Wednesday, January 15

Working in Italy - What NOT to do

People who accuse me of picking on Italy usually think I really dig for the dirt.  I usually respond with the fact that most of my information comes from Italian newspapers, conversations with taxi drivers, men-in-the-coffee-bars, that sort of thing.  But I nearly spat out my cappuccino today reading about a "new phenomenon" that has crossed the radar screens of HR personnel across the Boot.  That's because, not only have I experienced this since 1992, the situation will be one excerpt on my forthcoming book about doing business in Italy.  The article dealt with the delicate situation on how to handle mamma or papà accompanying their precious bambino on the job interview.
From an excellent blog post from Flown & Grown
in which I discover that in this brave new world of helicopter parents
that this is not necessarily a wholly Italian phenomenon
I used to warn my staff when hiring in Italy, when I ran a small subsidiary for an American multinational, kindly decline the interview for anyone who's mother called for the appointment. I once got a mamma on the phone who took umbrage at my suggestion that...If La Mamma had to make their appointment, I didn't want that person as my employee. She did what any mother would do - she stuck up for her brilliant salesman son.  She upbraided me, telling me that her son "could not be expected to make the calls himself from his current employment, now could he?" (In his/her defense, it was the age before ubiquitous mobile phones).  I offered that he had a lunch break, didn't he?  
Mammas & Papàs would often be waiting in my waiting room, or in the hallway just outside the door.  I would have to commend the moral support vibe and sheer commitment, but it often left me bewildered more than bewitched by the candidate's drive. The article went one further, citing that some people in the hospitality industry, actually had the parent walk into the interview altogether.
Mamma out of the room, these same people then said that the next faux pas was to ask, almost immediately, how much the job paid.  Again, in my tiny little office world, this happened time and again.  You should see the look on their faces when I would respond, "Absolutely nothing.  Or at least, that's what I'll be paying you if you don't first tell me why I should hire you in the first place, and what you're going to do for me."
If cellphones had been handy at the time, I could just see these kids texting away as if in the university exams room, desperate to emote the correct reply.  Today, they probably ask for a 'Life Line' and make the call to the parent out in the car, anyway.
In the U.S., according to Flown & Grownnow we have Take your parent to work day! You can read about one mom's misgivings on the topic which I share wholeheartedly.  Of course, it's easy for me to come down so hard - I don't have kids.  But still...With Italians living longer than ever, and parents around til kids are in their 70s, I can't help but think why that youth unemployment is over 50%.

Check out my latest post on Irreverent Italy!
Life in a tourist destination...


Anonymous said...

This is starting to become a problem here in Australia too. In my last company we had to deal with parents calling for interview feedback a number of times. Our receptionist (who had a 95% strike rate on who we would eventually hire, btw) was told to treat all interview feedback as confidential between the company and the candidate. It really doesn't make a good impression if a person can't even be bothered to call back themselves!

Irreverent Italy said...

Wow. This is really disheartening.

Janey said...

In a past life, ie last year,I worked at a law firm in Sydney. My funniest interview was with a young girl who turned up with her huge (and I am not exaggerating) Tongan boyfriend who sat through the interview and even got on the telephone at one point.

Needless to say she did not get the job.