back to article Frenchman scores €50k compensation for suffering 'bore-out' at work after bosses gave him 'menial' tasks

A Frenchman who complained that he didn't have enough to do at work has been handed €50,000 (£44,470) after suffering from "bore-out". Frederic Desnard simply had too little to do, he told sympathetic judges in a Parisian tribunal. Despite turning up for work, all keen and raring to go, bosses at perfume biz Interparfums …

  1. lglethal Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Sooo....

    So Intraparfum wanted to get rid of him in 2010 after losing a contract and not having enough work left. Fair enough. But instead of just doing the normal thing of offering compensation and making him redundant. They employed him at full pay for 4 years to do nothing. Now I'm well aware that France has some very employee friendly labour laws, but I'm pretty sure that the redundancy compensation does not equal 4 years of full time pay.

    Now Intraparfum have been found guilty of breaching french labour laws, which is going to cause them all sorts of problems with the unions going forward. They have paid out 4 years worth of salaries, AND they have to pay another €50k on top of that as compensation. All because they wanted to try and force someone out illegally...

    Foot meet Mr Shotgun...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sooo....

      but I'm pretty sure that the redundancy compensation does not equal 4 years of full time pay.

      The problem isn't the cost, but the sheer difficulty of getting rid of staff purely on economic grounds. They would first have to show that it would cause the company severe financial problems (i.e. risk of bankruptcy) if they had to keep people on, and prove that they could not be transferred/retrained to another position. If they did lay people off they would then have difficulty hiring anyone else in an even remotely similar position for a period (obviously don't need to lay people off if you're hiring). They could even end up in a situation where they have to take things like age, seniority and marital status into account, and someone else might get the chop with our candidate parachuted into his/her position.

      Hard enough for a whole team whose project has ended, almost impossible to get rid of one person. His union would take it to a tribunal, and the cost to the company of losing that could be substantial.

      I've seen it happen multiple times over several years, and the only reason the company in question was able to get rid of people at all was that the orders came from HQ in another country, and the unions realised that refusing to co-operate would just get the whole French subsidiary closed. They did a deal where they wouldn't make waves if the annual numbers laid off stayed below 10% and the redundancy payments were big enough.

      1. The First Dave Silver badge

        Re: Sooo....

        Perhaps companies might consider the possibility of using existing employees for open positions, rather than just throwing them away on a whim?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sooo....

          "Perhaps companies might consider the possibility of using existing employees for open positions, rather than just throwing them away on a whim?"

          All employees are interchangeable now?

          Then surely they should have taken the German option, brought a bakery and made this gentleman a bicycle delivery boy until he decided to move on...

          1. Falmari

            Re: Sooo....

            That probably would not work.

            In my youth I was a skilled welder.

            A multi national car company (funnily French) I worked for decided to lay a lot of people off at my plant.

            They used the last in first out policy capped at 2 years so no redundancy would have to be paid from them as the company redundancy which was in the contract only came into force after 2 years of employment.

            Problem was they wanted to put me on the production line, because they had one more welders then bays or equipment.

            At 24 I was a mouthy git and was having none of that. So on the Monday morning I went to the welding area sat down and said I would not go on the line i wanted redundancy as my job no longer existed.

            I repeated this for three days people came and told me that I would be sacked if I did not go on the line. Forman, HR, Plant manager even the works convener (union was in the pocket of management don't rock the don't nice little lower management job you for you after a few years).

            Morning of the fourth day I was marched up to HR they were all there my foreman, Plant Manager works convener and HR manager (the ex convener) and given an ultimatum. If I did not report to work on the line I would be fired. They said they were within their rights to move someone to a lower skilled job it was in my contract of employment.

            I pointed out that moving someone to a lesser skilled job was intended to be a temporary thing used when less production was needed not meant to be permanent.

            But I agreed they could move me to the line. But pointed out that they could not change what I was employed as, my skill level and what I got paid. I said I would report to the line and take great pleasure in telling everyone I worked with how much more I was getting paid than them.

            The works convener was the first to break ranks and within the hour I was out the factory gates with my redundancy check plus 8 weeks notice.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sooo....

          Perhaps companies might consider the possibility of using existing employees for open positions, rather than just throwing them away on a whim?

          Of course, if there is such a position which the employee is suited, or can be retrained, for. Always better and cheaper than layoffs.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Sooo....

            >position which the employee is suited, or can be retrained, for.

            The problem is that it isn't a reasonable technical analysis of this route.

            It's being decided by unions and lawyers who have a vested interest.

            So a salesperson who used a laptop can of course be retrained as a sysadmin because they are both computer jobs. Don't agree then see you in court.

