquely individual manner – is no longer a socially acceptable approach.  Impatience and intolerance have become the driving factors in “effective” communication as we strive to achieve self-advancing results – the analysis of data and deliberate actions once used to guide those decisions but afterthoughts in the creation of everyday reality.  In order to gain credibility (and respect) we must recognize and understand the values, likes, dislikes, preferences, abilities (and inabilities), strengths and weaknesses of others, encouraging them (and incorporating their ideas) into our everyday activities.

In order to leverage our knowledge into results – to transform our learning into wisdom – we must study, learn and apply before charging headlong into an appointment with disaster. When you analyze the information around you and apply it to your circumstances, you will be able to leverage your knowledge to make wise decisions rather than blindly following the thoughts, suggestions or considerations of others.  Look ahead to avoid the obstacles in your path rather than behind at what has already been accomplished – for studying what has happened in the past might prevent history from repeating itself but that, in and of itself, will not provide alternative courses of action that might change the course of history.  Seek not what others can do for you but rather what you can do with the knowledge you have attained.  Choose to apply what you have learned as you act intentionally to initiate change – to alter what will be by leveraging your understanding of what has been – and you will experience transformational change leading to success you never thought possible.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Many people reference “thinking outside of the box” or “being confined within the box” when describing how an individual acts and reacts to issues, situations and their environment.  Those whom approach things from a “known, tried and tested” philosophy are considered to be “inside the box thinkers.”  There is nothing innately wrong with thinking inside of the box but, as can be seen from this picture of our granddaughter playing contentedly within her enclosed environment, you are able to function, perform and produce ONLY with what you have at your fingertips.  IF what you have access to – what you have included with you inside of your box – is enough to make you happy, good for you.  Unfortunately, most individuals tire of doing the same thing over and over – especially if it produces the same results, provides the same outcomes and becomes more of a rote duty than a revealing adventure.  Thinking inside of the box may be good for someone wishing to minimize their potential, accomplish the wishes of others and stay below the radar (possibly even closing the box to hide from the world’s attention) BUT most would prefer to gain more from their efforts and contribute more through the actions they take and the choices that they make.  Inside the box is sheltered, tried and true BUT, as a singer once stated, “Is that all there is to life?”  I would think not, for most individuals.

Some might say that to get outside of the box with your thinking you must “stand upon the box” rather than being contained within it.  While not a bad thought, Jordyn demonstrates the flaw to that logic.  Standing on the box allows you to see your environment – to identify the toys and tools that are around you as well as those that were with you inside of your box – but you are unable to interact when standing above the fray.  Recognizing and identifying your potential is a good start but in order to act – to make a difference – one must become engaged within the opportunities presented and available.  If all we do is stand above where we were – gazing upon the potential around us without ever acting or engaging – much could be imagined but very little can be accomplished.  In order to make a difference we must not only get outside of our boxes, we must utilize the tools at our disposal to initiate change.

When we step down from our soapbox, committing to action rather than relying upon the eloquence of our lessons and lectures, a whole new world of opportunity awaits us.  What was once outside of our reach becomes available to us.  What was at most a thought or dream becomes reality.  We can hold new toys (or tools) in our hands, identify new places to wander, formulate different applications for commonly accepted practices and immerse ourselves in a world that could not have been a consideration from inside the security of the four walls we once called home.  Our actions are limited by the box in which we allow ourselves to be captive.  Our potential is restricted when we can only see what is available but are unable (or unwilling) to access it so that we might initiate change or accomplish planned or anticipated results.

