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Bringing Bob Dylan Back to Maggie’s Farm - An HR Story!


Bob Dylan Maggies Farm Hr Story

Bob Dylan is undoubtedly one of the greatest musicians of our time, and his genius was recently recognised with a Nobel Prize in Literature. But did you know that one of his slightly lesser known songs has valuable HR insights that you can benefit from? I am talking about his 1965 folk-rock wonder ‘Maggie’s Farm’, and if you, as an HR professional, have not yet given this a listen, we suggest you do that right now – and if you are wondering - yes, it can still count as work!

So our friend in the story, Bob, hates his workplace, his management and pretty much everything about his job! And so, in his own words, he says ‘he ain’t gonna work there no more!’ Like most of Dylan’s writings, this song is an accurate description of reality. Ignoring employee issues can result in high attrition rates and can adversely affect the organisation’s ability to attract fresh talent. Let us break down Dylan’s song and see how better HR tools and processes could have made him stay!

Bob’s gripe with Maggie

Maggie appears to be Bob’s immediate supervisor. From what Bob tells us, she has no regard for his ideas, his aspirations and his potential. Instead, she makes him ‘scrub the floor’ – which could mean work that Bob finds below his potential or calibre. He despises going to work so much that he wishes for it to rain each morning so that he does not have to go to work. Clearly, there is no performance management system in place and communication is not two-way. Maggie has lost complete touch with Bob, and there is no feedback loop in place. Bob has no clue why he is being made to toil for seemingly meaningless tasks, and there is no growth/development plan in place for Bob. If this sounds familiar to 2017, that is because it is. Lack of a robust performance management platform that promotes two-way communication between immediate managers and employees is one of the most important factors to be considered in a well-rounded HR policy.

Bob’s gripe with Maggie’s Brother

Maggie’s brother appears to be the financial controller of the organisation. Bob is extremely unhappy with what he is being paid for his honest day’s labour. Maggie’s brother does not seem to care that Bob is dissatisfied with his pay cheque which is apparent from his ‘grin’ that Bob mentions. Again – it is clear that there is no defined remuneration management process or tool in place within the organisation. Maggie’s brother might be oblivious to the fact that Bob is severely underpaid and is on the verge of leaving the farm!

Bob’s gripe with Maggie’s Ma and Pa

Maggie’s Ma and Pa seem to be the top management of the company. Bob mentions that Maggie’s Pa is rude, arrogant and out of reach. Maggie’s Ma is deceptive, and her ways are non-transparent. Together, the top brass is only concerned with the output and not the employee working conditions. This makes grievance resolution nearly impossible. Bob has nowhere to express the issues he has with Maggie and her brother. Instead of granting him an audience, the management is making him feel small and powerless. A perfect recipe for losing an employee! A comprehensive HR policy takes care of an employee’s need to be granted an audience if they are having issues impacting their performance – both in front of HR and in front of the top management if the need be.

Employee experience is one of the top factors that affect performance, productivity and engagement at the workplace today. Because Bob has no way to have his issues addressed, he blames the entire company and is ready to leave. We are sure Maggie (and her entire family!) would have loved to keep a future Nobel laureate working at her farm. Alas, they wouldn’t be able to retain such a great talent because of an HR vacuum at the farm!

And while this is all good fun – as an HR manager, it is important for you to make sure that your organisation doesn’t lose the next Dylan to such HR oversight! How? Dylan would say that ‘the answer is blowin’ in the wind’. To learn more about how employees should be treated, join Pivot, Enboarder and Fuel 50 at our next HR event held on March 1st. Register your interest here:


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