            1. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

              Re: Sooo....

              But if they ran a skills audit they may find a potential Sysadmin and move people around.

      2. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Sooo....

        I've seen 80% of current salary until retirement age and a fully paid up pension offered to anyone in their mid 50s, it utterly p'd off everyone just under the cutoff. For the much younger the resulting uplift in job roles was very nice.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Sooo....

          I've seen 80% of current salary until retirement age and a fully paid up pension offered to anyone in their mid 50s

          I grab that in a heartbeat!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sooo....

        "The problem isn't the cost, but the sheer difficulty of getting rid of staff purely on economic grounds."

        Yeah, you know what? BS.

        /Plenty/ of French companies manage to do it. Really. Look it up, I'm rather sure it's a matter of public knowledge. Yes, even small ones, they can do it.

        Another thing worth looking up: Interparfums, it's not a small mom'n'pop shop. It's 300 persons with a little less than € 500 millions of turnover, and worth € 1.5 billion.

        So that particular company management acted in a moronic way, which also happened to be illegal in France. Now they know, they'll hopefully pull their fingers out of their asses, and start doing the job *they*'re paid for.

        https://www.boursorama.com/cours/societe/profil/1rPITP/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sooo....

          Yeah, you know what? BS.

          Not in the slightest. I've worked in France for 30 years, and have seen this in many companies. Laying people off as "licenciement économique" is possible but is a slow, painful and expensive process, governed by old laws that aren't well-adapted to modern industries.

          Another thing worth looking up: Interparfums, it's not a small mom'n'pop shop. It's 300 persons with a little less than € 500 millions of turnover, and worth € 1.5 billion.

          Which makes it much harder, a small business has more flexibility.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sooo....

            Agreed on all counts. Especially business size. Larger businesses find it harder, especially if the employee has been there 10 or more years. Sometimes the administrative overhead and time/money spent to get rid of them is more than the cost of keeping them employed.

            I worked for one of the largest French companies, and you would occasionally come across people who have effectively been "boxed". They exist as an employee, draw a salary, get pension/health insurance, all the usual benefits, but do almost no work, and what they do is menial, generally boring and not really of any use to the company ("make work" essentially).

            Effectively it is a competition, between how boring the company can make the work until the employee resigns, vs how much the employee can tolerate. They are usually placed in some (usually run down) office block away from the major work, and left to their own devices. One such lady had been like that for 10 years already, and had turned her office into a little garden, she would tend her plants during the work day. One guy I met was running an online side business from his work office, as he had so much free time between the menial tasks he still had to do.

            As a newish employee, I was never offered full employment, just the "CDD" which was a fixed term contract, usually 3 month rolling, with no real protection (as you were technically a "contractor", not an employee), as were all my peers.

            That is how it stays until a permanent employee retired, resigned or died, at which point there would be a scramble to apply for the position (and the fight to get it afterwards).

            This goal was jokingly referred to as the drive to "become part of the company furniture", because it was so hard to get rid of you once you became permanent. It is still very much a "job for life" kind of set up in France, especially in the large enterprises there.

            It reminds me a lot of how I heard things work in academia, especially when a tenured position becomes available.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Sooo....

              >It reminds me a lot of how I heard things work in academia, especially when a tenured position

              Possibly a little more justified in a university post.

              Otherwise every 4 years it is: Party X is in power, everyone who has researched climate change please collect your redundancy cheque, followed by party Y is now elected, all fossil fuel researchers are fired.

            2. Mattjimf

              Re: Sooo....

              Or the NHS, where they have to offer you a position that you are suitable to do, if you are on a fixed term contract that's coming to an end, i.e. they can't offer a Ward Clark a surgeon's position, but an IT person could be offered a receptionist position.

            3. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Sooo....

              Is it somehow illegal in France to simply offer people 4x their yearly wage to resign or accept redundancy?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Sooo....

                Is it somehow illegal in France to simply offer people 4x their yearly wage to resign or accept redundancy?

                Not far off. You'd probably have to be very economical with the truth on the compulsory legal paperwork to get the required permission from the government inspectors.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sooo....

            >>I've worked in France for 30 years,

            Me too. And gone through the whole "being laid off". Trust me it is relatively easy for most companies to do. So long as they are not trying to do it for €0. They just need to offer more-or less what one would get from a visit to the Prud'Homme.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Sooo....

              They just need to offer more-or less what one would get from a visit to the Prud'Homme.

