Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave his last company-wide employee meeting talk this week, ending with an emotional outpouring of gratitude and appreciation for the company and for the thousands of employees in attendance. The outpouring ran in both directions. The audience cheered as Ballmer shouted, “Soak it in! All of you. Soak it in. You work for the greatest company in the world. Soak it in. And I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“We love you! We love you!” the audience cheered. “This isn’t about any one person, it’s about the company,” Ballmer said. He went on to describe a company that is “important”, “forward-thinking”, “innovative” and “ethical”. “It’s my whole professional world” said Ballmer, “Microsoft’s like a fourth child to me.”
By way of telling his employees how important they are to him, a now-teary-eyed Ballmer introduced a song that he felt captured the spirit of the moment: “Time of My Life” from the movie Dirty Dancing. As the song played on, Ballmer moved among the crowd shaking hands and hugging people.
Ballmer: I just want to enjoy this for a minute.
Ballmer: Soak it in! All of you. Soak it in.
Ballmer: You work for the greatest company in the world. Soak it in. And I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Audience: We love you! We love you! (Cheers.)
Ballmer: This isn’t about any one person, it’s about this company. It’s about a company that’s important, that’s forward-thinking, that’s innovative, that’s ethical, that hires great people and lets them lead great lives, that helps people around the word realize their full potential.
It’s my whole professional world. Microsoft’s like a fourth child to me. Children do leave the house. In this case I guess I’m leaving the house.
Ballmer: My last song is one I’ve always wanted to use, but it was always deemed inappropriate. It’s a great song!
Audience: (Laughter, applause.)
Ballmer: Not that kind of inappropriate!
And I wanted to pick a song that was exactly perfect: a song that let me say thank you, song that looked back retrospectively, and a song that celebrated the future. It’s from one of my favorite movies. It’s one of my favorite songs. And I think it has all that in it. It’s a song that comes at the very end of the movie, where one of the actors gets up onstage and talks about kind of how he likes to do things. Well, I want to end with this song. Respectful — a song that talks about what you’ve done for me and what you’ve meant for me. You’ve made this the time of my life. (Chokes back tears.) I love you.
Although this was Ballmer’s final appearance as Microsoft CEO in front of the larger mass of employees, he still has about twelve months remaining before the next CEO steps up to take his place. His successor will be chosen by a special committee chaired by John Thompson and including Bill Gates.