Conversation Between Boss & Employee

Conversation In French Between Boss and Employee (with audio)

Most French people don't address their boss like they would a friend or family member.  They're supposed to be formal and show respect for the corporate hierarchy.

On the other hand, French bosses traditionally tend to address their employees in a "bossy" sort of way, constantly reminding them who's the boss!

The French dialogue

The following is an example of French conversation between a boss and an employee.  Please note this is a more advanced French dialogue suitable for intermediate-level students.

-Dites-moi Durand,  où en est-on sur le dossier Sogelec? Ca avance ou pas?
-Je leur ai communiqué notre offre, Monsieur, mais je n'ai pas encore eu de réponse.
-Il faut les relancer mon vieux! Travaillez-les au corps! Il nous faut absolument ce contrat.
-Oui oui bien sûr, je rappelle leur service achats demain à la première heure.
-Pourquoi pas cet après midi Durand?
-J'ai pris mon après-midi Monsieur, des affaires personnelles à régler.
-Règlez les vite Durand, le dossier Sogelec n'attend pas! Il faut me le boucler avant la fin du mois!
-Aucun problème Monsieur Sennac, l'affaire est dans le sac.  Je suis très confiant sur ce dossier.
-Oui je vois ça, et c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète mon petit Durand! C'est bien ce qui m'inquiète...

Listen to the audio:

Here's the English version of this french dialogue between boss and employee:

-Say Durand, what's the status on the Sogelec account?
-I've sent them our offer sir, but I haven't had any response from them yet.
-You need to follow up on them buddy! Work these guys hard! We really need to close this deal.
-Yes yes, I'm calling their purchasing department first thing tomorrow.
-Why not this afternoon Durand?
-I'm taking then afternoon off sir, some personal business to take care of.
-Take care of it fast, Durand! The Sogelec account can't wait! it must be closed by the end of the month.
-No problem Mr.Sennac, consider it done. I'm very confident about the outcome of this deal.
-Yes Ii can see you are! That's what worries me, my dear Durand... That's what worries me..

Comments on the French dialogue

The boss asks something to the employee

Dites moi Durand,  où en est-on sur le dossier Sogelec? Ca avance?

The boss addresses his employee calling him by his last name and without using "Monsieur" - or any other title.  He also uses the formal "vous" form.

In France, that's typically the way someone higher up in the corporate hierarchy traditionally addresses a lower-ranking person.  In the same manner, professors often address their students by their last name.

Employees, on the other hand, prefix the boss's last name with "Monsieur" or "Madame" as a sign of respect.

Note that co-workers of comparable rank also often call each other by their last name as a way to maintain some professional distance. Only coworkers who get closer interact on a first name basis. 

There are exceptions, however: in some companies and industries, such as communication agencies or young tech startups, people tend to address each other by their first name and use "tu" instead of "vous" as a sort of "fashion statement", reflecting a hip and young work environment.

The boss prefixes his question with "Dites moi Durand" which introduces a bossy, authoritarian kind of tone, close to an order.  Note that the employee may not use "dites-moi" in such a way when addressing his boss.  Durand may, however, use "dites-moi" using a different tone:

Dites-moi M. Sennac, savez-vous si...?  (say M. Sennac, do you know if...)

The boss asks: "où en est-t-on sur le dossier...?"  This is a common way to inquire about the status of something:

Où en es-tu sur ta demande de résidence? (where do you stand / what's the status on your residency request)

Où en sont-ils sur leur projet de voyage? (what's the status on their travel project?)

Tu en es où côté boulot? (how are things job-wise?  A more informal use, equivalent to "où en es-tu")

The employee gives a less than satisfactory answers

Durand responds to his boss saying he did send out a business proposal:

Je leur ai communiqué notre offre, Monsieur, mais je n'ai pas encore eu de réponse. 

Here, "communiquer" is a formal term for "send".  Durand could have instead said: 

"je leur ai envoyé notre offre"  : I've sent them our offer

Notice how he uses "Monsieur" to respond, showing respect for his boss even though the latter merely addresses him as "Durand".

He adds:

Mais je n'ai pas encore de réponse

This is a commonly used phrase in French for all aspects of life:

J'ai envoyé une lettre à la sécu mais je n'ai pas eu de réponse (I've sent a letter to Social Security but I didn't gotten an answer)

Je n'ai pas encore eu de réponse de la banque concernant ma demande de crédit (I haven't received an aswer from the bank regarding my loan request)

The French boss explicitly suggests his employee should be more proactive:

Il faut les relancer mon vieux!

"Relancer" (literally "launch again") means to follow-up or get something moving in the context of a sales or administrative process. It can also be used to mean following-up with someone or with something:

Je vais relancer le client (I'm going to follow-up with the customer, e.g. on a pending proposal)

Elle doit relancer la banque (she has to follow-up with the bank, e.g. for her loan request)

Nous allons relancer le processus  (we're going to get the process moving again)

Note the expression "mon vieux" the boss uses. In French, "mon vieux" is roughly equivalent to "buddy" or "old pal".  It can be used in different contexts such as between friends, but also in more formal situations e.g. a boss talking to his employee where the employee is somewhat at fault.

