Friday, April 10, 2009

Bossnapping and the Neglected French Art of Persuasion

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I get all that, I really do. I can imagine how desperate one might feel when faced with the prospect of losing a job, your livelihood, and, maybe soon after, your Citroen coupe, your Dogue de Bordeaux, and more. It must be incredibly frustrating. It probably ranks right up there with, but just behind, having one of your most basic human liberties taken away.

There’s an interesting phenomenon sweeping Western Europe. Okay, I’m too kind. Enough of the charades - it’s not Western Europe at all, but rather the purveyor of long, skinny bread, sauces for sauces’ sake, and a glass of wine or two for good health, France. And, it’s the biggest thing since Marie Antoinette let her breasts be used as the mould for the champagne coupe glass. When desperate times come a knockin’, there’s really only one logical thing to do, and that’s to simply kidnap the boss. Or, if you’re lucky and they’re “in season,” maybe bag a whole bunch of bosses.

I know, it sounds so stupid as to be an April Fool’s Day joke. Au contraire, mon petite cheri, for it’s certainly not a joke to anyone who fills a managerial position anywhere in the country. In the last month, bosses have been held against their will – bossnapped, if you will, a new word in the language uncovered as a media-fuelled euphemism for kidnapping and false imprisonment – at French manufacturing plants belonging to Sony, Caterpillar, 3M, Continental AG, and, most recently, Scapa Group PLC.

When examining this new centerpiece of iconic French culture a bit closer, you might be inclined to think that it’s just a couple of isolated incidents, the folly of under-educated, over-worked, blue-collared Jean Claudes and Francoises. Ah, if it was only the case. Alas, a new poll for Le Parisien reports that, overall, 45% of the French population thinks bossnapping is acceptable. Astoundingly, but not surprisingly, that percentage rises to 56% among the rank and file blue collar set. Most unbelievably of all, the acts, as repeated as they have become, have not been condemned by French President Nicholas Sarkozy. That’s right, have not.


Okay, Nick – can I call you Nick? Or, maybe since you’re just 5’5” tall, maybe lil’ Napoleon? Oh, you prefer Nick? Alright Nick, I can see how the situation might not interest you, as you’re too busy trying to figure out how to keep hush hush the naked photos of your smokin’ (third) wife, former model, Mick Jagger play toy, and all-around Italian hottie, Carla Bruni. But, c’mon, Nick. Kidnapping? It’s just so … so … gauche. Like serving poorly kept Beaujolais Nouveau with a choice chateaubriand.

Has socialism so gotten you down that you tolerate, even implicitly endorse, kidnapping? It’s not like businesses are shuttering because it’s a load of fun or that they’re bored. No, they’re consolidating business efforts because it’s fundamentally the right thing to do given these current economic times. Now’s not the time for foreign companies to subsidize your complacent, unionized, escargot chewing labor force. No, your all-for-one, one-for-all society needs to fall back on its own stalwarts of industrial might. You know, legendary French businesses like … uh … uh … Michelin. Yes, Michelin! Never mind the fact, Nick, they disgraced themselves by failing miserably – and publicly – at the 2005 Formula One United States Grand Prix. Michelin was pretty competitive up to that point, unlike other legendary French institutions, like your armed forces, for instance.

Do you find it interesting, Nick, that all of the above hostage taking incidents were at French subsidiaries of foreign companies? No, not coincidental at all, for the French citizenry seem to love to blame everyone else for ills your own state policies have incubated over time. Social conditions suffering? Blame the French Muslim immigration. Crime up? Blame the Gypsies. Come up empty in the Le Tour de France? Blame Lance Armstrong.

Do everyone a favor, Nick. Stop the kidnapping thing. It’s old news and it just wastes time. And, over time, it’s going to escalate to something serious that’s not going to go away with a wave of a French-cuffed arm or a nod from a beret-clad head – someone is going to get hurt. Tell them to stop. Now. Actually arrest people when they break the law. And, instead of all this back-and-forth nonsense, maybe you all can sit down and solve for the bigger problems.

With wine and bread, of course. C’est la vie.

Just this guy’s opinion.

Tweet me up on Twitter @RayHartjen.

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