WHY SHOULD I WEEP?
Do grown men weep? Sure. Should grown men weep? Of course. Anyone in touch with reality in this world knows there are lots of reasons to weep. We weep over triumphs and over tragedies. Most good people weep over admirable actions and deplorable ones.
Some people might say "Why should Max weep? He's the Chairman and CEO. What problems could he possibly have?" Well, my joys and sadnesses may not be the same as everyone else's, but that does not make them any less real, believe me. Let me tell you about a good reason I had recently for weeping.
Our officers and director-level managers, sixty or seventy people, get together quarterly to review results, discuss plans, examine ideas and directions.
Shortly before one of these meetings, I had received a wonderful letter from the mother of one of our handicapped employees. It was a touching letter of gratitude for the efforts of many people at Herman Miller to make life meaningful and rich for a person who is seriously disadvantaged. Because we have a strong, albeit a quiet, effort going on in the company to empower the disadvantaged and to recognize the authenticity of everyone in the group, it seemed to be a good idea to read this letter to the officers and directors.
I almost got through this letter but could not finish. There I stood in front of this group of people--some of them pretty hard-driving--tongue-tied and embarrassed, unable to continue. At that point, one of our senior vice presidents, Joe Schwartz--urbane, elegant, mature--strode up the center aisle, but his arm around my shoulder, kissed me on the cheek, and adjourned the meeting.
That is the kind of weeping we need more of. There is, unfortunately, another kind of weeping. Some years ago, one of our very competent managers left our headquarters to oversee a major installation in a large city. We wanted to give him all the help we could. One of our senior people asked him what he needed. The manager replied, "Tell the people at headquarters, when I call, to answer the phone and not treat me like a customer."
Well, that's enough to make one weep.
There are. I suspect, many people who don't weep. Why? These people are not intimate with their work. They must not be trying to live up to their potential. They must think they cannot fail. They have no covenant with their group.
There are people who weep tears different from the two kinds I have talked about. There are tears of frustration and chagrin. That kind of weeping we can do without.
What do we weep over? What should we weep over? By now, having read this far could probably predict that I would make a list. Here are some things we probably ought to weep about:
- a lack of dignity
- injustice, the flaw that prevents equity
- great news!
- a word of thanks
- betrayal of ideas, of principles, of quality
- jargon, because it confuses rather than clarifies
- looking at customers as interruptions
- leaders who watch bottom lines without watching behavior
- the inability of folks to tell the difference between heroes and celebrities
- confusing pleasure with meaning
- leaders who never say "Thank you"
- having to work in a job where you are not free to do your best
- good people trying to follow leaders who depend on politics and hierarchy rather than on trust and competence
- people who are gifts to the spirit
It would be easy to add some of the things under entropy in "Pink Ice in the Urinal." What would you add? Why should you weep?