Ask the Queen: Am I on the way out?

As proof of your good fortune, the last queen of France runs a weekly advice column from this space. If you need guidance or a willing ear, send an email to the queen at whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot com to be answered on Sundays.


Ilustrations of me as a harpy should have been my first hint.

My queen,

I love my job but lately cutbacks have meant changes and I’m worried that a major project I work on will be taken away and given to outside contractors to save costs. Lately, there have been meetings that have been scheduled without me and all signs point to something major. What do I do?

-The Redundant

There are signs when your time is up. Closed door meetings. Reassigned projects. No one looking you in the eye.

Wusses.

French Revolutionaries were a little more direct. When they wanted you, they came and got you. In my case, a motley crew of fisherwomen, peasants, and men dressed as women (and those unlucky enough to be near any of those people) trekked 13.6 miles on foot to Versailles to forcibly bring the King and Queen to the French capital. They walked them back while parading the heads of the royal guard on pikes.

The message was clear. We will address your performance issues.

If only the real world were that black and white. It’s almost enviable. Instead of resentful co-workers who re-do your work while muttering under their breath, you could have people dedicated to engaging you. A team committed to the change. And really, if people walked with you carrying a head on a pike, wouldn’t you be persuaded to listen?

Today’s French people are just as direct. In 2009, French workers got into a nasty habit called “bossnapping”– kidnapping a boss to protest furloughs, layoffs and business closures. A poll by CSA showed 45 percent of French people surveyed approved of the practice. An FOP survey for Paris Match had only 7 percent condemning the practices. 63 percent did not approve but understood. It was like Les Misérables meets The Office.

Technically, “bossnapping” is the clumsy English  equivalent for the more elegant “séquestration.” They’re sequestering you. That’s not scary. They’re not mad at you, silly. They just want to talk. That’s it. Just talk.

The world for me and Louis was changing during the revolution. My French relatives and friends had long ago left for safer borders. Some were trying to rule France from abroad. My life, and my family’s were clearly at stake. But to be honest, even we were slow to realize it. We were cautious but the change makers were bold. We could have easily been the changemakers ourselves if we’d ever seen ourselves in that role.

Take stock of your situation. Think first about how things are, not about how you’d like it to be or how it was. Is it likely to improve or worsen? Now ask yourself what your main advantages are: likely that you’re still at the company and at one time had been chosen for a valued project. Do you think there are other projects in your future at this company? Are you treading water and would benefit from a fresh start? Is there a perfect change you can envision? Your own personal revolution?

Don’t pussy foot about your own future. Stress your contributions to the firm ask for direct responses regarding the  changes you don’t yet understand. If you’d like to be those contractors (and have done the math on how that would work) suggest it. If you think you can shape this new change, ask for an opportunity to help. From your employer’s responses you can guess if there’s a future role for you (vague references to “we” and future projects are good; Too much talk of “you” and “changed direction” could mean an end).

Regardless, take a page out of the revolutionaries book and be ready to make the change you ache for. Network to gauge your options outside the firm. Work on a project you care about on the side. Your change will not be easy, it will not be pretty.  But you will at least stop wondering and waiting when it will come to you (as we often did) and put your own wheels in motion.

What do you think? Did the Queen get it right? Put your suggestions in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Ask the Queen: Am I on the way out?

  1. Juliet Grey says:

    Very witty — and on point (or spike). Of course the aristocracy demanding their perquisites (ditto the clergy) made it very difficult for Louis and Marie Antoinette to change anything even if they wanted to. Their “progressive” ministers’ reforms never really made it to fruition because the clergy and nobility fought back too hard. Not much has changed in the U.S. today. The people paying the bulk of the taxes keep getting screwed while those who get out of it will always fight to keep their loopholes despite shrieking for governmental reform.

    Poor Marie Antoinette, who had no governmental role at all, being only a consort, was merely a graceful scapegoat.

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    • mistressoftheblog says:

      Very true, Juliet. Many elements of Marie’s time hadn’t changed before the revolution because there were plenty of people who didn’t want them to. marie does get an unfair share of attention since she had visibility (albeit no actual official governmental role). In her way she did run her own revolution, I’ve always felt, by changing her attire and dialing down the etiquette and just escaping the madness. It wasn’t very popular (and she might have done things more gracefully) but in her way, she changed a lot.

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  2. Ladycathead says:

    Wow, I had no idea about the Bossnapping! It almost sounds like a French Revolution of the movie Nine to Five. Couldn’t you imagine Miss Dolly Parton with her towering blonde wigs in Rococo fashion? LOL

    You are right about manifesting change…it’s easy to feel helpless when a job you love goes south. I know because I’m there right now. But I’m using this time to explore other options and I’m trying things I never would have tried if it weren’t for this. It’s a mixed bag of blessings…lots of manure but I’m trying to grow flowers out of it.

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    • mistressoftheblog says:

      I would love a revival of 9 to 5 with dolly parton and the french revolution. That would be beyond awesome. (when someone ultimately steals this idea, let’s make sure we remember that you thought it up first (and here!)).

      I think you’re doing exactly the right thing, Lady CatHead. THat’s great that it’s pushed you to try new things you wouldn’t have tried otherwise. I’m sorry for the cause of it but I’m excited for the result. (and as we all know, some of the best blooms come from the worst…well, you know. 🙂

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