I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

Bob Dylan is a genius. If you need proof, listen to Maggie’s Farm. It’s an anthem to self-management–artfully exposing the machinery of top-down hierarchical management. Each verse peels one more layer off the rotting onion:

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I wake in the morning
Fold my hands and pray for rain
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin’ me insane
It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

In the first verse, Dylan renders a perfect picture of disengagement. He might as well have said, “I wake in the morning, Fold my hands and pray for a power outage.” And then to pull it completely on point. “It’s a shame the way they make me work off a product backlog.” It is a sad, despairing picture that hits too close to home. And that head full of ideas drivin’ you insane? That’s the innovation your boss should want, that he’s throwing away.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

Maggie’s brother wields the first weapon of forced compliance: The threat of losing your pay check. He’s grinning because he thinks he’s got you. You have to say yes because he pays you or he’ll take his money away. But, we’re programmers and there is lots of work out there. The balance of power is shifting. Insist on being treated as a partner. The subordinate model is relic of an older time. Being paid means you are owed a portion of what the company receives from doing business because you have made contributions. It doesn’t mean that you are an indentured servant that must pay homage to every edict passed down from management.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks
The National Guard stands around his door
Ah, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more

Maggie’s pa lives up on the top floor with all the big offices and nice furniture. You work down below. There are several steps of management and bureaucracy separating the folks up there from you–a comfortable barrier between the manager and the managed. Unfortunately, it shields management from the effects of their choices. Self-management tears down these brick walls and sends the National Guard home. When everyone is a peer, we deal directly with each other as humans, not abstractions. We not only make better decisions but are quicker to adjust for bad ones. Because we feel the effects. There is no hiding. There is no us versus them.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law
Everybody says
She’s the brains behind pa
She’s sixty-eight, but she says she’s twenty-four
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more

Maggie’s ma is the one that really gets into your head. She spouts platitudes about loyalty and duty. But there is always something fishy about her explanations. Eventually, she gets you thinking that God made hierarchical management and there is no other righteous way to operate. She’ll insist that it’s practically illegal to do anything else (big corporations lobby hard to make it that way). But self-management is a sophistry smasher that cripples such false philosophy.

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more

Finally comes the pressure of conformity. After Maggie’s family has unleashed all their tools of submission, the goal is to augment managerial control with peer pressure. That’s the holy grail of enforcement. Like the proverbial bucket of crabs that have no need for a lid–any crab that looks to escape is pulled back down by the others. That’s when Maggie’s family knows they have cemented their power. Keep up the good fight, even when your coworkers drink the Kool-aid.

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more! Are you?

 

Sources

All quotation from: http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/maggies-farm/