This is a French language film set in a French corporation called Esen. We are told that while the characters are fictitious, the management techniques are not.
Emilie is an HR manager who was employed by Esen because she was willing to use her boss’s highly aggressive, unpleasant methods of getting rid of unwanted staff. Her boss does not want to fire staff (I am not clear why not). Instead, he wants HR head of department Emilie and other HR staff to get these employees to resign by making them offers that they cannot accept. For example, an unwanted employee known to have a seriously ill mother, is told that he is to be posted from France to the US. This employee, unable to leave his mother, resigns. If the targeted employees do not get the message and resign, then pressure is put on them in other ways to force their hands. In the case of Didier Dalmat, this pressure included side-lining him and humiliating him by e.g. relocating his desk to a small, dark corner beside the photocopier.
When Dalmat commits suicide while at work, investigators are called in. Emilie is their target and could face prosecution unless she can prove that she was following her boss’s, Froncart’s, orders. Froncart, of course, has no intention of being held responsible and passes the buck in Emilie’s direction……..
While the management techniques are totally believable, many of the characters in this film are not.
This film is set in the workplace, in an extremely competitive environment. In such an environment, employees, encouraged by heartless employers like Froncart, would be brown-nosing, backstabbing and generally trouble making. Bad employers hire bad employees. Seeing a colleague like Dalmat in trouble, they would also be kicking that particular dog while it was down or, to put it another way, they would behave toward Dalmat like sharks at a feeding frenzy. (I speak here from personal experience. I’ve seen it all in the workplace myself.)
In this film, however, they do not do any of these things. Even though, as I know, such a hostile atmosphere would be palpable, in this office the workplace atmosphere is unrealistically “clean”. In fact, employees are made out to be pretty decent people on the whole. They even present a united front in the face of Dalmat’s suicide. Thus, they are supposedly people who care because they get upset at the death of a colleague, or are people who would not betray their supervisor (in the same way that Sophie did not betray her supervisor, Emilie). Yet if Emilie had been hired because she was ruthless, as she had been, was she the only employee to have been hired on that basis?
No, of course not. To think otherwise is naive. Management sets the tone. If the management are heartless, then they will employ brown nosers, back-stabbers, informants and troublemakers. (Just as do the Crawley family in Downton Abbey.) This then begs the question, why did the director create such an unconvincing workplace environment? Ignorance? Hardly. Silhol is working in the film industry, one of the most hostile there is. Why, then? Answer: self-promotion.
The director of this film is making himself out to be a socialist. To this end, the working folks in this film are portrayed as decent people while management are portrayed as the baddies. This is, of course, complete nonsense. It is merely a piece of advertising by the director.
Finally, that Dalmat committed suicide supposedly because of his treatment at work does not ring true either. When placed under such workplace pressure, any healthy person would see the writing on the wall and resign, as most at Esen did. However, Dalmat did not. He hung around and took the abuse. Why? I suggest because he was already suffering mental health problems. Again, I’ve seen this sort of thing in my own workplace, this when a colleague was treated similarly to Dalmat because management also wanted rid of her. However, I knew this person personally as well as at work. While she had not before been diagnosed with mental health problems, it was clear to me that there was something wrong and that she was not coping with life in general e.g. due to depression. The treatment meted out to her by school management finally brought on a visit to the doctor, whom she would not otherwise have visited. A diagnosis of mental ill-health was the outcome.
I am not relating the above to excuse management abuse of employees. The abuse my colleague received at the hands of management was shocking. But I am relating the above to point out that the experience of Dalmat does not ring true either. As I said, any healthy person would have resigned, whereas Dalmat did not. Thus I suggest that Dalmat is being used in the film as a device to promote the socialist views of the director i.e. the workers suffering at the hands of management.
(As an aside, the medical profession clearly know nothing about mental health, as is obvious from their multiple approaches to mental health problems. Psychiatrists view mental health problems as being caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and treat patients with drugs. Psychologists, on the other hand, view mental health problems as behavioural problems and treat them with e.g. therapies such as CBT.)