Harassment strategies at the workplace: The case of France Télécom Orange

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

After its privatisation and the buyout of the British company Orange, the French corporation France Télécom Orange has appeared often in the media because of a striking  wave of suicides among its employees. Dozens of employees of this company have committed suicide since 2008  (and counting). This includes a tragic self-immolation in April 2011.

Some have blamed the plan NeXT, started in 2006, which contemplated 22,000 job cuts during a period of 3 years. Provided that an official labour force adjustment plan could potentially be expensive for the company, the corporate strategists devised a programme  aimed at making people willing to leave.  In the frame of this plan, managers were offered bonuses which were proportional to the number of employees they were able to get rid of.  In addition, they also received training on psychological manipulation techniques.

The result was a case of massive organised harassment and psychological abuse at the workplace. As a direct consequence of such a plan, and, in addition to the dozens of suicides and suicide attempts, it is estimated that thousands of employees and former employees of France Télécom Orange are receiving psychological or psychiatric advice. Most of them are also being medicated with antidepressants.

HARASSMENT IN THE CORPORATIVE ENVIRONMENT

The fact is that the manipulation strategies and techniques used by France Télécom Orange are far from being exceptional and, to a larger or lesser extent, have become pretty much the standard way of managing human resources in many corporations (and even, increasingly, in public agencies).

This video shows some of the techniques more commonly employed: systematic harsh interviews, absurd recriminations, setting unattainable tasks, social and/or physical isolation and ostracisation, transfer to a different city, assignment of degrading tasks, assignment of no project or of too many projects, having people travelling continuously from one company site to another for no good reason, inducing guilt feelings,  etc.

The objectives are usually either forcing people to leave (but by forcing them to “choose” leaving) or exhausting them to make them accept terms that they would not accept in normal conditions.

Targets for harassment may become as well those managers who refuse to implement these psychological torture programmes.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

This video was made using material from the following sources:

1.- Que s’est-il passé à France Telecom ?

TV report by Bernard Nicolas et Jacques Massard.

France 2, Envoyé Spécial, 30 September 2010.

http://envoye-special.france2.fr/les-reportages-en-video/que-sest-il-passe-a-france-telecom-jeudi-30-septembre-2010-2516.html

2.- France Télécom, malade à en mourir

Documentary by Bernard Nicolas.

Arte Thema, 16 November 2010.

http://www.arte.tv/fr/3530624.html

APOLOGIES

1.- Broadcasting rights: I have no rights whatsoever for broadcasting this material.

2.- Video and audio quality: Sorry, I could not find anything better.

3.- Translation and subtitles : I am neither a translator nor an English native speaker. As I am short of time, the translation was done in a rush. Subtitles are often hard to read due to an excess of verbosity or because they just go too fast.

JUSTIFICATION

The number of people I know who have been submitted to some kind harassment or abuse at work has increased significantly over the last few years (keep in mind, that most managers or wannabe managers nowadays read books or receive training where these psychological manipulation techniques are explained). Understanding what is going on often helps to make things a bit less hard for the victims.

REQUEST

If you want to improve the translation or the subtitles or if you want to translate the subtitles to other languages, the subtitles file is attached (you will need to change the extension from pdf to srt or txt):

http://koroshiyaitchy.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/france_telecom_france_2_envoye_special_arte_thema.pdf

VIDEO