"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 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." 



The new old South Africa

Most commentators on yesterday's elections in South Africa have used words like "landmark" or "historic" to describe the vote. And yes, perhas as the fourth democratic vote in the country's post-apartheid history, the elections still deserve the title.

But the big news that the ANC's lead is down slightly from previous years (from 70 percent to about 65 percent) should not be read too carefully as a change. As Raenette Taljaard points out in her Think Again: South Africa on FP, the near-one-party state that has entrenched the ruling African National Congress (ANC) shows no signs of fading. In fact, if anything, those structure of power and patronage are more entrenched than ever. 

What is perhaps more interesting is the boost in voter turnout -- at a high 77 percent. The speaks not just to an enthusiasm for democracy. It also indicates just how polarizing this election became. Jacob Zuma, now almost assured to be President, drives crowds towards him and way from him, on the one side eager for Zuma's promises to speed the slow pace of change for the impoverished majority, and on the other fearful that his impudence and possible corruption could see South Africa look a bit too much like other, less proserpous, African neighbors. 

In short, South Africa is in for a telling few years. If Zuma doesn't live up the high expectations of the working class voters who support him, he may resort to less savory techniques of patronage to stay in power. Then again, if he's able to improve the lives of the average citizen even a bit, it will be welcome.