The Ideal Workplace

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Document 1 : First day at the Circle

My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven.

The campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands. On land that had once been a shipyard, then a drive-in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight, there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain. And a picnic area, with tables arranged in concentric circles. And tennis courts, clay and grass. And a volleyball court, where tiny children from the company’s day care center were running, squealing, weaving like water. Amid all this was a workplace, too, 400 acres of brushed steel and glass on the headquarters of the most influential company in the world. The sky above was spotless and blue.

Mae was making her way through all of this, walking from the parking lot to the main hall, trying to look as if she belonged. The walkway wound around lemon and orange trees, and its quiet red cobblestones1 were replaced, occasionally, by tiles with imploring messages of inspiration. “Dream,” one said, the word laser-cut into the stone. “Participate,” said another. There were dozens: “Find Community.” “Innovate.” “Imagine.” She just missed stepping on the hand of a young man in a gray jumpsuit he was installing a new stone that said, “Breathe.”

On a sunny Monday in June, Mae stopped in front of the main door, standing below the logo etched into the glass above. Though the company was less than six years old, its name and logo — a circle surrounding a knitted grid, with a small ‘c’ in the center — were already among the best known in the world. There were more than 10,000 employees on this, the main campus, but the Circle had offices all over the globe and was hiring hundreds of gifted young minds every week. It had been voted the world’s most admir­ed company four years running.

Mae wouldn’t have thought she had a chance to work at such a place but for Annie. Annie was two years older, and they roomed together for three semesters in college, in an ugly building made habitable through their extraordinary bond, something like friends, something like sisters — or cousins who wished they were siblings and would have reason never to be apart. […]

While Mae was still at Carleton, meandering between majors, from art history to marketing to psychology — getting her degree in psych with no plans to go further in the field — Annie had graduated, gotten her M.B.A. from Stanford and was recruited everywhere, but particularly at the Circle, and had landed here days after graduation. Now she had some lofty2 title — Director of Ensuring the Future, Annie joked — and had urged Mae to apply for a job. Mae did so, and though Annie insisted that she pulled no strings, Mae was sure Annie had, and she felt indebted beyond all measure. A million people, a billion, wanted to be where Mae was at this moment, entering this atrium, 30 feet high and shot through with California light, on her first day working for the only company that really mattered at all.

Dave Eggers, The Circle, 2013.

1. cobblestones: stones used to pave roads.

2. lofty: both pretentious and prestigious.

Document 2 : The world of Westminster

Mhairi Black’s Diary of a novice MP… our heroine goes through looking glass into the world of Westminster

At 20, Mhairi Black is the youngest MP to sit in the House of Commons since a 13-year-old aristocrat took his seat in 1667. […]

This week, she made it into Time magazine and pretty much every other newspaper and magazine in the planet – while still stud­ying for her finals at Glasgow University. Despite all that, she was able to keep a diary of her first week in Westminster for Sunday Herald readers. Here it is: […]


Tuesday was when I really got my taste of the ‘Palace of Westminster’. There are ‘doormen’ who are located throughout the building dressed incredibly decoratively with long black tail coat jackets, white bowties and a solid gold royal emblem that hangs from their waistcoats to show they are her majesty’s guards. The thing that I have found most striking is just how lovely all the doormen (and women) are, not only in their general manner, but in the great lengths they go to in order to ensure you are okay and are where you need to be. Westminster is an absolute maze with all the nooks and crannies you could possibly imagine, so I have been lost very many times and have subsequently become very familiar with the staff!

It is fairly difficult not to at least momentarily get sucked into the grandeur of the building itself. Mosaic floors, tapestries that reach the ceiling and the odd solid gold throne dotted about through­out the array of lavishly decorated rooms. Even despite the friendliness of the staff, you cannot help but feel you are in a historic and upper class estate due to the dress code. The building itself is a fortress from which you never need leave. It has umpteen dining rooms, bars, lounges and social areas which are equipped to deal with any desire you may have. Sitting out on the Terrace in the London sunshine I began to realise how people do become sucked into the Westminster establishment. Westminster is a bubble. It is closed off from the reality which surrounds it. As I was walking about enjoying the art work and the history in the pillars which surrounded me I continually had to bring things back to reality in my own head. This is not a museum. It is a place of work. Whilst I may be enjoying the sunshine in impressive and comfortable surroundings in the heart of the world famous Palace of Westminster, there are still children going to bed hungry in Paisley. There are still people in and out of work being made to feel helpless in Johnstone as they queue up at foodbanks to avoid starving. There are still hard working families in Elderslie who are witnessing the price of food go up but their wages remaining stagnant. It is not a museum, it is a place of work – it is the place where these wrongs can be changed.

The Herald –, 17 May 2015 (abridged).

compréhension 10 points

Document 1

 The place

1 Is this “campus” (l. 2) a university Justify with two elements from the text.

2 What is the name of this place

3 How does this place give an impression of success and power Give four elements from the text.

4 What are the short messages on the ground Give two of them. What is their goal

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront la question 5.

