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The 25th award ceremony for the best books on employment, the economy and society took place on Thursday 11 February live from the HEC Paris campus. This year, the publishing world was honored with the exceptional participation of Sophie de Closets President of Editions Fayard, Serge Eyrolles President of Editions Eyrolles and Antoine Gallimard President of Editions Gallimard. 128 books representing 44 publishers were submitted to the votes of the Grand Prix jury and the Pupil jury of the HEC Paris association, the Salon, with the help of entrepreneurs from the HEC incubator at Station F.
Prix Pépite du jury Grand Prix

JE MANAGE AVEC BIENVEILLANCE – le guide pratique – 2019 – 229 p. – EYROLLES
Paul-Marie Chavanne,Yves Desjacques, Olivier Truong

Great reviews from personalities in higher education and business. This book combines conceptual mastery and operational advice around a concept, benevolence: how to develop one's own benevolence and stimulate it in one's business or organization.

It should also be noted that the book « La Bienveillance en entreprise » received the DCF 2018 prize for the best management book in 2018.

The crisis that we are targeting is probably unprecedented, in particular because of its twofold dimension : an economic crisis and a health crisis linked to an invisible pandemic that is difficult to understand and for which we have few references. It logically generates a climate of fear and mistrust. Anxiety then becomes the norm.

In the face of this double crisis, management has massively and brutally mobilised telework with its share of negative consequences: a cold and efficiency-oriented relationship with work. Conf calls are devoid of informal exchanges and “wasted” time discussing things that appear to be chatter but which social science researchers have shown to provide a large part of the social link, regulations and daily innovations in the company.

In addition, we were taken by surprise: who can say that they know how to manage and work at a distance? Even individually, we therefore manage our fatigue, our increased isolation, our need to exchange with colleagues poorly. For those who have stayed at home away from the field, we frantically follow webinars and conf calls that exhaust us, annoy us and distract us from the meaning of our commitment. Not to mention the spillover into our private lives.

“Far from the eyes, far from the heart”: distance, emails are a drag on relationships. The unspoken become misunderstandings, the written sentences remain and become legal. The right emotional distance can no longer be regulated by being in the same room to tell each other things with truth and sincerity.

What will we do tomorrow with the masks on without shaking hands, being far away in the office, looking worriedly at the colleague who is coughing? It will be a matter of restarting companies with the focus on execution in this context where procedures will have to be strictly followed and anxiety always present. There is a real risk that the flexibility and plasticity of the room for manoeuvre will be overlooked.

Perhaps it is then necessary to return to fundamentally human values, so human that they sometimes seem a little simple: trust and benevolence. In the face of cynical and selfish temptations, of the “nothing to do” or the feeling of injustice, this is undoubtedly the best antidote. These months of confinement have undermined our confidence in the future, and to overcome our fears, it will be necessary more than ever to create another expression of benevolence and trust in this new “phygital” world.

The challenge is to take benevolence and trust out of the soothing and self-righteous discourse of mere human quality. We are not benevolent and trusting by nature. Just as we are not by nature attentive or respectful of health rules. No, benevolence and trust are voluntary biases based on skills and deliberate actions. They are therefore a matter of competence and managerial technique. So the question is not: how to be benevolent and confident, but how to act in a benevolent and confident manner, especially today? In the same way that the prevention of the pandemic required the generalisation of barrier gestures, the restoration of our collectives must be based on real barrier gestures linked to trust and benevolence!

So, what are these gestures for trust and benevolence? Here are the main ones, according to us:

  • Reaffirming the trust we have in each other by scrupulously applying the principle of subsidiarity where each decision is taken at the right level. In this way, each person can exercise his or her powers of judgement and responsibilities, thus strengthening his or her sense of control and personal satisfaction in the face of this crisis which has undermined self-confidence.
  • Lighten internal procedures to make daily life easier and to be at the service of employees faced with the loneliness of a computer crashing and the paperwork to be filled in…
  • Shorten attention-draining distance meetings and distribute the floor so that everyone feels included and recognized.
  • Re-explain the meaning so that everyone can project themselves and thus explain the challenges facing the company. More than ever, we need to understand and have a global vision of the stakes, constraints and the strategy to be implemented by our organizations to initiate the recovery.
  • Create emotional security to combat our ancestral fears that have been rekindled. Faced with our fears of being absorbed, dissolved, eaten and disappearing, we must act with determination to create a breeding ground for emotional acceptance:
    • Increased attention and listening to emotions and “weak signals” through the telephone, screen or mask.
    • A non-judgemental reception of what is said; exceptional conditions must bring as much tolerance as firmness.
    • An exaggeration of gentleness and empathy “be gentle on principle: you don’t know their problems”. Our colleagues have lost loved ones, have been ill, have been isolated, have lost their bearings. It would not be tolerable not to show empathy.

As with the pandemic, there are generic barrier gestures and barrier gestures that depend on your company, its activity and its specificities. But, one thing is certain, all these barrier gestures of benevolence and trust, to relaunch our companies, place more than ever the human being at the center of the organization. Let’s invent them together.

Olivier Truong (class of 96) and Fabien De Geuser (Professor Escp)

Managers often reflect on their teams’ engagement: how to motivate them? How to ensure that they are involved and do their best? Meaning as an antidote to demotivation has become a platitude, to the point that we forget that it is just one of the ingredients that nourish engagement. We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. To feel less isolated, lost and frightened by this whirlwind in which everyone tries to find their place, one reflex involves creating bonds with others.

