Want a Raise? Take Your Boss Hostage!

               The French are famous for many things. The Eifel Tower, fine wines, delicious baked goods, impressionist art and a general sense of haute couture. However, we do not usually think of the French when it comes to the art of negotiation.

               French labor unions have mastered a new technique for negotiations. French workers are known for going on strike to express their dissatisfaction. Taking it a step further, workers have taken to kidnapping executives in order to make a point and make their demands.

               In a Goodyear plant, located in Amiens, France, union workers were frustrated by the company’s plans to close the plant. The union apparently had enough. Two of the plant’s executives were held in an office at the site and the doors were blocked off with large farm tires (after all it was a Goodyear plant).

by Rubohcity from Wiki Commons
               The two bosses were allowed to keep their cell phones and communicate with family while the union presented its demands. The workers wanted a severance package of $108,000 for each employee, plus $3,400 for each year worked. Who wouldn’t want a deal like that?

               As it turns out, it is somewhat common for French unions to hold company leaders hostage. It certainly helps create media attention and perhaps sympathy, at least by some people. The legal penalties seem relatively minor for these offenses. It is almost like an inside joke, a way to vent frustration with a stingy boss or company. In this case, the two men were released after being held for two days. Unfortunately, the union members also set fire to tires around the perimeter of the site, creating clouds of black smoke.

               In the past, executives from other companies, such as 3M, Sony and Caterpillar have been held hostage during labor negotiations. Company leaders working in France may need to start demanding ‘danger’ pay to compensate for the risks.

               On the serious side, this was part of a long, ongoing feud between executives and the workers. Ironically, the left-wing union, accused French President Francois Hollande, a member of the socialist party, of working in cohorts with the business.

               The lesson here is a reminder to keep in mind the morale of employees and consider the impact on an organization. It may not result in someone blocked into an office with tractor tires in the doorways, but ongoing tension can lead to acts of workplace violence or sabotage. Businesses cannot bend to every demand or union bargaining tactic. However, leaders should give realistic thought to concerns such as raises, bonuses and the general well-being of employees. Overlooking those concerns can, in the long run, be detrimental to the bottom line.

               For companies operating in other countries and dealing with other cultures, it is a valuable reminder to consider differences as to how businesses operate, and the associated risks from work stoppages to executive kidnappings.

               In the meantime, if you want a raise, consider the “French Press” method of negotiation and hold your boss hostage. Of course, along with the raise, you may want to ask for immunity too.


Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense. He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management. Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces. To learn more email Eric at businesskarate dot com.



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