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Revelations of a new slacker manifesto

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Now comes another reason not to emulate the French.

Part-time electricity-board employee and burgeoning author Corinne Maier has vaulted into prominence by advocating “active disengagement” among French workers ... the kind of creative inertia you’d expect from Wally in the cartoon strip “Dilbert.”

“Imitate me, midlevel executives,white-collar workers, neo-slaves,” Maier exhorts in Bonjour Paresse (translation: “Hello, Laziness”), which is climbing up the best-seller lists.“Why not spread gangrene through the system from inside?”

Maier says she is protesting a business system frozen by rigid social structures, including favoritism and patronage.

“Everything depends on what school you went to and what diploma you have,” she says, dissing French corporations’ do-nothing culture and glacial pace of advancement, which she compares to the court of Louis XIV: “very complicated and very ritualized so that people feel they are working effectively when they are not.”

Her solution? Look alive, but work as little as possible.

Naturally, Maier landed in trouble with her employer. Company officials warned her of poor performance, throwing her own words back at her and accusing her of  “spreading gangrene from within.” So, she took the warning letter to her union and the media, which catapulted her obscure book into a best-seller. A truly Dilbertian outcome.

Lesson: Help make your organization what Maier says French corporations are not: a meritocracy.

1. Eliminate time-wasters such as marginal paperwork and too many sign-offs.

2. Redirect underused people to new ventures or greater efficiencies.

3. Offer people real prospects of success by opening your unit to innovation, risk and reward.

— Adapted from “A French Employee’s Work Celebrates the Sloth Ethic,” Craig S. Smith, The New York Times.

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