The Michelin worker who whispers in the ear of executives

Her story is like a fairy tale. But a tale is often terrifying, and there are also villains, misfortunes and witches. In Michelin, number F276710 by Jean-Michel Frixon, there is no Prince Charming or castle but a factory, that of Clermont-Ferrand, where the author spent 43 years of his life. A whole career started on leaving the 3rd class, without the slightest diploma. When others enter high school, the author enters the workshop and becomes a “Bib”, as they are called there.

A career he recounted in this autobiography published in 2021. He evokes the pain of being only an unnamed registration number when he arrived, the pain also of slave labor, when he had to unload 10 semi-trailers per day. And the pain of humiliation again, that of “little bosses” as he calls them, who sometimes called him a “parasite” and drove two of his colleagues to suicide and many others to alcoholism.

Jean-Michel Frixon and his first work, after a life as a worker, and as an amateur sportsman too.
Jean-Michel Frixon and his first work, after a life as a worker, and as an amateur sportsman too.

But his book is not one more charge, a denunciation to the sulphate of the arduousness of factory work, or yet another display of the class struggle which opposes blue-collar workers to white-collar workers. Others have been doing it for a long time, with more or less skill. Unlike his predecessors, Jean-Michel Frixon does not denounce, he accumulates.

In its pages parade the bad “little bosses”which are now called the “toxic managers “, but also the good service managers, who trusted him and who, perhaps, saved his life. It does not call into question the company itself, not even the patriarchal governance which may have been exercised there, or which is still exercised there, but the lack of lucidity of the hierarchy sometimes, and promotions at the small week often.

The group management assumes

What he is talking about is the dictatorship of poorly trained or untrained junior chefs, who are clearly not in their place and, out of fear or inability to manage, come to humiliate their collaborators. Result: when his book appears in 2021, others than the Bibs recognize themselves in it, from other companies.

The direction of Michelin also ends up recognizing itself there. Jean-Michel Guérin, world industrial director of the group meets the worker writer and invites him to tell his story in front of the 15 most senior managers of Michelin, before asking him to start a tour of France to meet the ” little chefs” and workers from the group’s 15 sites in France.

From this experience, Jean-Michel Frixon drew a second book which has just been published. In The worker who whispered in the ear of executives, he notably evokes the total ignorance of the field by the senior leaders, and of course the enormous need for recognition of the workers. After this tour of France, Florent Ménégaux, the CEO of the group, wants the experience of the little Bib de Clermont to be known in all the countries of the world where Michelin is present.

For his part, Jean-Michel Frixon has just given a lecture to engineering students at the Ecole des Mines in Paris. Not bad for a man who left school without a diploma. Finally, his story is a real fairy tale, with its clashes, its misfortunes and its happy ending.

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