Tuesday, 20 October 2009

France Télécom halts restructure amid suicides

HR Case Studies readers will be familiar with the shocking series of suicides at France Télécom which have taken place while the Company has been implementing a modernisation drive.

Since February 2008, there have been 25 suicides and a further series of attempted suicides.

Calls have been made for the resignation of Didier Lombard, France Télécom's chief executive. The French Government summoned Mr Lombard to a crisis meeting last month and demanded that he produced an urgent action plan.

With some similarities to the current situation in Royal Mail, there is a drive to dispense with many of the Company’s outmoded working practices and make the organisation more competitive in the international market. The vast majority of France Télécom’s workforce were recruited when the Company was a state monopoly, and when a job for life was practically guaranteed.

Although Mr Lombard had already eased up on a programme of compulsory job changes for managers, today’s announcement is of a complete halt to the restructuring until next year at the earliest.

How the company will use the 100 additional advisers in human resources that it recently recruited to address the issue of workplace stress is not yet clear

  • What lessons are to be learned from the problems that France Télécom has encountered?
  • Are there particular sensitivities that need to be dealt with when undertaking restructures in former state monopolies?
  • What, if any, are the similarities between the situation in France Télécom and that in Royal Mail?
  • There was some heated debate a few days ago in response to an article in The Times entitled HR Departments: What's the point of them? Is there anything that the 100 additional advisers in human resources would be able to achieve in France Télécom to answer those critics who believe that HR is a waste of space?


  1. I worked in HR for Orange, owned by France Telecom, for a substantial period of time and would agree that the business has been relentless in taking out cost through restructure and other means. In a competitive landscape, this is almost inevitable but the impact demonstrated in low employee engagement was brutal and obviously saddened to hear about the extremes it has pushed some France Telecom employees to.

  2. Anonymous:

    Thanks enormously for your inside comment. It's sad to see that words like "brutal" have to be used to describe the situation in the business