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Showing Up Different: What Smart CEOs and Business Advisors Can Learn from Dr. Alan Gregerman's Fascinating New Book 'The Necessity of Strangers'

In his invigorating new book, The Necessity of Strangers, Dr. Alan Gregerman provides employers with a treasure trove of fresh ideas about, among other things, attracting candidates with valuable skills and perspectives; rethinking employee engagement; tapping the potential in employees (and especially new hires); and bringing the diverse challenges of a workplace to life. As one who regularly works with employers to develop best employment practices, I was struck by the relevance of Alan’s recommendations.

Two of Alan’s many suggestions particularly resonate with me. First, Alan challenges employers to rethink the orientation process in a very creative way. Specifically, he recommends that employers postpone the traditional component of the orientation process until several days after a candidate has been hired. He recommends that the first part of the “orientation” should involve candidates receiving a clipboard with a single piece of paper attached to it which is divided into two columns. On the top of the left side of the page, the word “Brilliant” is written and on the top of the right side the word “Clueless” is written. New hirers are provided a simple assignment; namely, spend the first day or two of their employment with the new organization walking the halls; speaking with staff members; and observing everything that the organization does and then listing whether the observation falls in the “brilliant” or “clueless” category. At the conclusion of this period, new hires are then asked to meet with senior management to share their findings – good, bad or otherwise.

Second, Alan recommends that employers enhance the criteria by which they consider job candidates by including a variety of factors that most employers simply fail to consider in crafting or considering job descriptions. In his book, Alan explains the issue in the following manner:

“Business success is all about finding, developing, and engaging people who:

  • Make us far better than we already are
  • Ask tough questions and commit to finding and acting on the best answers
  • Bring us new ideas and fresh perspectives
  • Don’t always agree with us
  • Believe we can always be better at the things that matter
  • Have a sense of curiosity and openness to the world around them and the strangers in it
  • Are passionate about delivering the most compelling value to the customers we serve
  • Are skilled at collaborating, sharing knowledge, and unlocking the hidden genius in everyone around them
  • Can resolve our most important problems with creativity and energy
  • Can discover important new business opportunities that will help us to grow”

I believe that if employers acted upon Alan’s sage suggestions the number of employee claims would decrease and employee retention would increase. One of the core views that I have developed over years of advising employers is that employees routinely file claims (and/or become “negative ambassadors” of an organization) for generally one of two reasons:

  1. A fundamental disconnect in workplace expectations between employers and employees; and
  2. A distinct perception by employees that they have been mistreated, disrespected, treated indifferently, or simply ignored.

Employers that adopt a fresh look at employee engagement in the creative ways that Alan suggests and understand the “necessity of strangers” are likely to outdistance their competition, and achieve higher levels of organizational success -- financially and otherwise. At the same time, implementing these authentic measures should have a powerful impact in reducing employee claims and improving retention.
As Alan eloquently discusses in his book, “showing up different” is a conscious mindset. More information about Alan can be found on his terrific website. I encourage you to obtain a copy of Alan’s excellent book and to make Alan’s regular blog part of your everyday reading.  

Marc Engel is an employment attorney and litigator at Lerch, Early & Brewer who advises employers of all types of employment issues, performs human resource audits, and conducts training on a variety of employment issues, including strategies for improving hiring, performance management, retention, and avoiding discrimination and harassment claims. For more information on how to avoid employment litigation, contact Marc at (301) 657-0184 or


This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.


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