Blog Entries:

Some posts from The Methodology Blog around the time of What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Archives by Subject:

More Resources

What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 by Robby Slaughter

Robby Slaughter

Employee retention. It’s something every company wants, but few achieve. But what if we knew the reason that employees leave?

When it comes to keeping people engaged at work, I find inspiration in the words of one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes. He was born 100 years ago today, on February 1st, 1902. Here’s the full text of his poem “Harlem”:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

In my experience, the reason that we struggle with employee retention is that we fail to recognize that people have dreams. For many, work is just a way to pay the bills.  Their true passion is something else.  Time spent on things like preparing for performance reviews seems like a waste of time. They would rather be thinking big.

If you listen carefully in an office, you can almost hear employee retention crumbling away. It is the sound of dreams fading. I was talking to someone recently in a non-profit about sharing some of their programs with the general public. They said: “I was thinking about seeing if there is a community access television station we could use to promote our services at no cost.”

When I asked them to tell me more, the response came back right away. “I don’t know. I’ll have to send the idea to management.”

I pressed the issue. “You don’t need to submit the idea of finding out if there’s is such a TV station! Management might need to approve the idea to actually create programming, or set up meetings, but not to spend five minutes finding out if it even exists.”

So much of employee retention is about encouraging people to dream big at work. Not every great idea is feasible or even possible. But when workers instantly discount a suggestion before a second thought, you can tell that they are counting the minutes before the clock strikes 5PM. If you want employee retention, you need employee engagement. A dream deferred is eventually forgotten. Make a difference by encouraging imagination at work.

❖ ❖ ❖

Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

The Paperless Dream - Most offices are driven by paper. One document management expert, however, wants to know what it will take to get paper out of the workplace entirely.
Read on »
Flights Cancelled, Answers Deferred - A computer failure in New York’s JFK airport led to huge luggage delays, five cancelled flights and two days of headaches. Airline foul-ups aren’t news, but the words from a company official quoted by Ireland Online are downright frustrating: “She could not estimate when the system will be working again or how many passengers have been affected.” Read on »
Daydreaming to Improve Productivity - You might think that letting your mind wander is a sign that you need to knuckle down and focus. But psychologists report that daydreaming may actually help you get more done!
Read on »
Want to learn more? Register now for the 2012 Productivity Series

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site