5 What sort of image or impression do these messages on the ground convey


6 What is Mae doing in that place, on that day Quote from the text.

7 What is her first impression Quote from the text.

8Considering her university training, did she expect to get that kind of job Justify your answer by referring to the text.


9 How are Mae and Annie related Explain in your own words.

10 How successful was Annie at college (Give one element.)

How successful is she professionally (Give two elements.)

11 Why does Mae feel indebted to Annie (Explain in your own words.)

Document 2

12 Why isn’t Mhairi an ordinary Member of Parliament

13 What type of text is it Copy out the correct answers.

a) a newspaper article

b) a blog

c) an autobiography

d) a diary

e) an interview

14 Show the “grandeur” (l. 24) of this place. Find two elements.

15 Pick out two elements that show it is a traditional institution.

Documents 1 and 2

16 Compare and contrast these two workplaces. (Find a different and a similar aspect.)

17 “Westminster is a bubble” (l. 33). Explain this expression and compare Westminster with the “campus” (in document 1).

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront la question 18.

18 Focus on the end of document 1 (from l. 37 to l. 45). To what extent are Mhairi and Mae’s first impressions similar

expression 10 points

Les candidat(e)s des séries ES, S et ceux de la série L qui ne composent pas au titre de la LVA traiteront au choix le sujet 1 ou le sujet 2. (300 mots +/- 10 %)

Les candidat(e)s de la série L qui composent au titre de la LVA traiteront le sujet 1 (200 mots +/- 10 %) et le sujet 2. (250 mots +/- 10 %)

1 One day later Mae tells Annie about her first day at “the Circle”. Imagine and write their conversation.

2 In your opinion, what is the ideal workplace

Les clés du sujet

Document 1


Dave Eggers (1970-), écrivain américain, est l’auteur de plusieurs romans populaires dont The Circle publié en 2013. Il a également fondé le magazine littéraire McSweeney’s.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Mae arrive pour sa première journée de travail au Circle. Elle est très impressionnée par le bâtiment et le parc qui l’entoure. Elle se dit qu’elle doit cette embauche à son ex-camarade de chambre à l’université.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

Rambling (l. 2) : construit de manière anarchique  blight (l. 5) : (ici) une ruine  to squeal (l. 9) : pousser un cri perçant  to weave (l. 9) : (ici) zigzaguer  to wind around (l. 15) : serpenter autour  to be gifted (l. 28) : être doué  to room together (l. 32-33) : être compagnes de chambre  bond (l. 34) : lien.

Document 2

La source

The Herald est un quotidien écossais fondé en 1783. Il est considéré comme l’un des plus anciens journaux en langue anglaises.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

L’article présente Mhairi Black, la plus jeune membre du Parlement depuis 1667. Pendant sa première semaine à Westminster, elle a tenu son journal personnel, où elle a fait part de ses impressions sur cette institution britannique hors du temps.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

A doorman (l. 12) : un portier  a maze (l. 19) : un labyrinthe  nooks and crannies (l. 20) : les coins et recoins  the staff (l. 22) : le personnel  lavishly (l. 26) : somptueusement  umpteen (l. 29) : innombrable.

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes décrivent les premières réactions d’une nouvelle employée face à un lieu de travail hors du commun. La première est séduite par sa modernité et son innovation, alors que la seconde semble impressionnée par la tradition et le poids historique du lieu.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Une direction possible

Mae semble croire que son embauche au Circle est due à son amie, et pense qu’elle doit s’en montrer reconnaissante. Elle va faire part de ses premières impressions concernant ce lieu moderne et imposant qu’elle estime être « la seule entreprise qui compte ». Son amie sera certainement contente que Mae s’y sente bien, mais va insister sur le fait que cette embauche est liée aux capacités de Mae.

Key ideas

I can’t thank you enough for helping me get this job. You’re the best friend a girl could ask for.

You’re being ridiculous! I’ve told you a thousand times, I didn’t do anything! You got this job thanks to your own hard work and abilities!

Le sujet d’expression 2

Une direction possible

Définissez d’abord les critères qui font d’un lieu de travail un lieu parfait. Par exemple, le bâtiment, la localisation, les services de proximité, les équipements. Préférez-vous un lieu ultra-moderne avec des gadgets dernier cri comme au Circle  Ou plutôt un bâtiment traditionnel qui a une histoire 

Key ideas

In our modern world we need a modern workplace. We need the latest designs for computers and work stations where people can both collaborate and work independently. State-of-the-art technology is the best way to make companies more efficient.



Document 1

1This “campus” is not a university: “a workplace” (l. 10) “the headquarters of the most influential company in the world.” (l. 11-12).

2 The place is the main campus of “the Circle” (l. 27).

3“The campus was vast and rambling” (l. 2) “400 acres of brushed steel and glass” (l. 10-11) and “A million people, a billion, wanted to be where Mae was at this moment” (l. 46-47) “this atrium, 30 feet high” (l. 47).

