Quel Brouhaha! The “Lazy” French Worker and Le Grizzly Américain

The hot topic in French news this week is a scathing, no-holds-barred letter from Maurice Taylor, Jr., the executive chairman of tire company Titan International, to France’s industry minister Arnaud Montebourg in response to their pleas to take over a Goodyear factory that’ll be closing in Amiens, France. Known as “the Grizz”, Taylor’s letter basically said that he was not going to save the factory (and approximately 1,000 French jobs) as he’s been there several times and all he’s ever seen were highly-paid French workers who have an hour of lunch, chat for three hours and end up working a mere three hours. Apparently, he had made a comment about this to the French union workers and they responded saying that was “the French way”. Ha!

I think my favorite section of Taylor’s letter that truly reflects the stereotype of the French mindset is the following:

“Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money…”

Why do I like this line? Because it’s the French who want Titan to save the factory and all the jobs, yet they say they want Titan to start a discussion?? It’s that type of thinking that’s the fundamental problem. The French should be the ones who have not only started the discussion but started actually doing something about it.

I can provide several scenarios of the “lazy French worker” I’ve heard over this past year from both French and expat friends, but I’m not going to do that. What I am going to do is give you one example though, as I just can’t resist. A friend told me how their HR person hadn’t responded to numerous calls and emails about receiving some French lessons that her company was paying for. She literally had to resort to stalking this person so he could just sign off on these lessons the company had already approved. She quickly learned that he just doesn’t respond to emails or calls. What?? In what world does someone, particularly in HR, still have a job and not respond to emails or phone calls? In a French world, apparently. Well, I’m glad to say that after several months, she was finally able to corner him one day and got her damn lessons.

So are French people lazy or not? Obviously, I do not (repeat, do not!) think French people are lazy. In fact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development consists of a group of 34 industrialized countries that includes the US, and the French work the fourth fewest hours of any OECD member but come in 7th when it comes to labor productivity. It’s not always about working longer; it’s about working smarter – and that is what the French do (when they work, that is).

Here’s a good article from The New York Times about the uproar in France surrounding the letter. And here’s the letter from Taylor in case you’d like to read it. It’s definitely not the most diplomatic…

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3 thoughts on “Quel Brouhaha! The “Lazy” French Worker and Le Grizzly Américain

  1. […] but I guess it does save them work from having to pick up and pack metal barricades. And you know, how Frenchies feel about work! 3. You know how the Chinese New Year dragon dance is supposed to be really impressive and the […]

  2. […] Rio lost his debit card back in August 2012 and still hasn’t received a new one. Yes – that was seven months ago. He basically gets money each week via me making sure I take out enough for him at the ATM, and when he has to, he uses our American debit card. It’s like an allowance! So post-card loss, Rio contacted our “manager” at HSBC whom I will refer to as J.P. (his initials) three times via email and once by phone to 1) update our address and 2) request a new card. In all of those cases, not once has J.P. ever responded to Rio’s outreach. Not once. And no, we do not have the wrong email or phone number. In what world does someone like J.P. still have a job?? In France, apparently. And they wonder why the economy has gone to merde and are stereotyped as lazy. […]

  3. […] hours is a full day’s worth of work for French people. Irritated, yet, woefully accustomed to the French work ethic, I sucked it up and hoped the next day would be a bit better. How I have remained so hopeful in […]

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