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!

Friday, March 3, 2017


Whenever a significant change in life occurs – whether it is something personal, professional or as seemingly insignificant as a store closing or a company being sold, the lyrics of a ‘60’s era song performed by The Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn) comes to mind.  Though rearranged slightly, the words were taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 – traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, the recipient of great wisdom as evidenced by his insights into human nature, change and moving forward through adversity.  The song, often used to promote peace while denouncing war during the Vietnam era, tells us there is…

·         A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted
·         A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up
·         A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance
·         A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away, and, above all,
·         To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens

Though probably not intended to stir feelings of remorse or deep thoughts during a closeout sale, these words came crashing down upon me recently as heard about the closing of stores that were around to help me grow.  Sears, Family Christian Stores, MC Sports – all West Michigan landmarks that provided clothes, tools, toys and food for thought – are closing.  Our landscape is changing – what was once significant has lost its value and things not imagined have rushed to replace them.  We face the choice of holding on to the past by immersing ourselves in the memories of what was OR of reaching towards the future by discovering the opportunities that have yet to be revealed.

While life does go on – everything having its season, time and purpose with new ideas and concepts replacing the old (which will eventually be replaced by other new ideas and concepts) – a sadness cloaks us whenever a landmark business or store must shutter its doors forever.  The nearly empty racks – their substance stripped from them by customers eager to find a bargain – stand as barren as the carcass of a living creature pounced upon by scavengers seeking sustenance.  The organization – once a provider of jobs for many – is but a final resting place for the few left behind to turn out the lights before locking the doors upon their last exit. 

Whenever an enterprise shuts down or a relationship ends, a cloak of darkness covers what were once fresh starts and new beginnings.  Even when the bright promise of a dream is replaced by another, it was seemingly discarded after losing its significance.  Life mirrors the finality that changing seasons bring to time – every end ushering in a new beginning, often from an incomplete perspective that shows us only the beginning of a new journey rather than the whole trip that is ahead.  It is hard to fathom a Phoenix rising from the ashes to fly once more if we dwell upon the decline and ultimate decimation of an organization (or of a person or relationship) that helped to form our beliefs, values and lives rather than on what could become of a new organization, opportunity or relationship IF ONLY we looked ahead rather than back.

Though it is hard to let go of our past familiarity when forced to enter an unknown and unexpected chapter in our life – whether it might be a change in personal relationships or the business interactions in which we participate – it is unhealthy to dwell upon the loss each season’s passing brings.   When faced with the reality of change, some choose to hold on to what will no longer be while others prefer reaching out to identify dreams that will provide opportunities to succeed anew.  We can stay silent in our suffering as we mourn the past or speak out in anticipation of events not yet realized – focusing our energies on what might become rather than clinging to what has been but will be no more.  If we hope to turn towards a better tomorrow we must cast away those things holding us back as we gather up new opportunities upon which we can establish a new foundation.  Our perspective determines how we embrace opportunities in life – how we “Turn, Turn, Turn” when given the chance to begin anew.  Our willingness to accept what has been as history and look ahead to what could be possible as our emerging future will transform our dreams and aspirations into reality as long as we truly believe that each end is but the beginning to a new sense of purpose.
The closing of a business can feel much like the end of a relationship.  No matter how much we may seek comfort in “what was” we cannot hide from the fact that each new season brings change.  How we react and respond to change determines whether an unanticipated event or action will result in crippling anxiety or exhilarating opportunity.  Our world is filled with choices that bring us new beginnings – that allow us to either “keep or to cast away” as we “plant or reap.”  It is up to us to make the most of our opportunities – to continue turning from each end towards each new beginning – if we are to thrive in the life we have ahead of us (rather than seeking refuge as we hide in our past success).

In regards to Sears, MC Sports and Family Christian Stores (and others that have closed or are yet to face change), remember the impact they had upon your life yet move beyond the past to express your hope the next time you witness the misfortune of others by reaching out to cushion their fall.  Make the most of your life as you close each chapter you have experienced to begin anew – as you turn the pages within the growing book of your life!  See in each void the light of hope – in each fall the chance to rise – as you turn from one season to another by embracing the finality of change and welcoming the opportunity to achieve a fresh start that each new beginning brings.