              Which is fine if the company is really in financial difficulties and can justify a staff reduction to survive. In the case where a financially healthy company is just reorganizing and changing product lines, the Prud'Hommes are quite likely to decide that the company can afford to pay all the staff until it has more work, and force them to reinstate the laid-off staff. Hence the issue here, staff given make-work because they aren't needed, but can't be laid-off.

              Or, as noted, you pay a big enough separation package (1+ months salary per year of employment, uncapped, isn't unusual) that you get enough volunteers.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Sooo....

                " (1+ months salary per year of employment, uncapped, isn't unusual)"

                This depends on your convention collective. If you work in a mainly electronics/semiconductors organisation and are thus fortunate to be under métallurgie then yes, 1 month per year of service is common. (A throwback to metalworking and soldering apparently.) But it is capped and can be heavily taxed unless it is an economic layoff.

                Not so much if you are under IT/software. Always check your convention.

      4. Potemkine!

        Re: Sooo....

        Wrong,

        The company could always have a settled that case with a "conventional break" (rupture conventionnelle), a way to end a job contract existing since 2008. Instead of negotiating with this person, the company decided to break him instead to avoid to pay him a fair compensation.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Sooo....

      instead of just doing the normal thing of offering compensation and making him redundant. They employed him at full pay for 4 years to do nothing.

      In Japanese organisations this is known as being given a "window seat". Its a role where you have nothing to do all day but look out of the window. It's used as a punishment for serious failure or negligence and because they do not wish to break their social contract (in Japan) of a job is a job for life.

      My current bank isn't Japanese but we use the same system here, just less formally. I've had bosses that were useless be transferred to a "similar" role in a different part of the organisation, which meets our employment legislation requirements but in reality is moving them out of the way until they decide to resign for themselves. It's usually cheaper because while they may have a 6 figure redundancy accrual, it usually doesn't take more than 5 or 6 months before they quit.

      1. Toni the terrible

        Re: Sooo....

        I noticed that in the UK Civil Service there was a unsaid maxim that "If you have a personnel problem Ignore them as eventually they will leave by them selves" however... at least one person I know of stayed for several years of having a window seat before action was finally taken. Some people are very hard to bore, well they were civil servants!

        1. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: Sooo....

          When I was in the (Scientific) Civil Service we had "mobile" and non-mobile" grades. A non-mobile grade was usually at a low level; and if your job disappeared, a similar one was found within a reasonable commuting distance. If you were "Established" in a mobile position and you upset someone, an unpleasant job many miles away could be found for you. It was known that some people took the punishment, worked hard and eventually were rehabilitated - Others resigned.

          1. darthsteve

            Re: Sooo....

            I saw this happen quite often in the scientific civil service. Somebody asks a question that a manager doesn't like and suddenly they're moved to a faraway office, staring out of the window until they quit. Meanwhile, management congratulates itself on an inclusive culture where nobody is ever fired, and those that leave simply "didn't fit in".

          2. Azamino
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: Sooo....

            There was a persistent rumour at Morse (later 2E2) that rather than taking disciplinary action, miscreants would be sent to work on the ‘airports’ contract. Which involved schlepping round the M25 to the London airports for purposes never explicitly stated, until they got sick of the traffic and moved elsewhere.

            I never met anyone who had worked on said contract, and those telling me were usually so inept that surely had it existed they would be on it!

      2. Outski

        Re: Sooo....

        When I was in the civil service, this was known as a sideways promotion, ie a nominal promotion, into a position where the promotee couldn't do any further harm

        1. GeekyDee

          Re: Sooo....

          Give them a job solving captchas...

        2. Snapper

          Re: Sooo....

          The only way to get rid of useless people was to promote them, I saw it happen several times. The head of my department could barely tie his own shoelaces and was dangerously and expensively incompetent.

        3. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: Sooo....

          There was the same approach in British Gas shortly after privatisation - there was a whole raft of management that were simply moved up and sideways out of the chain of command until they got bored. One bloke was there for a few years being paid for essentially doing nothing.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Sooo....

      They were more concerned about their bottom line than the health of their employee or the law. They got what they deserved.

      And you have to ask, if they choose to do this then what other shortcuts might they be taking with their legal obligations, their work practices and/or their products?

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Sooo....

      I worked for the French subsidiary of a multinational headquartered in the USA. There was a boss who everybody hated and he allegedly had a list of people who he'd like to get rid of given the chance. Well he was given that chance as he was put in charge of the headcount reduction for France. Out came the alleged list as did the at risk of redundancy discussions with those staff on this list. Heads of Departments were just told they would be losing these people - there would be no discussions about this.

