“Would the Covid-19 pandemic have improved the autonomy of employees more powerfully than armies of consultants? »


SExcept for exceptions and counter-examples, “French-style management” is generally characterized by at least three specific features: a cultural base sometimes described as a “sense of honour”, a particular relationship with authority, and a lack of trust between the actors. The sociologist Philippe d’Iribarne published, more than thirty years ago, a remarkable work in which he underlined the influence of national cultures on the management of organizations.

France would thus be characterized by The logic of honor (Seuil, 1989) bequeathed by history, based on the principles of order, predestined rank and deference. He deduced from this that hierarchical relations brought together men marked by their “state” – in the sense that the Ancien Régime gave to this term – and the traditions, rights and duties attached to it.

Honor is like this “intimately linked to the pride one has in one’s ‘rank’ and the fear of falling from it”, the reality of precedence still being present today. Philippe d’Iribarne confirms this conception in his last work, The Great Downgrade (Albin Michel, 2022), noting that “Honor, in the form it takes in French society, remains a powerful driving force”.

For more autonomy at work

Occasional studies have underlined this defensive and conservative dimension of “French management”. In 2017, the software publisher ADP published a large online survey conducted in thirteen countries, aimed at revealing the differences in perception of management among 5,330 employees and 3,218 employers surveyed. The hexagonal report was particularly severe, noting that French managers are the lowest rated in Europe. More serious and more worrying, the study reveals that these managers are not aware of the judgment made by employees and employers on their practices…

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Investigation “Let’s talk about work”, carried out by the CFDT the same year with 200,000 people and comprising nearly 200 questions, revealed that 74% of respondents wanted more autonomy in their work. Has the development of telework, due to the pandemic, allowed this wish to come true and loosen the noose of mistrust? Several studies seem to confirm this.

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According to a Terra Nova survey carried out at the very beginning of the confinement among 1,860 people working remotely (The remote work revolution, April 2020), 76% of the managers questioned believe that this experience has reinforced the confidence they place in their employees, and 72% consider that it has also strengthened the confidence of their employees. Sixty-two percent of the latter believe that remote work has a positive or even very positive effect on trust in managers, and 66% that it has the same effect on the trust that managers have in them.

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