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 9, 2016


Why are some people invigorated by a seemingly insurmountable task while others seem paralyzed by the same situation?   Why do some automatically defer to “I can’t…” rather than stating “I won’t…” or “I’d prefer not to…” do something?  Some see the opportunity to make progress towards the completion of a project while others shut down unless they see an immediate conclusion well within their reach.   Other than the obvious propensity towards taking risks, there are two underlying characteristics differentiating the two attitudes – the ability to question “why not?” before acting rather than needing to understand “why” before formulating a plan and moving forward and the acceptance that failure is a learning experience rather than a stopping point.

Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a decision point that forever changes what they have done, redirecting all efforts and activities towards the accomplishment of what they have yet to become (and often what they have not yet imagined possible).  Many attempt to “define” this moment through resolutions to change but find that shifting directions is a process rather than an event.  We cannot “will” ourselves to eliminate years of bad habits in one moment – it takes time to undo what we often do to ourselves.  “If only…” as an excuse will never replace “what is…” within reality for we justify poor decisions by sidestepping responsibility for inadequate results by looking to what might have happened “if only” we had acted differently, we lose sight of the reality “that is” and may accept a less than desirable outcome as “good enough.”  Dwelling upon things NOT accomplished will never initiate change – it only reinforces your limitations (rather than leveraging or celebrating your abilities).   

Some individuals act in accordance with established policy, practice or procedure whether or not that may be the best way to do something.  A member recently mentioned that they wanted to “promote” an administrator into Human Resources because they were so “black and white” in their thinking that “compliance” would come easily to her.  The problem with their initial thought was that this individual MAY have been detailed and unwavering BUT employees feared her, she NEVER smiled and ALWAYS did things the way they had always been done.  We proposed offering the employee an opportunity to access tools that might help her succeed (TEA’s HR Certification Series) – an opportunity to safely learn about the responsibilities and “grey” world of Human Resources before embarking upon that road as a career choice (the Manager in this case was a Finance person doing HR work so compliance was the litmus upon which she based success).  Others constantly question what they are asked to do as a means to test and temper the validity of an action prior to its being taken thinking “what good does it do to advance an idea unless it makes a difference?” but delay their “call to action” by focusing on whether or not their action might be accepted rather than on whether it might produce a superior result.  One will never experience their full potential by seeking comfort within a world defined by other’s expectations, experiences or proven success.  Life is not a spectator sport – it requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action.  Most successful individuals establish basic tenants they use to hold themselves accountable for their decisions and actions.  While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” would include the following:
  • It is OK to make a mistake BUT we must learn from our errors and move forward so that we do not repeat the same mistake.  It is OK to make a wrong decision (unless we decide to act we will never move from where we are) but we should utilize them as springboards propelling us forward rather than anchors holding us in place.
  • Focus on things you can control.  Identify obstacles that are within your sphere of influence and actively seek to eliminate whatever hurdles you can by giving them to someone who has the ability to influence them.
  • Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable.  If you are the best performer or individual with the highest results - but those results came through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense - you will not be respected, considered credible NOR working or participating in an ongoing relationship for very long.
  • Results are recognized – effort is merely a means to the end.  Do not seek praise for working hard or contributing greatly – let recognition come your way through the results your effort achieved.  
  • All individuals may speak, question, and have a voice in any decision but that does not mean all votes are equal.  Life is not a democracy.  Input is valued but an individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must – and will - make the final decision.  Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable” as you seek to identify and establish new resting points from which you can leap forward as you seek change and success.  
  • There is nothing that “cannot be done.”  While some solutions may not be cost-effective, or are simply impractical or beyond our ability to implement, “I can’t,” “It’s not possible,” and other self-condemning attitudes are not acceptable.  Do not avoid discussing the reasons behind “I won’t…” by defaulting to “I can’t…”

Well thought-out solutions to issues you may encounter while doing your job (or during life in general) are not reasons for celebration, they are simply expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and utilize your abilities.  Much can be accomplished when we leverage and build upon our experiences rather than accepting that something “COULD have been accomplished IF ONLY we had not run out of time.”   Seeking “what has yet to happen” provides a firmer foundation upon which to build than does “Why try?"  When we quit caring who receives the credit and begin to focus on how we can ALL gain from the results, much can be accomplished.