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!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Whether you feel it best to simply avoid them, live in frustration because of them or view them as an opportunity to shine, decisions are a necessary part of life.  Though some parents (and supervisors) try to protect others from the consequences of poor choices by catching them before they fall – preventing them from experiencing any negative ramifications by insulating them from failure – nobody is completely isolated from the decision-making process.  Some may wish they had a map that would provide a definitive route upon which to travel but the road to change is fraught with danger.  Others would like a detailed instruction sheet so that they know that the actions they ultimately take have a high likelihood of succeeding – preferring to act in ways that would guarantee predictable and consistent results rather than potentially significant rewards if a chance of devastating loss might also be present.  A select few, however, view each decision that faces them as an opportunity to choose which road to take, what path to follow, when to climb (or circumvent) a mountain as they celebrate the chance to act intentionally and exercise independent judgment to accomplish new and different things.

There are as many approaches to making decisions in life as there are people living it – and therein lies the problem.  Since no two people are alike, no two decisions will be alike, either.  There are very few absolutely “correct answers” to a question (though some may be better than others) NOR is any one answer completely wrong (as each solution presents different variables towards the resolution of an issue).  Regardless of the situation, the level of disruption or magnitude of change required, any intentional action taken is better than inaction or unintentional action that results in unintended consequences.  Reviewing and refining the possible actions we could take prior to acting helps to minimize risk and maximize success but far too often individuals delay their actions by dwelling upon why they should not act rather than considering why they should.  A fulfilled and worthwhile life is truly the ongoing result of what we choose to do and the actions we take (or intentionally choose NOT to do or take).

Making solid decisions that result in life-changing experiences requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action. Most successful individuals establish rules they use to hold themselves accountable for their actions (or their intentional lack of action) so that progress can be monitored and modifications implemented along the way rather than waiting until a destination is reached only to find that it is not where they wanted to go. While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” in the decision-making process would include:

·  It is OK and natural to dislike parts of any job, situation or relationship. It is NOT OK to avoid, refuse to do, or ignore the parts you dislike – or to discuss openly your dissatisfaction with others not having a need to know your opinion.  We accomplish much more when we move forward with a positive attitude than we do if complaining as we go about things we cannot influence or control.  Good decisions are the result of intentional disruptions or informed conformity.

·  It is OK to make a mistake but not OK to repeat the same mistake. Everyone that makes decisions will make their share of wrong decisions.  You have probably never initiated action if you are never wrong.  Most prefer that every choice they make would lead them to prosperity BUT it is OK to make a wrong decision on occasion as long as a lesson was learned.  Learn from your errors, using them as a springboard to leap forward when making decisions based on firm principles and reasonable information.  People will usually work with you – help you make intelligent decisions) – as long as you continue to show measurable progress or the ability (and willingness) to grow.

·  Focus on things you can control rather than worrying about those you cannot. Identify obstacles that are within your sphere of influence so you can remove them and act accordingly.  Actively seek to eliminate the hurdles that are outside of your control by giving them up to someone having the ability to influence or change them.

·  Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable if one expects to be valued or respected during the decision making process.  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, credible NOR working (or participating in an ongoing relationship) for very long.  It is always more profitable (but much harder) to elevate others and bring ourselves along than to raise ourselves and expect others to grab on as we pass them by.
·  Results are recognized – effort is merely a means to the end. Do not seek praise for working hard or contributing greatly – recognition will follow the successful completion of objectives (and will be given to all involved).

·  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 the individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must make (and live with the results of) the final decision. Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable” as you live life – nor a democracy with efficiency.

·  Nothing is impossible in life.  While some solutions may not be cost-effective, are seemingly impractical or beyond our ability to implement, “I cannot,” “It is not possible,” and other self-defeating attitudes should not be allowed to enter (or rule) our lives.  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 while striving for new decision, actions or solutions.

Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a decision point that forever changes what they have done or where they are going – redirecting all efforts and activities towards the accomplishment of what has yet to materialize.  Do not walk blindly upon an uncharted path or you may end up missing a turn and becoming helplessly lost within an impossible maze – unable to find an end OR return to the beginning for a fresh start. Establish the rules YOU choose to live by then keep them close to you, guiding your steps and actions as you consciously and intentionally decide to act AND act to implement your decisions.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Time is seemingly in abundance when we have nothing to do – yet it eludes us when we are so busy that we might prefer it to stand still.  Some attempt to work through one project at a time – from start to finish – then move on to another.  Others work on multiple tasks by attacking different priorities – setting aside one project in favor of another prior to its completion – until all work is eventually completed (hopefully in a timely manner).  Still others tend to operate by “putting out fires.”  They work on one thing UNTIL something seemingly more important comes along, at which point everything is dropped to resolve the immediate crisis before returning to what they were doing.  Regardless of the kind of work style exhibited, too many individuals worry more about when they will finish the race than they do about finding pleasure along the way – or even recognizing the satisfaction of simply crossing the finish line.  Many worry needlessly about things outside of their control – spending precious hours documenting or validating why something cannot be easily accomplished because someone else has authority or control– rather than acting upon things over which they do have influence.   Others feel they never have the enough time to finish what must be done so they dare not “stop to smell the roses” along the way.   Those individuals often find themselves slaves to the very clock they so desperately seek to master – struggling to complete anything on time because they worry more about having the time to appropriately resolve an issue than simply moving forward, one step at a time, until it has been resolved.

Far too many people complain about the lemons in their lives – the disturbances, distractions and annoyances – than they do celebrating the opportunity to make (and enjoy) lemonade.  They dwell upon the fact that others possess the attributes they would prefer to exhibit rather than embracing and exhibiting their individual gifts and abilities.  Rather than finding satisfaction in all they have accomplished, they see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time or how much better a job they could have done “if only” more time had been given.  These people would say, “I did not do anything I wanted to this summer (vacation, holiday, etc.),” mourning that the season passed them by rather than recognizing how much was truly accomplished.  They would prefer to think about what was not done than what they did – often refusing to acknowledge how they may have impacted another as they dwell upon their own changing (and never satisfied) expectations.

Everyone can lose themselves in thoughts about what COULD HAVE BEEN.  It is easy to dwell on lost opportunity – to excuse a lack of execution by saying that the time for action has passed or the contribution that personal action may have made is not worth the effort expended.  It is harder to anticipate WHAT MAY YET BE – to seek issues not yet identified and commit to their being accomplished – and to accept each minor accomplishment as but a step on the road towards the completion of a major life event.  Whenever I become lost in time, chasing maddeningly after the tip of a second hand as it races around the clock, I remind myself that life is not measured by the time it takes to accomplish our objectives but rather by the objectives we are able to accomplish – by the impact we are able to make upon the lives of those around us – in the time we are given.

Summer is not over yet EVEN THOUGH many have already taken vacation and “settled” into a life of “what is” rather than one of “what is next.”  Major roadways are being repaired causing disruption in the “sameness” that many strive to maintain.  Perhaps we could gain more from thinking about the alternatives – the opportunities to explore areas not previously identified – that have been presented rather than dwelling upon how we wish we could live within our normal routine to accomplish our assigned objectives.  We often find ourselves buried by what must be finished before something new can begin rather than truly celebrating all we have done while seeking closure to the opportunities still available.  Whenever we seek what has not yet been done rather than dwelling upon what we did not accomplish we will discover ways never before considered in which we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. 

Seek all that you can possibly imagine in your life this summer by identifying new solutions to unresolved issues rather than making excuses for unintended consequences (or omissions).  Immerse yourself in the beauty around you – finding solace in the cry of a gull or joy in the laughter of a child – as you recharge and refresh prior to beginning anew.  Find peace within the hectic world around you, taking your life back from the clock as it ticks relentlessly on.  Time should never become but a measurement of how long it takes to fulfill your destiny.  Rather, allow it to become the measure upon which your identity, success and accomplishments can be monitored as you drive relentlessly towards fulfillment of your thoughts and the accomplishment of your objectives.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Researchers tell us that walking in an upbeat way with your head held high as you look ahead to where you are going can improve one’s mood – and that swaying from side to side while walking (meandering without meaning or purpose) can make one be depressed and sad.  Resisting temptations such as chocolate, fats, and “indulgent” foods elevates one’s self-perception and esteem while succumbing to those temptations creates an attitude of failure.  Talking to a total stranger while travelling (rather than isolating yourself within your own thoughts) helps one to feel more “grounded” and accepted in life.  Sitting with good posture rather than in a slumped-over manner causes individuals to be more positive in their reactions to life and their hopes for the future.  It seems that many of the “right things” we do have a positive affect on our health and our future possibilities while the “wrong” or “questionable” things we do lead us to a more unhealthy lifestyle and less rewarding destinations.  While these conclusions have been developed as a result of observations made during controlled, scientific research, think about some of the corollaries we could take from a “living the dream” rather than an “enduring the nightmare” attitude.

