Vive La Laziness!

Photo: Roberto Frankenberg

Last year, Corinne Maier, an ennui-prone economic consultant for Electricité de France in Paris, published a manifesto declaring the merits of showing up to one’s job—but only pretending to do any work there. Bonjour Paresse (Bonjour Laziness) soon landed her a disciplinary hearing for “pursuing a strategy of rotting the company from within.” Naturally, she went straight to her union, which went to the press, et voilà, the book was a bestseller. This month, the English translation comes out. But will it appeal to work-crazed New Yorkers? Jada Yuan spoke with Maier.

It’s 5:30 P.M. Paris time. Are you still at work?
No. I’m at home. But I don’t work every day. I work two days and a bit more.

Should you be working even less?
We should all work twenty hours, but my dream is to quit big business.

Haven’t you earned enough money from your book that you could?
Maybe if it sells in the United States. But there is another reason why I stay in my company: It bothers my bosses.

Do you now have carte blanche to skip meetings whenever you want?
More or less. In fact, they think I’m very dangerous, so they don’t invite me to meetings anymore.

The French work 350 fewer hours per year than Americans. Did they really need help slacking off?
Yes, because in my book, I advise people on how to pretend to work when they are at their jobs.

What’s your best advice?
It’s important to create the impression of being a team player. So workers have to be very nice to the managers, to speak the company’s jargon, to look very busy, and to cultivate a personal network while others are doing their jobs.

How exactly does that advance human society, much less your employer?
First, I don’t care. And second, it can be a social experiment, because if everybody does it, maybe society will change. The system will collapse. Laziness doesn’t help the economy grow. But it could create something else.

You’ve said you’re not a Marxist. What are your politics?
I’m just afraid of everything that is trying to make people like slaves.

New Yorkers are notorious workaholics. Should we be lazier?
Yes. But only people who are bored. My book is made to be read by people who think that what they do is useless. If they like their job, they won’t have to read it.

But what do you think of our work culture?
Americans think they can create themselves through work. They can become rich. They can change their life. In France we don’t believe in it.

Have you seen The Apprentice?
I’ve heard of it. I think it might be awful. It sounds very strange. They are competing to work. And it is so violent.

Do you admire Bush because he spent much of his first year in office on vacation?
I thought that was French propaganda!

Any job offers since the book came out?
Not one.

Now I have a confession. I know your book is just 135 pages, but I only read half. Do I need to read the rest?
It’s up to you. I don’t care.

Can you summarize the second half for me?
Yes, but not in English. It would be too much work.

Hard Workers Unite
Busy New Yorkers respond.

Al Sharpton
How many hours do you work a week?
About eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. I preach on Sundays.

So you love New York’s work ethic?
Absolutely. Anywhere else, you get off the plane, you have to train yourself to slow down. Everybody thinks you’re on steroids.

What’s the laziest thing about you?
I’ma member of a cigar club. But even there I try to do a little business.

Any value to Maier’s creed?
The only value I can think of is if you’re rehearsing for your time in your grave.

Bonnie Fuller
Editorial director of American Media

How many hours do you work a week?
A lot. It’s hard when you oversee 22-plus magazines.

Do you worry about your staffers feeling as nihilistically dissatisfied as Maier?
They don’t belong with me if they experience that feeling.

Any value to laziness?
Not unless you want to fail, which I don’t.

Donald Trump
How many hours do you work a week?
I don’t consider it work.

What’s the laziest thing about you?

Any value to Maier’s creed?
I think it’s appropriate a Frenchwoman has written it.

Jeffrey Leeds
Co-founder of Leeds Weld & Co., a private-equity firm.How many hours do you work a week?
I don’t punch a clock.

What’s the laziest thing about you?
Is reading a novel lazy? There’s a difference between leisure and being lazy.

Any value to Maier’s creed?
The point she’s missing is that even if you’re miserable six hours a day, that’s too much.

How do you prevent existential angst at your workplace?
Guacamole and beers every Friday. I’m kidding.

Vive La Laziness!