      A few people told him they'd happily take the money because they'd not have to work under him anymore. Some of these people were effectively irreplaceable and they were people we didn't want to lose. That didn't bother him, staff were expected to cope without their colleagues and their skills.

      That was a pain and much grumbling was made but some people were happy to go. A month after staff had left word reaches head office in the USA about the situation. The fact that there had been a hit list had not gone down well. A senior Vice President was dispatched and arrived in France unannounced to see the boss. The VP held a meeting with him and the French HR director. They fired him on the spot (no one knows on what grounds) asking him to collect any personal items before he was escorted out of the building. He was from the account I heard furious and threatened to talk to lawyers etc. as he reached reception.

      The VP then called a meeting of all the Heads of Departments. He apologised for inaction from the USA. He then asked who had been lost who was needed and who was a waste of space who could go instead. Sadly some of those who had gone already had new jobs and couldn't come back. In one case a bloke was on the equivalent of gardening leave and he was recalled from this. Another (a very talented product designer) just said no thanks no matter how much was on offer. I was one of those who was very glad to see the back of this bloke. I couldn't understand how he had been allowed so much power and then allowed to abuse it.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Sooo....

        They fired him on the spot (no one knows on what grounds)

        On the grounds of being a vindictive arsehole, I suspect.

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Joke

    placardisation

    4 years, not a bad attempt at holding out against such an insidious employment practise.

    As he's French I doubt it's a record though, Can you work from home?

    1. RobThBay

      Re: placardisation

      Wow, I thought I was the only to get treated that way by an employer. I managed to hold out for 6 years but the boredom and BS was not healthy.

    2. Dr. Ellen

      Re: placardisation

      I once worked for a museum that was given to the occasional Bloody Purge where they would -- release -- a third of the staff. We got a new director, whom nobody loved. He felt the same about us. Short story, they made me useless for about a year, then fired me for being useless. I remember keenly what I thought when I was given the news of my firing: "Oh wow, a vacation I don't have to come back from!"

      A year later, I ran intp the girlfriend of one of the other people who had worked there. "They just fired him!" she said. "They made him useless for a year, and then just fired him."

      I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, then told her: "That's just what he was saying about me, a year ago."

  3. Bloodbeastterror

    Lazy?

    Seems like an ideal opportunity to recommend Micky Flanagan's take on the French.

    WARNING - NSFW.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEttOCXL1DE

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Lazy?

      This was from Tiswas and allegedly aimed at children. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlY5z1CZx9M

  4. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Oui, Premier ministre

    Le congé de jardin ou le congé de jardinage décrit la pratique dans laquelle un employé qui a quitté son emploi - ayant démissionné ou ayant eu son emploi en cessation d'emploi a été mis au courant - est tenu de rester à l'écart du travail au cours de la période de préavis tout en demeurant sur la liste de paie. Cette pratique est souvent utilisée pour empêcher les employés de prendre avec eux des informations à jour lorsqu'ils quittent leur employeur actuel, surtout lorsqu'ils partent pour rejoindre un concurrent. Le terme est issu de la fonction publique britannique où les employés ont le droit de demander un congé spécial à des fins exceptionnelles. Le «congé de jardinage» est devenu un euphémisme pour «suspendu» en tant qu'employé qui a été formellement suspendu en attendant une enquête sur leur conduite demanderait souvent de sortir du bureau en congé spécial à la place. Le terme a été largement répandu dans le public en 1986, lorsqu'il a été utilisé dans la sitcom de la BBC Oui, Premier ministre, épisode "One Of Us". Les employés continuent de recevoir leur salaire normal pendant un congé de jardin et doivent respecter leurs conditions d'emploi, telles que la confidentialité, au moins jusqu'à l'expiration de leur période de préavis.

    1. TheProf Silver badge

      Re: Oui, Premier ministre

      But this isn't a case of 'gardening leave'.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Oui, Premier ministre c

        I just found it funny that the English phrase 'gardening leave' had been translated into French due to 'Yes, Minister'. It is weird which UK TV the French watch. Apparently big fans of 'Hamish Macbeth', due to Robert Carlyle.

        I ken this case isn't gardening leave, but I've seen a wheen of ways to force employees out, and been subject to a few. First job, late 80s, non union, a senior female operator was sacked because she was whiney. She won her unfair dismall tribunal and was awarded £2500, which the company paid rather than remploy her. 4 months salary and career death.

        I later endured far worse myself just to pay the mortgage - the law improved but it drove the same practicises underground and more evil. Ask me for stories and I will bore you silly.