I knew a very capable individual who tended to think more about what might go wrong than what could go right.  He dwelt upon the possible – making sure that he would be able to respond to any contingency imaginable – often missing the opportunity to “strike while the iron was hot” due to his deliberate nature and his over-thinking each situation.  He was hesitant to build upon his accomplishments for fear that the “fall from grace” would be more drastic and destructive than was the rise to success – effectively ensuring that he would not fail because he minimized the possibility of failure by taking sure and measured actions that resulted in predictable and anticipated results. While he never tasted "agony of defeat" he never truly experienced the "thrill of victory" in his life.

I knew another individual that considered a situation, thought about several of the more obvious ramifications of his actions, then decided to act on the information he had “in hand” rather than continuing to “posture” himself in a way that might avoid all risk or minimize the chances of failure.  He often acted (intentionally) knowing what would likely happen, what could possibly happen and what had a small (but realistic) chance of happening – but his actions often put him ahead of his competition and in front of “the crowd,” allowing him to hold his head high in the discovery of the unknown rather than forcing him to look down while following the footsteps of another without fulfilling his or her individual dreams.  While acting before having all the possible outcomes identified may require us to react and respond to more "contingencies" along the way, it will almost always take us to a place where "no man has gone before" as we experience rewards not previously expected, anticipated or imagined. 

Many people silently commit (to themselves) that they will change (multiple times throughout the year) in order to alter their anticipated expectations.  They think that altering their behavior will produce significantly different results BUT are not committed enough to the change that they are willing to share their intentions with another (for fear of failure or in an active resistance to outside authority or control).  When individuals focus on the change rather than looking forward to an altered result – start with where they are and what they have done rather than seeking something different or dreaming of an alternative reality – they tend to experience short-term differences rather than life-altering transition.  Commitments to change come in many shapes and sizes but would include things like going to the gym (for 1 – 2 months), exercising at home (for a week), driving safely (until you are late for a meeting) or spending more time with friends and family (unless there is a major project at work).  Self-generated and monitored expectations of change without external support and accountability seldom result in lasting transformation.  We can accomplish only those things we have seen or done when left to our own devices and given only our own support for we need to be praised and complimented for our positive actions (and held accountable for our shortcomings when experiencing failure) if ever we are to realize success.

If “walking with confidence” helps people be happier, think what the accomplishment of an expressed goal (even if for only a short time) might do for one’s demeanor and self-confidence.  Rather than trying to implement change or speak as another’s mouthpiece or act as his/her clone, why not commit to transform?  Do not accept only what is attainable – rather reach beyond the probable to experience the possible.  Set your targets boldly where people have previously feared to wander – not as a means to challenge defeat but rather as a way to break through to destinations not yet discovered.  When one accepts the things that others have already accomplished and defined as their personal benchmarks for success, how can you NOT know what to expect or WHEN it might happen.  When you seek new frontiers – looking forward with anticipation rather than backwards in fear or dread – there will be less criticism of the choices you make and the roads you take because others have not yet “been there” or “done that” with their lives.

Sincerely believing that you will succeed – when supported with appropriate training and resources – will contribute greatly to success.  Anticipating failure almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Setting the bar high keeps your head up (and your attitude will follow).  Failing to set a goal will allow your head to drop as you drift aimlessly without a plan or a target.  Acting happy in life helps us to be more energetic, innovative and accomplished in what we do and say.  Establishing your destination before you determine your route will help you accomplish things nobody has yet done.  Keep your head up while looking forward to where you COULD go and you will experience greatness (rather than looking down to follow the path of another as it leads to anticipated results and expected outcomes).  To “be all that you can be” you must actively and intentionally decide to seek more than you could ever be given.