Avoiding the Bastille Moment

Another update from the Jungle…
image008Yesterday, July 14th, was the 226th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris, France. Americans should take a special interest in Bastille Day because there is a direct causal connection, as a lawyer would say, between the founding of the U.S. and that event.

France is our oldest ally, supporting us in the American Revolution. It wasn’t that the French liked us; it was more about their government policy to oppose the British. Unfortunately, France went bankrupt since running a war at sea and on land with Atlantic Ocean-wide supply lines is not cheap. So in 1789, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General, a legislature consisting of clergymen, aristocrats, and wealthy property owners. Louis wanted them to agree to new taxes.

The Estates General hadn’t met for over 100 years and during that time economic power had tilted in favor of the middle class but this change was not reflected in the political process. The middle class demanded constitutional changes that would give them political power to match their economic importance. By late June the king had caved in to their demands.

The legislature celebrated by changing its name to the National Assembly (still the name of the French legislature). Then they began plotting more radical changes. The king, aristocrats and the church fought to preserve their privileges. By early July, rumors were circulating that the military planned a coup to counteract the changes sought by the National Assembly.

On July 14th, a Parisian mob attacked the Bastille fortress trying to steal the gunpowder and weapons stored there so that they could defend themselves against the coup.  The storming of the Bastille is now considered the start of the French Revolution. It represents to the French what our July 4th means to us.

So what can business owners learn from Bastille Day?  Tin-eared responses to demands for change are bad for business. Employees who feel mistreated or unappreciated will leave for other employment opportunities. Customers who are treated poorly will trash the company on social media and buy from competitors.  To avoid a Bastille moment, business leaders need to stay attuned to changes in their workplace and their market.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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