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I am planning to move to France with my partner in a couple of years' time, and I am wondering what the work and business culture is like. I work for a French multinational here in the UK and I have to say it is pretty cut-throat. Not very nice at all!

What I am asking is this: is this typical of French companies? I understand that France Telecom is experiencing an increase in suicides amongst its employees, and that this may be down to the tough management style there.

I'd be grateful for any further information on this subject.

Many thanks
 

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I have sort of the "backdoor" experience of French business culture - I have never worked in a French company here, but I'm on the board of a volunteer organization and we're getting more and more board members who are retired (or laid off) business men, so I'm starting to see how they operate.

French business culture is more hierarchical than we "anglo-saxons" are used to. The "bosses" have considerably more power than our managers do, and generally what the boss says, goes. The underlings aren't really paid to take the initiative.

But, business culture in France is changing, too - something I think may be responsible for some of the suicides in places like France Telecom. FT used to be a civil service job, and there were huge protests when the company was privatised. There are lots of workers there who are still very upset by their loss of the "security" of working for the state and at the moment there are lots of lay-offs in various companies. This is NOT something the French are used to, and the protests are getting kind of rough - bossnappings (because many workers don't understand that, in American companies in particular, the "bosses" really aren't the ones in charge - they're just carrying out orders from the US headquarters), and lately rigging up the factory with gas bottles and threatening to blow the place up unless their severance pay is improved.

It can depend a bit on what level you're at, and of course the business culture within the company, too. If you can find a book called "Euromanagers and Martians" there are some interesting comparisons in it about business managers in the various countries around Europe, including the French.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Bev , i like your analysis, thanks

Business culture is indeed different
- you might find smal and medium enterprises with an extremely relaxed and friendly environment and aggressive business attitude , and of course the opposite as well
- small venture and enterprises are rather of family -run type of business with pros and contras
- large organisations might be detestable as well, but for instance I know some of them where it is extremely conducive because of generous social benefits: compensation hours, holidays for kids, travel, culture and self development, in-house kindergarten, ....
- foreign firms can show the best and the worth: I know at least US (Detroit) firm where daily faxes are sent to managers to give all sorts of funny instructions that contradict ethics or Laws, and in the contrary I have worked for a Japanese firm and a Swiss based firm where the French environment and culture was highly valued an respected.

France Telecom is reducing staff and since privatisation, has adopted an arrogant Forced Mobility attitude. However mobility in France is not in the air, people are prone to stay with the same firm , in the same town, all their work life. Buying and reselling real estate is also extremely costly (taxes) and therefore mobility not encouraged. With the consequences of the crisis Job mobility has also decreased and entrepreneurship is discouraged (while officially encouraged) by severe and drastic employment Laws or Social Security laws for instance.

In France, because of low salaries trends, most employees have a second profit generation activity, most times undisclosed (fixing things, mechanic, tuitions, hairdressing, small scale farming ...) and they have patiently build over the years a revenue generating business. Suddenly loosing this income by mobility would be considered disastrous in some households.

Eventually, large firms as France Telecom, have adopted this unpleasant policy in order to increase their profit and decrease salary mass. I personally know many frustrated FT staff, but you can also meet the same at IBM, in the Hospitals, or in large organisations such as banks or financial services.

by the way whya re you asking?

Gallus
 
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