Comment ça va mon vieux? (friendly, compassionate use)

Tant pis pour vous mon vieux! (it's your loss buddy): used with the "vous" so more formal, reproachful

Il fallait y réfléchir avant mon vieux! (you should have thought about it beforehand buddy)

Boss adds:

 Travaillez-les au corps! Il nous faut absolument ce contrat.

"Travailler [something or someone] au corps" is a common French expression that means to work someone/something hard - literally, doing some close contact work, e.g. in boxing.  The boss tells his employee he should be working harder on the customer to get the contract.

Je vais travailler Marc au corps pour qu'il accepte de nous louer son bateau  (I'll work on mark - I'll harass him - so he'll agree to rent his boat to us)

The boss wants the employee to work harder

The boss uses "il nous faut ce contrat" to explain why the employee needs to work hard on closing the deal. This is a very common phrase for saying something is desperately needed:

Il me faut absolument un café (I desperately need a coffee)

Il lui faut vraiment un copain (she really needs a boyfriend)

Il nous faut vraiment des vacances = nous avons vraiment besoin de vacances (we really need a holiday)

Oui oui bien sûr, je rappelle leur service achats demain à la première heure.

Durand replies he'll be calling purchasing ("service des achats") first thing tomorrow ("demain à la première heure").  This triggers a logical question from the boss, why tomorrow and not today?

Pourquoi pas cet après midi Durand?

"Cet après-midi" is commonly used in French for "this afternoon".  Note that French speakers love to shorten words, so they often use "cet aprem" in everyday colloquial talk.

It turns out Durand is taking the afternoon off for personal reasons:

J'ai pris mon après-midi Monsieur, des affaires personnelles à régler. 

In French, the expression "prendre sa/son [time period] is commonly used in the workplace for taking a leave:

Je prends mon après-midi: I'm taking the afternoon off

Il a pris sa matinée": he took the morning off

Elle va prendre sa journée: she's going to take her day off

Nous prenons notre semaine: we're taking the week off

Durand has some personal business to take care of, "des affaires personnelles à régler".  In France, employers are careful not to infringe any rules relating to employee leave for sickness or other personal reasons - there are many.  If they do, the company is likely to end up being summoned before the "conseil des prud'hommes", the French labor court. 

Thus, the boss can't demand that Durand stay at the office this afternoon and do his job. Nevertheless, he asks him to get his personal things done fast:

Règlez les vite Durand!

That is, "réglez vos affaires personnelles vite!"  The reason?  The Sogelec deal can't wait:

 le dossier Sogelec n'attend pas!

This is a more emphatic and solemn French expression to mean something is important and must be dealt with urgently:

Le devoir n'attend pas! (duty can't wait)

La justice n'attend pas! (justice does not wait)

The boss adds:

Il faut me le boucler avant la fin du mois!

A lot of colloquialism at work here.  The word "boucler" is (polite) slang for closing, in this case, the deal. "Boucler" is used in many ways, including completing a job, locking up someone (e.g. in prison) etc.

Notice the boss says "me le boucler", i.e. "close me that deal".  The use of "me" makes the statement more of an order.  Saying "il faut le boucler" would have a been soft way to state the end-of-month deadline, but the "me" makes it a personal demand from the boss.

This construction is commonly used in French to insist on the importance of a task:

Tu vas m'enlever tout ça! (you're going to remove me all of this)

Règle-moi ce problème tout de suite! (fix me this problem right away)

The employee plays down the problem

The French employee understands what this means, his boss is really serious about having to close the deal fast. He answers "no problem" and throws in a very respectful "Monsieur Sennac" to show he's being cooperative.  He then tries reassuring his boss:

l'affaire est dans le sac.  Je suis très confiant sur ce dossier.

The phrase "l'affaire est dans le sac" is an old French expression that's commonly used to mean "it's in the bag", "it's a done deal".  The employee is confident the deal is about to be closed.  Note the French expression "je suis confiant sur..." 

Je suis confiant sur sa capacité à réussir  (I'm confident in / I trust his/her ability to succeed)

Nous sommes confiants sur les résultats (we're confident about the results)

The boss is not as certain about the outcome of the deal as his employee says he his - the employee's confidence actually worries him even more, as he things Durand should be working the customer harder.

Oui je vois ça, et c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète mon petit Durand, c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète...

The expression "c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète" is a French colloquial phrase which means "that's exactly what worries me", referring to something that's supposed to be comforting but that actually has the opposite effect. 

Ne t'en fais pas, je gère.  (don't worry, I have everything covered
Oui c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète... (yeah well that's what I'm worried about)

Le dinner sera parfait, je l'ai préparé moi-même (dinner is going to be perfect, I've prepared it myself)
C'est bien ce qui m'inquiète...

Notice how the boss uses "mon petit Durand" and repeats "c'est bien ce qui m'inquiète" once more.  This somewhat patronizing tone is quite common in the traditional French culture, particularly in conversations between older and younger, boss and employee, professor and student, master and disciple... 

But Durand doesn't really care, he's taking his afternoon off no matter what, he will not work more than 35 hours in the week (per French labor laws), and will probably get paid the same even if the deal ends up tanking.  If the company goes bankrupt, he will probably get unemployment (allocations chômage) from the state for months until he finds a new job.

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