“Bossnapping” wave sweeps France

An epidemic of “bossnapping” is sweeping France as employees at French subsidiaries of Sony, Caterpillar, 3M and a Hewlett-Packard have in recent weeks taken their bosses hostage to protest cutbacks. The AP‘s Greg Keller writes: So far none of the boss-nappers has been prosecuted and none of the bosses hurt. Workers sometimes even make efforts ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
586473_090423_3m2.jpg
586473_090423_3m2.jpg
French director of 3M's French operations for US industrial conglomerate 3M, Luc Rousselet (C) eats on March 25, 2009 in his office, where employees detain him to force him to renegotiate pay-offs and compensations for workers moved to other plants. The detention came less than two weeks after workers held the boss of Sony France hostage overnight before freeing him after he agreed to reopen talks on their pay-off when the factory closed. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

An epidemic of "bossnapping" is sweeping France as employees at French subsidiaries of Sony, Caterpillar, 3M and a Hewlett-Packard have in recent weeks taken their bosses hostage to protest cutbacks. The AP's Greg Keller writes:

So far none of the boss-nappers has been prosecuted and none of the bosses hurt. Workers sometimes even make efforts to make their boss' night at the office more comfortable.

During his boss-napping in March, 3M manager Luc Rousselet told reporters "everything's fine," and workers brought him a meal of mussels and French fries for dinner. [That's him enjoying his meal in the photo above.]

An epidemic of “bossnapping” is sweeping France as employees at French subsidiaries of Sony, Caterpillar, 3M and a Hewlett-Packard have in recent weeks taken their bosses hostage to protest cutbacks. The AP‘s Greg Keller writes:

So far none of the boss-nappers has been prosecuted and none of the bosses hurt. Workers sometimes even make efforts to make their boss’ night at the office more comfortable.

During his boss-napping in March, 3M manager Luc Rousselet told reporters “everything’s fine,” and workers brought him a meal of mussels and French fries for dinner. [That’s him enjoying his meal in the photo above.]

Seizing bosses is not a new tactic in France, with examples of boss-napping dating back decades in a country famous for its strikes and known as a place where workers aren’t afraid to put up a fight.

But the phenomenon has jumped to the front pages of French newspapers in recent weeks as the Europe-wide recession has sparked a fresh wave of boss-napping episodes.

Average Frenchmen and women seem to take a forgiving view of the practice. A poll earlier this month showed 55 percent of them judged “justified” boss-nappings, factory and road blockades and other “radical and violent social acts.”

French bosses aren’t going to take this lying down though:

The phenomenon has sparked a cottage industry in advice for executives worried they could be locked up. One Paris management consultant has begun promoting a “survival kit” for potential boss-napping victims, including a cell phone pre-programmed with the numbers of family, police and a psychologist, and a change of clothes.

Niel is giving his clients a list of “10 anti-boss-napping tips,” which include gauging your staff’s mutinous instincts beforehand and choosing a neutral observer to calm things down if and when a boss-napping does break out.

I imagine a good number of our readers are sitting at work right now. If your boss is looking at you funny, it’s possible he or she might just be “gauging your mutinous instincts.” 

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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