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Bad and Good Employers in Italy

Are Italian companies bad employers, or are Italians bad bosses?  The answer seems to be yes, and no.

Some people do seem to think so.  Italy Chronicles reader Terry who works down in Rome was not at all complimentary about Italian employers.  Terry, with great respect, is but one person, but I cannot entirely disagree with his somewhat blunt observation.

I, too, have had some experience of Italian employers and that experience has been somewhat mixed.  Some of the bosses I’ve come across in my time in Italy have been seriously weird people.  So weird, it made me wonder just how come they had managed to become bosses or company owners.  They were not what I would call good bosses and tended to exploit employees.

To give a couple of examples, both from a so-called freelance environment:

  • How about only offering you work in the most out of the way corners of Milan and not paying travel expenses?  Or,
  • Expecting you to be available for 12 hours a day and then not offering you any more work if you refuse to grant such companies all your time?

Work for 12 hours a day was not guaranteed and in some cases, would only be one and a half hours.

Stories of bosses treating employees like virtual slave labour in Italy are, from my experience, relatively common place.  Salaries, in some cases, are kept at derisory levels, but employees I know of, who are grateful to have a job, and fearful of not being able to find another, tend to put up with their not always pleasant working conditions and unpleasant bosses.  For some employers in Italy, workers are there to be exploited.  No wonder Article 18 exists.

Reader Jennifer, who lives, for the moment, in Sardinia has a few horror stories to tell about awful Italian bosses in her recent post: The Raw Reality of Expat Life in Small Town Sardinia  If you are thinking of coming to work in Italy, I recommend you read Jennifer’s post first.  Although she talks about Sardinia, the situation is pretty much the same all over Italy.  You have been warned!  La Dolce Vità is not always so ‘dolce’.

Not all the stories are bad though.  I do know of people who have been, and as far as I know, still are treated very well by appreciative Italian bosses.

As you might expect, I am not the only one curious to know whether Italian bosses are monsters or saints.

While The Great Places to Work website does not go into details about individual bosses, it does have a list of the best companies to work for in Italy.  One can assume that the bosses in such companies are not monsters.

In the small and medium enterprise top workplaces in Italy category, there are no Italian companies in the top 10 which are:

1. Tetrapak

2. Cisco Systems

3. Microsoft

4. Nissan

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5. W L Gore and Associates

6. National Instruments

7. Pepsico

8. ConTe – Admiral Group

9. Quintiles

10. Medtronic

You might be surprised to see such big names as Microsoft, Nissan and Pepsico included in a list of small and medium sized enterprises.  This is because none of these big multinational have a huge presence in the Boot.

The rest of the list of the 20 best workplaces in Italy is here: The best Workplaces in Italy in 2012 – in Italian

Italy does fare much better in the large company category with an Italian company in the top spot: Elica, a furniture manufacturer with around 1,400.  The second placed company FATER is also Italian, even if it is a joint venture between the Angelini family and Procter & Gamble.

Four out of the top ten best workplaces in the big employer category are Italian, or almost, companies.  The complete list is here: The Best Large Companies to Work for in Italy

What About You?

Have you worked for an Italian boss?  What was your experience?  Was the boss a monster or a saint?  No names of companies or individuals in comments, please – they will be removed.

Are Italy’s bosses worse or better than bosses in other countries?  What do you think?

Coming up shortly, something similar on the subject of Italian employees, just to be fair.


Featured image by Alfred T. Palmer.

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