In order to lead we must acknowledge the limitations our “boxes” put upon us and consciously choose to climb out of our confined surroundings and step down from the feelings of omnipotence that standing upon them might evoke so that we can become engaged within our surroundings – utilizing new and untested options available to us.  When we truly “think and play” outside of the box, our achievements will not be contained and our influence cannot be restricted.   When we allow ourselves the opportunity to access the plethora of new processes, untested tools, unfamiliar toys and undefined alternatives we can achieve much.  We will become unique (and innovative) enough to be recognized as leaders when the actions we take and the results we achieve are built upon personal credibility and demonstrated strength of character rather than based on the volume and tone of our words.  Personal success can ONLY be built upon a foundation of recognition and acknowledgement (of our self-imposed limitations), intentional action (to remove the boundaries our limitations present) and purposeful exploration and expansion (of the new horizons revealed to us).  When we chose to abandon our comfort zone – to get outside of our box – we can (and will) accomplish great things.

Friday, February 12, 2016


We all come to a point in our lives to either “stay the course” or move on to a new and different horizon.  We either rush boldly where others fear to wander or move steadfastly towards a well-considered destination.  We far too often abandon all of the “old” in favor of the new – leaving behind not only what did not work but also what may have worked well.  While many changes are initiated on our own, it is ALWAYS easier to move forward when sharing the path with others – for without the help of another, who would lift you up should you fall?  Having another join us – be it to guide, prop up, encourage or come along beside us as we move ahead – can make the difference between success and failure.  How can we know when it might be time to change?  Consider the following…

They stood at a crossroads together, hand in hand, turning slowly to look from where they had come while seeking where they might wander.  They looked back at life’s journey as it unfolded strangely behind them, reveling in the high peaks of accomplishment yet troubled by their low valleys of despair.  They held tightly to the shining moments of joy within their past but found them shrouded by a hazy darkness of uncertainty that had entered their lives.  Then slowly and deliberately they turned to face ahead, seeking a future without yearning for their past.  Ready to begin anew holding no regret as they sought a new and distant dream, their past journeys diminished to but pleasant memories as they sought a distant tomorrow.

As they looked to begin their new journey, one road led towards a distant village glimmering in the sun – a pleasant place that beckoned to their individual needs as though old friends, knowing of their ways and welcoming them to her comforts.  The other path seemed less traveled as it wound towards a deep, dark pool teeming with life, struggling to escape the confines of its shores as it pounded incessantly against any who tried to contain her power – hinting at a promise of adventure while calling out to them with a hopeful voice of things not yet considered. 

The crossroad did not foretell a clear choice nor a defined destination – two paths weaving endlessly and inexplicably together into the horizon before splitting and going separate ways.  The path less traveled would take them towards an unknown and unpredictable Sea of Promise.  The more predictable road split into two narrow trails leading towards separate seaside villages of Refuge within which they could both find quiet peace from life’s storms within their own separate dreams – their dilemma being whether to travel together along one rough and rugged path or to move forward separately fulfilling their singular dreams, refusing to be captured, contained, supported or encouraged by another.

They gazed ahead – then upon each other – and chose the path more challenging.  They preferred to take life’s path towards the promise of a dream rather than finding comfort in living their individual realities.  They sought that which had not yet been defined as a destination – to discover what life might hold within its infinite depths – rather than being content to do what they had always done while finding satisfaction in receiving what would always come from those comfortable and learned efforts. 
Walking away from all that had been, they chose to travel upon the path leading to a future not yet realized – towards a dream that held promises of all that could be possible within their wildest imaginings.  They pledged to forge a new life as they threw caution to the winds – not knowing where their beginning might take them nor how their travels might end – content only that they walked together – that together was enough - refusing to be torn from the promise of their dreams.

Life is full of choices – from choosing to remain within the comfort of our familiarity to reaching out to grasp potential rewards an unknown future might provide.  As you wander through life – regardless of the decisions you make – dream big so that you can accomplish much.  Do not despair if you do not immediately find your resting place within the Sea of Promise for life holds many adventures not yet verbalized, formulated nor defined.  Unless we identify the outcomes we wish to achieve, we cannot know when we have arrived at our destination of choice. Refuse to be content with what comes easily, however, for we cannot seek all that life might offer or discover all it might hold unless we travel through its mysterious ways upon undiscovered paths towards the promise of a dream.