4 The messages are motivational. “Dream” (l. 17) “Participate” (l. 18). Their goal is to influence employees to become an active part of the company and to help it prosper.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L LVA.

5 These positive messages convey hope and inclusion but at the same time give the impression that the company is a kind of cult.

6 Mae is “on her first day working” (l. 48) in the Circle.

7 The first line quotes Mae’s thoughts: “My God […]. It’s heaven.” (l. 1). She seems to think the company is perfect and can’t believe how lucky she is to have a job there.


to be in awe of : être impressionné par

8 Not at all! Mae is in awe of this place. She had been “meandering between majors, from art history to marketing to psychology” at university “with no plans to go further” (l. 37-39).

9 Mae and Annie were roommates and very close friends at university. They considered each other as sisters.

10 Annie was extremely successful at university: “Annie had graduated, gotten her M.B.A. from Stanford” (l. 39-40).

Professionally, she has been equally successful: she “was recruited everywhere” (l. 40-41) and now she has “some lofty title” (l. 42).

11Mae feels that without the help and influence of her friend she would never have been offered the job at the Circle. She considers herself to be very lucky to have a friend with the power to do this for her and will be eternally grateful.

Document 2

12Mhairi is not an ordinary MP because she is only 20 years old and is still at university. She is the youngest MP since 1667.

13 This text is a) a newspaper article which includes an extract from d) a diary.

14“Mosaic floors, tapestries that reach the ceiling and the odd solid gold throne dotted about” (l. 24-25) “The building itself is a fortress” (l. 28).

15The doormen are “dressed incredibly decoratively with […] a solid gold royal emblem […] to show they are her majesty’s guards” (l. 13-15) there is also a strict “dress code” (l. 28).

Documents 1 and 2

16 The workplaces are very grand and impressive: both for the character concerned and also for society in general. On the other hand, the Circle is a modern business whereas Westminster is a very traditional political institution.

17 “Westminster is a bubble” because it is completely self-contained and detached from the realities of the outside world. It is easy to forget how important this place is to the rest of the world outside. In the “campus” of the Circle, this bubble idea is also present. Like a university campus there is everything you need there: a creche, sports grounds and picnic areas. It is a place to live not just a place to work.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L LVA.

18 Both women feel privileged to work in their respective environments. They feel part of an elite as both places are highly coveted by others. Both Mhairi and Mae feel they have expectations to live up to. Mhairi in a political sense, she wants to change things and not just be part of an imaginary world. Mae, due to the fact that she feels indebted to her friend for getting her the job.


1 Guidelines


to gush : s’extasier

HR : Human Resources

to tire of : se lasser de

to be headhunted : être recruté par un chasseur de têtes

“I just can’t thank you enough! It’s like a dream” Mae gushed as she thanked her friend for the fifth time that evening.

“I keep telling you,” Annie said sighing “I didn’t do anything. It was your CV that got you this job, not the fact that I already work here! I don’t even know anyone in HR.” As much as she adored her friend she was beginning to tire of the conversation. “And what would I give as a reference Take my ex-roomie because she makes great pancakes and can’t decide what to do with her psych degree !”

“Whether you helped or not, the Circle is the most amazing place, don’t you think ” Mae went on. “It’s a dream come true! The atmosphere is like nothing I’ve ever experienced!”

“That much is true” her friend replied “I still can’t believe that they headhunted me after college! It’s an amazing place to work. I never get sick of it like so many other people seem to with their boring 9-5 jobs.”

“But, doesn’t it bother you that we are expected to spend so much time on campus That we are encouraged to work late and socialize only with other employees Isn’t it a bit creepy ”

“Now you come to mention it, there is that,” Annie said frowning. “I’d never really thought about it. Maybe there is more to this company than meets the eye…”

2 Guidelines


state-of-the-art : dernier cri

to see the point : voir l’intérêt

Modern, state-of-the-art and elegant. Those are the three words that, for me, exemplify the ideal workplace. In our modern world, we need modern places to live and work. Why have all of this technology around us that is constantly developing if we don’t use it in the workplace

For many years, people have worked in boring offices which are far from their homes and which lack creativity and modernity. In my ideal workplace, there would be everything you could ever need to make your working day as productive and as pleasant as possible.

We hear about companies like Google or Apple who provide different facil­ities and advantages for their staff: games rooms, a gym, a pool, bikes to get around the campus. That is exactly the kind of place where I would like to work. I don’t see the point of just going to work to sit in front of a computer all day on an uncomfortable chair until 5pm. I dream of working in an environment which adapts to the needs of its employees: desks that could move up and down so you can work in different positions, open-plan spaces that can be modulated into cubicles depending on whether you want to work alone or in a team. There are so many possibilities.

It needs to be aesthetically pleasing too: with warm colours and furnishings to make people feel comfortable.

All these elements reunited in the same place would certainly be a dream workplace for me!