    2. Snowy

      Re: Oui, Premier ministre translated

      Yes, Prime Minister

      Garden leave or gardening leave describes the practice in which an employee who has left his job - who has resigned or has had his job terminated has been made aware - is required to stay away from work during the notice period while remaining on the payroll. This practice is often used to prevent employees from taking up-to-date information with them when they leave their current employer, especially when they leave to join a competitor. The term comes from the British civil service where employees have the right to request special leave for exceptional purposes. "Gardening Leave" has become an understatement for "suspended" as An employee who has been formally suspended pending an investigation into their conduct would often ask to leave the office on special leave instead. The term was widely used in the public in 1986, when it was used in the BBC sitcom Yes, Prime Minister, episode "One Of Us". Employees continue to receive their regular wages during garden leave and must comply with their conditions of employment, such as confidentiality, at least until the end of their notice period.

  5. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Sympathies to the employee but

    I would have been doing something profitable from my laptop if it had been me.

    1. David Lewis 2

      Re: Sympathies to the employee but

      I would have been doing something profitable from my laptop if it had been me.

      Sadly no. That would have been Computer Misuse and grounds for dismissal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sympathies to the employee but

        Actually, no. The law in France allows using your work computer for personal activities, as long as it's reasonable use and don't interfere with your work. Which would clearly be easy to prove here, right?

        However, full-time contracts are very often exclusive, which makes it difficult for the employee to get another job.

        https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F1945

        1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

          Re: Sympathies to the employee but

          I did say "my" laptop. And would have been using "my" mobile data dongle. Wouldn't trust a work network not to intercept my personal stuff.

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    4 Years

    Time to write that novel (or trilogy considering it was four years) of course you would have to be careful that they couldn't dismiss you for doing something not related to company work.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 4 Years

      Over here they would claim the novel.

      My contract says anything I do outside work also belongs to them.

      I did ask if there was a company logo image I should use on my hobby of making dwarf+donkey porn videos but HR haven't replied yet.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: 4 Years

        oooohhh. soda | nose = tingly!!!

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    That is insane

    So they paid him during four years instead of cutting him loose and giving him his compensation.

    I doubt his compensation was a year of salary, and I doubt even more that he worked for minimum wage.

    I wonder what beancounter calculated that that was a good idea ? And besides, there has to be a point after which continuing to pay him to do nothing costs more than firing him with compensation.

    Somebody didn't run the numbers on this.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: That is insane

      In France the compensation could well have been his salary till retirement age plus a pay rise for everyone else due to the emotional stress of hearing about this.

      One of our French grad-students left for a very minor academic role in a tiny college in the middle of France. Once he was there for 3 years he would be a permanent civil service employee and impossible to fire, so could shop around for any academic job in the country.

      Here on the left pond I worked in a government lab that was unionised. For an open job I have to take the union member with the most seniority who is "qualified", I spent a lot of time justifying job requirements like "a PhD in physics" or "10 years embedded c++ experience in nuclear" to get a choice of candidates.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: That is insane

        That explains how Homer got his elfin safety job!

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: That is insane

          You can thank President Ford's "Project Bootstrap" for that!

          Mr. Burns: Where is the meltdown originating?

          Smithers: Sector 7-G, sir.

          Mr. Burns: Who is responsible for that sector?

          Smithers: Homer Simpson.

          Mr. Burns: Simpson, eh? Good man, dependable? When did he begin work?

          Smithers: Actually, sir, he was hired under Project Bootstrap.

          Mr. Burns: [sarcastically] Thank you, President Ford...

          https://frinkiac.com/meme/S03E05/294283.jpg?b64lines=IEFjdHVhbGx5LCBTaXIsIGhlIHdhcwogaGlyZWQgdW5kZXIgIlByb2plY3QKIEJvb3RzdHJhcC4iIFRoYW5rIHlvdSwKIFByZXNpZGVudCBGb3JkLg==

  8. Len Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Horrible flashbacks

    I get horrible flashbacks to an old employer of mine when I read this.

    Not that they did anything wrong, it's just that they were an agency with sometimes way too much work on and sometimes way too little. That's just how agency life often works. When you were working 14 hour days for weeks on end to get the job done (or to win that pitch) you'd always long for the quiet days. But the quiet days, when they finally arrived, were the worst. You'd think it would be time to finally catch up on some admin or do that background research you'd always wanted to do but didn't have the bandwidth for. Alas, the complete lack of pressure and demoralising atmosphere meant that you actually did even less of that than in the busy times. Think of past weeks of lockdown at home, but now at the office...

    Having nothing to do at work is the worst.

