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, June 23, 2016


As summer returns, we are filled with the hopes of warm (but not too hot) days, peaceful nights lit by the flickering of fireflies, the sounds of laughter upon our plentiful Michigan beaches and a bit more free time to enjoy the environment in which we live.  If only life could remain as simple as our seemingly endless vacations portrayed it to be when we were young.  Perhaps we make life more difficult than it needs to be because we have abandoned some of the lessons we learned while running carelessly along a sandy shoreline – that if we were to look at life through our “inner child’s eyes” we might be able to accept things as they are while seeking what they could be rather than dwelling upon what went wrong or could never be accomplished.

As a child, dreams are built with and upon shifting sands.  Children spend hours building intricate castles upon the shore only to have them swept away in an instant by the tide – or plowed over during an impromptu game of football on the sand.  Though the fruits of their labor are washed out to sea or destroyed by an uncontrolled act, children tend to pick up the pieces quickly and rebuild their dreams as if they had never been taken from them.  Why is it that as we become older (and more experienced) we worry so much about WHY our efforts failed and what we might have been able to accomplish IF ONLY our dreams had not been squashed rather than moving on like a child to recapture the magic and make our efforts even more productive?  Much could be learned from rebounding like a child – from drawing a line in the sand as we move forward rather than trying to draw a boundary to keep others away from our creations.

“A line in the sand” can initiate a plethora of new beginnings for a child.  Asking someone to step over a line in the sand can be either an act of acceptance or an invitation to aggression.  It can be either a new beginning or the beginning of an end.  Drawing a line in the sand often implies that things are about to begin fresh with no holding on to unpleasant memories UNLESS we use it to isolate our belongings or represent a wall around us within a milling sea of humanity.  The pure innocence of acceptance is often lost as we age.  Adults often talk about drawing a line in the sand but rarely empty the memories and concerns that weigh them down like a millstone around their necks.  If our actions could return to those of a child – accepting another for what he or she is (rather than for what we remember or wish them to be), for how they act (rather than how we think they might act based on their past performances) and for what they seek to become as they cross the line (rather than what they may have been before it was drawn) – perhaps then we could truly “draw our lines in the sand” and move forward rather than continually falling back or holding on to things long past rather than seeking those yet to come.

While walking along the shore a child will find many lost and forgotten objects floating upon the waters – learning at a young age that one person’s waste can become the basis for another’s wonderment – that something considered to be trash by one can, with a little imagination, be another’s treasure.  The clutter left upon the shore at the end of the day tends to be gathered up by swarms of gulls during the evening, swept away by the pounding surf at night, then scavenged by early-rising treasure seekers in the early morning.  By the time afternoon comes, even the most cluttered beach has returned to its pristine splendor.  We need to recognize that even the biggest mess we can make in life will be swept clean over time – and that good will usually emerge from our failures UNLESS we dwell upon the loss rather than seeking the potential gains..

Children dream of what they might want to become “when they grow up” then engage in play that (they believe) will bring their dreams to fruition.  They do not grasp on to one destination nor activity, however, moving from doctor to policeman to nurse to teacher (though I’ve never heard of a child dreaming to go into Human Resources…imagine that!) – seeking to expand their horizons by stimulating their minds.  As adults, far too many wish to ESCAPE what they have and who they are during vacation rather than attempting to ENHANCE their careers (lives or accomplishments) or “recharging their batteries” so that they can return to their chosen occupation refreshed and ready to thrive.  As you seek to accomplish your dreams during the coming year, recognize that forces outside of your control may take them from you, as a child’s castle may be swept to sea, before they are fulfilled BUT the same forces that could be seen as destroying your dreams are working to provide a pristine surface upon which you can begin your travels anew.  Rather than dwelling upon your hardships of life, embrace the opportunities you have been given to chart a fresh path upon life’s shifting sands. 

As you look forward to summer this year – to enjoying time with family and friends while drawing your line firmly upon life’s shifting sands, remember that such an act can represent two perspectives.  You can either reflect upon what you have done and who you are OR you can relentlessly rebuild what was accomplished before being washed out to sea – seeking what has yet to materialize rather than dwelling upon what has passed.  Refuse to accept defeat when your castles are swept away – rebuild them!  Seek what may be found upon the deserted morning beach while continuously moving forward towards your future rather than taking refuge upon a seemingly safe shelter upon a continuously shifting shore. 

A child learns quickly that those who linger too long on the beach without moving tend to get burned (a lesson many adults forget) and gives meaning to life by seeking to fulfill their dreams (rather than blindly running from their reality).  Live your life through the eyes of a child this summer – seeking the pleasure (rather than the pain) and the possible (instead of accepting that which has already been proven real) in whatever you say or do.