Friday Fable. Aesop’s “Jupiter, Neptune, Minerva, and Momus”*

Posted by jlubans on February 28, 2014

Caption: Mardi Gras, New Orleans, March 4.

ACCORDING to an ancient legend, the first man was made by Jupiter, the first bull by Neptune, and the first house by Minerva. On the completion of their labors, a dispute arose as to which had made the most perfect work. They agreed to appoint Momus as judge, and to abide by his decision. Momus, however, being very envious of the handicraft of each, found fault with all. He first blamed the work of Neptune because he had not made the horns of the bull below his eyes, so he might better see where to strike. He then condemned the work of Jupiter, because he had not placed the heart of man on the outside, that everyone might read the thoughts of the evil disposed and take precautions against the intended mischief. And, lastly, he inveighed against Minerva because she had not contrived iron wheels in the foundation of her house, so its inhabitants might more easily remove if a neighbor proved unpleasant. Jupiter, indignant at such inveterate faultfinding, drove him from his office of judge, and expelled him from the mansions of Olympus.”

Since being cast out of Olympus, Momus has lightened up his humorless carping with a sense of humor. So, today he is more about mockery. On March 4, New Orleans’ Knights of Momus krewe will once again engage in the revelry now associated with their namesake.
So, if you must nitpick, find fault, your message with go further with a dose of levity. Or, forget finding fault; focus on improvement and change rather than on what’s wrong.
Caption: How I felt during performance appraisal time.
In the workplace, nitpicking and faultfinding is institutionalized in something called Performance Appraisal. Promoted – with no evidence - as a formal process for employee improvement it has gained a well deserved notoriety as the most hated piece of management work: assigning a numerical value to another human being.
Wm. Deming had this to say about the effect of formal performance appraisal: “… It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate. despondent, dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of a rating, unable to comprehend why they are inferior.”
Hyperbole? You decide.

*Source: AESOP'S FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop's fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886.
Available at Gutenberg.

Friday’s Leading from the Middle Library - in honor of my daughter and her husband who are moving from America’s East Coast (with one horse, two cats, one DOG, and two laying hens) to America’s Pacific Northwest: The University of Oregon Law Library.
Law libraries, as a group have purchased more copies of Leading from the Middle than have the general libraries on their campuses. I wonder why? Perhaps it has something to do with the legal profession and its organization.

Copyright John Lubans 2014

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