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

      Re: Horrible flashbacks

      I once wrote a sudoku solver in VHDL while waiting for a contract to end. Would be suitable for FPGA implementation and I was planning on putting it in a FPGA dev system with DVI in and out so it could solve any sudoku on the input and substitute the solution on the output in real time. Sadly, have been too busy for the last fifteen years to complete it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Horrible flashbacks

        I once had a summer internship (~2000) with not much to do. On one occasion, when I told my boss I was done with my assignment and asked what he wanted me to do next, he said "Go read a book!" (That's a direct quote!)

        I was plinking around with Java, and wrote a program to work out a solution to a peg solitaire game (English standard version, apparently) I had on my Palm III. (My program was a depth-first recursive search, but not terribly efficiently written. Ah, the follies of youth.) I ran it for a week straight on an extra office machine, only to come up with a solution myself before the program could...

      2. Hairy Wolf
        Go

        Re: Horrible flashbacks

        "sudoku solver in VHDL"

        Damm, you beat me to it. Though if you have not finished yet then I still have a chance. Fifteen years and I might just get started.

    2. RichardBarrell

      Re: Horrible flashbacks

      Perhaps the reason your slow days were really bad is that you were overstressed from the fast days and actually needed the time to recover? What you're describing sounds similar to how people often talk about intermittent burnout.

    3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Horrible flashbacks

      Not that it will probably be a popular opinion around here, but while it was bad for you sitting around doing nothing, it was probably worse for your boss - as an ex-boss and old-friend observed, hosing away million quid a month on salaries with no income to back it is not sustainable for long. A few friends have set up service companies only to fold them a few years later - they expanded in the good years, then suffered some bad ones.

      1. Len Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Horrible flashbacks

        Oh I know exactly what you mean. I have since started a number of businesses myself and the stresses of those are very different, in many ways far worse, than the stresses you'll ever encounter as an employee. They are not so much "Will I get this document done before the deadline next week" but more "will I be able to pay my staff next quarter". It's less immediate but deeper and more likely to keep you awake on a Saturday night too.

        It's not uncommon for businesses to narrowly avoid bankruptcy without their staff ever knowing the company was close to folding last year. The problem is, you can't tell your staff or all the good ones jump ship when you need them most. I know a few company directors that regularly skip paying themselves for a month or two so they can pay staff. I haven't paid myself since March. My mother in law hasn't paid herself all year so far (good thing she lives above the business and has no extra mortgage to pay) as she's waiting for a big customer to finally sign that contract. She can't risk losing her staff as she'll need them when that contract finally comes in.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exasperation or a shrug

    I used to work for the subsidiary of a international company whose head office was in Paris. We had to travel over once or twice a month for training or to discuss progress on technically advanced projects. The Head of Engineering (in Paris) was due to retire and his two deputies were vying for the succession. Each deputy had their own team and was very office-political; there was no free exchange of ideas, information or personnel between factions. They sat at opposite ends of a (big) office with a clear no-mans-land.

    When the appointment was made the fallout was awful; the losing deputy manager retired, the successful group got all the new and prestigious projects, the other team were left with scraps of the end of long projects (and any poisonous contracts) or with nothing to do. They were simply ignored. These were highly skilled and (to us) likeable people but who happened to be allied to the wrong leader.

    Our (UK) team had great fun on these trips; both factions seemed to resent our bonhomie. The end result was closure of the UK subsidiary!

    1. Len Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Exasperation or a shrug

      Having worked for both, the weak spot of many British business is its insane adherence to hierarchy. It's almost Japanese, the best strategy is the one developed by the most senior person (or a moron who happens to be Oxbridge educated), not the one with the best arguments or data behind it.

      The weak spot of many French businesses is its insane level of office politics. It's almost an analogy to what they say about the House of Commons, "The opposition occupies the benches in front of you, the enemy sits behind you". In quite a few French businesses the competition sits in your office, not at a competitor.

  10. Nifty Bronze badge

    This reminded me of a Frenchman who only had 10% of his brain tissue, was found to be living normally and working a a civil servant.

    https://www.sciencealert.com/a-man-who-lives-without-90-of-his-brain-is-challenging-our-understanding-of-consciousness

  11. RichardBarrell

    I have a dumb question. Why was the constructive dismissal (by trying to bore him to death) forbidden but there's no mention here of sacking him because of a health issue being illegal?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a complex issue. According to the articles he was officially laid off for "absence prolongée perturbant le bon fonctionnement de l'entreprise", i.e. "prolonged absence that disrupts the operation of the business". That is a valid motive for dismissal, but only where it can be shown that the employee is frequently off sick in a prolonged and irregular fashion, to the point where the company would have to hire a replacement anyway just to keep the business running. It looks as if the company tried it on, and were smacked back by the tribunal.