Since modern organizations constitute, at their scale, a world just as turbulent, employees would like to be able to socialize more in it. To quote André Comte-Sponville, “employees do not work because they love the work, the organization or the boss. They work because they love themselves and their children. They work to be happy1.” This involves in particular higher quality moments and discussions with colleagues who we spend most of our time with.
1 André Comte-Sponville, «Un cadre doit être un pro- fessionnel du désir de l’autre» (“A manager should be a professional of the other person’s desire”), interview in La Lettre du cadre, August 30, 2016.

Yet we do not subscribe to the emerging ideology of the “Chief Happiness Officer”, because in our mind happiness stems from the quality of the work performed, the relationships with colleagues and the feeling of accomplishment that enables individuals to be happier. Thus it is illusory to try to impose happiness on employees by mandating it through a position. However, this happiness can be substantially influenced by the actions the organization puts in place to create a breeding ground favorable to the expression of their creativity and more harmonious relationships. Therefore it is a question of inventing new positions and entrusting certain people identified in the organization to develop and disseminate a culture of caring.

The key to this sense of quality time spent in the organization stems from the trust we have in our team members, the feeling of emotional security we can experience in our daily professional lives and the resulting energy and cooperation. To reach this state and create this favorable ambience, one of the keys is the expression of each point of view. People should feel free to speak their minds so everyone can feel valued and appreciated. Every falsehood destroys trust.

It is undoubtedly not very academic to talk of an “imprecise” organization. By this we mean the way a team operates where the scopes of action are imprecise, where the decisions are slow coming and where the leader prefers to let some situations “deteriorate.” 

 Imprecise organizations can result from several factors: a manager’s indecision, his inability for many reasons to define the scopes of action and delimit the roles and responsibilities, or even the unspoken goal of divide and rule by maintaining a lack of precision so employees end up scheming to capture the maximum of resources and thereby increase their influence and power.

“Imprecise organizations are characterized by employees’ obsessional effort to create coalitions.”

This type of organization is characterized by employees’ obsessional effort to create coalitions to influence and gain power. It would be naive to think that this phenomenon only applies to the teams and organizations that we have qualified as “imprecise,” but the characteristic here is especially exaggerated. It is a question of constituting networks in order to influence the organization in the direction we want. Thus we will qualify the context as “political” in the sense that decisions don’t always seem to flow from a rational and objective logic based on observable facts, but rather on arrangements between accomplices.

Employees are less recognized for their professional skills than for their maneuvering skill (i.e., their ability to join the best networks and to hedge to obtain the most interesting assignments). For example the decisions assigning projects will be made less on factual criteria and more on the consequences of the relationships and negotiated alliances that they will have successfully formed with their peers and their management.

Consequently, considerable time is spent scheming rather than “working” (i.e., producing for the company’s benefit). “All the time that you spend working, you don’t spend managing your career.” This type of organization is the opposite of the vision of human resources management of Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, who asserts that he is always preoccupied about doing his job well rather than managing his destiny.

In this type of organization, the part of subjectivity occupies an important place, erasing the reality of the facts and the reality of the skills.  Unfortunately, employees become cynical and no longer hesitate to play dirty tricks, to spread rumors or to slander, since everything becomes image rather than reality with the sense that decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis depending who is involved. They end up adopting predator attitudes so, without clearly saying so, they become inevitable on very important projects or subjects for the company.

Thus the associated risk is that of confusion and ambiguity, which systematically leads to the emergence of a very hypocritical and even deceitful culture. This is one of the worst corporate cultures there is. “Imprecise” organizations generate a series of behaviors that destroy confidence in the team and prevent a culture of caring from developing between the members of a group.

The corollary of the principle of responsibility is the clarity of scopes. Everyone should know what he has to do. When things are unclear and people don’t know who does what and when the principle of responsibility is not clearly stated, then the scopes of action overlap. Then games of influence and political infighting start to develop, threatening cooperation between individuals and making the work environment conflictual and unpleasant. In such a climate, everyone has a tendency to see others as a potential adversary. The culture of caring has been stifled.

“Failing to clarify the scopes of responsibility amounts to killing cooperation and generating conflicts.”

It is illusory to think that the players will easily manage to agree on a scope. Failing to clarify the scopes of responsibility amounts to killing cooperation and generating conflicts. Creating a breeding ground conducive to developing caring thus becomes impossible.

Given that nature hates vacuums, individualistic strategies thwart the values of mutual support and the benefit of collective actions advocated by management. Employees end up noticing a profound discrepancy between the messages disseminated by senior executives and what they experience on a daily basis. How can one collaborate if people stab each other in the back to take a colleague’s project?

It takes courage and precision work if one wants clarity of scopes. Courage because roles have to be reexamined and habits have to be surpassed. Precision work because success lies in analyzing in detail the scopes of responsibilities and the relationships between a team leader and his team members plus the interactions between the team and the company’s other stakeholders concerned by the subject.

The “caring people” gradually train the others to behave the same way. And, in this way, the level of caring throughout the entire group rises.

The naysayers are increasingly isolated and must reform or leave because their behaviors are tolerated less and less. There are no sure guarantees that a culture of caring will succeed. Sometimes it takes years to build it and just a few months to destroy it, but a culture of caring is a culture that encourages people who are naturally inclined to exhibit caring behavior to demonstrate it extensively throughout their organization and then in their daily life.