Maurice Taylor

The French are lazy? The boss of US tyremaker Titan, Maurice Taylor, has caused an uproar in France after saying that French workers only put in three hours a day and he would have to be “stupid” to invest in the country. Mr Taylor, nicknamed “the Grizz” for his bear-like no-nonsense style, made an unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination in the 1996 US presidential election, campaigning on a pro-business ticket.

Taylor made the claims in a letter to France’s minister for industrial recovery, Arnaud Montebourg. He was replying to a request for Titan to consider investing in a loss-making Goodyear plant in Amiens, north France. “I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours,” Mr Taylor said. Basically insinuating that the French are lazy. The CGT union said the letter was “insulting”. Union officials respond by saying that it was “the French way.” Not a good response was it? – but I am sure they were playing with Mr Taylor. Mr Montebourg refused to comment on the letter but told French journalists: “Don’t worry, there will be a response.”

Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the letter did not reflect broader US views of investing in France. “I would remind Mr Taylor that France remains the largest recipient of US investment in Europe and there are probably very good reasons for this,” she said. Mickael Wamen, the CGT union’s representative at the Goodyear plant was more forthright. He said the letter showed Mr Taylor, “belongs more in an insane asylum than at the head of a multinational corporation”. So are the French lazy?

Though I have I have mostly worked in professional engineering firms and not factory work, in the US, Canada, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Egypt, Germany, a few other EU countries and France as well, I do believe I am qualified to have an opinion on this. I can honestly say in terms of laziness of workers, it was all about the same. There are good workers and bad everywhere. However there are significant differences in how each worker in each country goes about their work. For example it is true that French do take longer breaks and lunches – but they stay at work longer. It was very common to see people still at work at 20.00 o’clock in the evening – in the UK the office was vacant at 17.30 – but they eat their lunches while they work. One might say you get more productivity out of well rested French worker. In the end it was all about the same.

That being said, management and politics in France is a nightmare – they work hard like everyone else – but so unorganized. If you have bad productivity in France, it is mostly due to poor management. Mr Taylor, work and adapt with people – teach and help them – instead of criticizing them. You have to respect the culture and build the right relationships to make it work. The French politics in an organisation will eat you alive, if you do not manage well. A right-wing politician like Mr Taylor in a socialist country doesn’t even have a chance.

The take away here is, that in a global economy, we must respect each other’s culture, use good management practices and adapt culturally to work together effectively. We hope we have adopted this at Blue Point Trading, as we have worked with many traders with a variety of cultural backgrounds – the markets do not know the culture of the person making trades. Sorry Mr Taylor, you are the problem not the French.

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Blue Point Trading Market View – February 26, 2013

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