      Strange, though, they they would do this (and have to pay him a separation package that takes into account 4 more years of make-work) instead of just getting rid of him at the start, which would seem to be the cheaper option.

      I suspect that, as is often the case in this sort of story, there were personal conflicts and attitudes that we haven't heard about.

      1. RichardBarrell

        Thank you for explaining.

  12. USER100

    bored

    So the guy was bored at work - join the club, pal. Many (most?) people hate their jobs. I find that even when work's busy it's still soul-destroyingly boring.

    What makes ir worse is the attitude of nearly all the managers. They don't do anything except either sit behind a computer, pretending to work, or walk around micromanaging the shit out of the people who do the actual, physical work.

    "Clean those crates!" Here I am, brain the size of a planet...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: bored

      Really sorry for you mate.

      Where I work (engineering), I never heard anybody say they hate their job.

      Sure, the quality of managers is pretty variable, including some from Uranus. And sometimes, there's some tedious stuff to do or projects with difficult people but not to justify a career change.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bored

        I'm on my sixth industry in the last ten years, I get horrendously bored all too quickly.

        Always the same cycle, start off unsure if I can really do the job I blagged at interview, sprint frantically during probation to get up to speed, am on board and engaged doing the job for a few months while I figure it all out, then it starts to become routine and dull, by a year I'm bored, then after 18 months I'm climbing the walls and firing off CVs again...

  13. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Boredom de dum de dum

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoYiQ8Qsozk

    We used to have better music back when work first bored me.

  14. osakajin Bronze badge

    This content justifies a new regular el reg slot.

    Perhaps Wednesday afternoon when our week's work has been done?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's horrible to make fun

    The poor guy. People ignoring his health issues just to make fun or even worse, be bigots about the French.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's horrible to make fun

      Imagine down voting this plea to stop being a fucking racist scumbag. Go get COVID.

  16. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    My 5 (so far) redundancy experiences have all been at the hands of Canadian and US company takeovers of the company I worked for. Some of them paid out a reasonable 1 month per year served redundancy, some paid the legal minimum, one tried to pay some people 1 month/year and others the legal minimum, got sued and lost.

    No matter what they did, they invariably lost good staff as the second they announced the redundancies, people started looking elsewhere and some jumped ship before the redundancy, often the people they wanted to keep.

    My experience of these redundancies is that there seems to be a knee jerk reflex after taking over a company where they make 1/3 of the staff redundant, lose another 1/6 to people jumping ship, and then spend the next 4 years hiring and training people up to get back to where they were when they bought the company. In one instance the company I was working for got bought because we were thrashing them in the market so we got bought to stifle competition. Didn't work as those that left just setup again and within a year they were again thrashing them.

    Finally, a friend of mine got laid off when his company shut down his department. No biggie, he got 12 months redundancy and found a new job starting the day after he finished for more money. 2 weeks after he finished, he got a call asking if he could come back on contract. Turns out they laid off 4 people who were vital to a contract that they hadn't fulfilled, and he was one of the 4. He ended up going back under contract from his new employers who paid him £2k per day for over 6 months. He asked his new employers how much more than the £2k they were charging his former employers and they just laughed and wouldn't say. He paid off his mortgage in those 6 months and never looked back.

    1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

      I was made redundant, along with the whole of my Technical Publications Department, and our work, preparing instruction manuals for contracts, was taken over by the Sales Department. Went to work for a competitor company, and, after about five years, was head hunted back to set up a new Technical Publications Department to sort out the mess that had been caused by the Sales Department not fulfilling the legal requirements for producing the documentation. As I was on Detached Duty at the competitor company, I earned more in travelling expenses and living expenses than I did in salary during those five years, and they paid off the mortgage and bought my wife her own car, as I was using our main car for daily travelling to/from site.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Full day for a Frenchman?

    I had to buy some supplies – a few sheets of paper – and then my day was over."

    Disclaimer, the missus is French...

    Beer as there is no glass of wine for the French!

    1. Len Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Full day for a Frenchman?

      Sadly the difference in labour productivity (GDP per capita) between France and the UK means that the French worker does more in four days than the British worker does in five.

      Don't think there is an easy answer to this. UK economists have been racking their brains over this weak spot in the UK's economy for many years. If you have the answer, get on the phone to the government and bag yourself a very very well paying job.

      ONS: International comparisons of UK productivity (ICP)

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Full day for a Frenchman?

        A plausible explanation I've heard is that French companies spend more on technology. The higher productivity is achieved at the cost of higher unemployment.

        I've no idea if this is true, or even verifiable.

        1. Len Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Full day for a Frenchman?

          I have two theories, one which is close to yours.

          Firstly, average education in the UK is not very good. Just look at the poor PISA scores of British educated people. You can say "But Oxbridge!" but hardly anyone goes to Oxbridge and half of them go back to Asia when they are finished. If you want to look at the quality of a UK education for the purposes of the UK economy you need to look at the average university or the average vocational college. Most people go to average institutions, not the top ones.

          Secondly, I think there is some penalty for high levels of labour participation. If country A employs people that would be unemployed in country B then country A has people on the work floor that might be less productive. In this case labour participation between UK (79.8) and France (71.7) is not that wildly different so I'm not sure that theory works here.

          Also, as I said, if I knew the answer I wouldn't be wasting time posting on a forum, I'd be on the phone to the UK government.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Full day for a Frenchman?

            Firstly, average education in the UK is not very good.

            But it's better than average French education, which concentrates on purely academic learning-by-rote.

            There is also a huge difference between the top schools, and others, and a level of old-school-tie elitism that makes places like Eton look like a bastion of equality and meritocracy. It's quite entertaining to get a candidate from a French "Grande Ecole" coming for interview to a non-French business, and watching their reaction when they discover that we are interviewing them to see if they can do the job, when they expected to be interviewing us to see if they would deign to work here.

            I think there is some penalty for high levels of labour participation. If country A employs people that would be unemployed in country B then country A has people on the work floor that might be less productive.

            That is plausible, but I don't think you've chosen the correct table from that site. The Employment Rate (76.6% UK, 66% France) (and Unemployment Rate (4% UK, 8% France) are perhaps better indicators. French over-55 unemployment is particularly high.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Full day for a Frenchman?

        Sadly the difference in labour productivity (GDP per capita) between France and the UK means that the French worker does more in four days than the British worker does in five.

        I've seen this quoted a lot, and I need to look at how they measure it, because in my experience of high-tech industries in both countries I simply cannot believe it is true. It might be true in manufacturing, with French factories being more automated & having fewer staff.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tangential experience

    I'll post this as anon coward, if you don't mind. Some years back I worked for a company that was pan-European, growing by buying small local companies and bolting them on in any way they could. For me, it was clear that the way the business worked was that these local businesses were pretty autonomous, with the local range of products eventually morphing to include group-wide products, but none of the acquired companies had much in common other than the field we were in.

    We took over one French company which had their own IT manager. He was a lovely person, and had held quite challenging positions in the past, but clearly also now enjoyed working at a smaller company where he was expected to be a jack-of-all-trades. I admired him for his clear choice in his career, to be honest. These local IT Managers dotted-line reported to me as well as their local chief execs, me to increase IT commonality and the local CEO for business purposes.

    Well the time came for the inevitable "rationalisation" which meant that the PHBs had him in their targets, only the French labour laws preventing them from booting him out there and then. So they told me I'd have to fire him. I've never fired anyone, and had no intention to start. The PHBs hadn't thought through all the things this person was doing, thinking that magic outsourcing worked, well, magically. To be honest, there was a big enough job just for this person to manage outsourcing if that was the way they wanted to go. There were also opportunities to develop better ways of doing things based around his experience, but the top dogs weren't interested in any option but to get rid of the person. (Eventually I suspected that it was a "downsizing" bonus that was the real prize.)

    Eventually there were several more straws that broke my back and I left.

    So imagine my surprise a few months later being phoned by the HR Director to ask " Could <French IT guy> have done your job?" It turned out that, if they wanted to make his job redundant, they had to offer him suitable other employment not just in France, but in the group, first. And I had just resigned, with them filling my job from UK advertising. Well, as I say, the IT Manager was well experiences, and while a quiet, peaceful man, was very capable. I said "I left your company and have no interest in its affairs. But if you want an opinion or a statement, yes, he was well capable of doing the job I left."

    She out down the phone.

    I suppose my point is that there seems to be a gene that kicks in among C-suite types that makes them see every opportunity to do right as an opportunity toi see how powerful they are,

  19. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Why stay?

    I'm surprised that there seems to have been no mention of the obvious strategy when you don't like your job. No matter whether it's an obnoxious boss, intense boredom, or unpleasant work, you can solve the problem by finding another job. It's not impossible, people do it all the time, even people who quite like their current work.

    I don't want to sound like Norman Tebbit red in tooth and claw. But the stress of doing a job you hate for years must be worse than the effort of job-seeking. You're never going to get those years back.

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