Great Resignation: from the U.S. to Italy, why has the phenomenon of mass resignation arrived in Italy?

With the term Great Resignation we want to indicate the phenomenon of mass resignation, an increasing number of people, are voluntarily leaving their jobs. 

The pandemic from Covid 19, with the introduction of smart working, has certainly contributed to an acceleration of this trend. Among workers, a general desire has emerged to reclaim time to devote to themselves and their families, to sport, to raise their quality of life, and, above all, to look at work differently to defend the coveted work-life balance.

Mc McKinsey & Company study

According to recent research by Mc McKinsey & Company, a multinational strategy consulting firm, 40% of workers worldwide want to change their position shortly. Among employers, 53% said they have voluntary turnover compared to previous years, and 64% of them expect the problem to get worse in the future. Great Resignation or Great Attrition – as the multinational called it – will therefore be a phenomenon that companies will have to learn to cope with. But there is one piece of data from the McKinsey & Company study that is even more interesting and leads to profound reflection: of the nearly 6,000 people of working age interviewed in Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 36% quit without having an alternative, i.e. without having a new job waiting for them.   

In different eras, job and/or assignment changes and transitions from company to company happened with ease because economies were experiencing positive economic times.  The pandemic crisis has subverted this paradigm and to quote McKinsey: ‘Great friction’ or ‘Great attraction’? The choice is yours.” 

The Great Resignation in the U.S.

The phenomenon of great resignation originated in the United States. That’s where the term was coined by Anthony Klots, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, to refer to the trend of mass voluntary resignations, as mentioned, in part to escape stressful work schedules and to seek out companies with better employee-employee ratios. 

To understand the magnitude of the problem, one need only consider that August 2021 – according to U.S. Department of Labor data – saw a peak of 4.3 million Americans voluntarily leaving their jobs. In the spring, the estimated figure was 4 million. 

Mashall Langer’s opinion 

Regarding the extraordinary nature of the situation, we spoke with Marshall Langer, Professor of the Specialized Master in Finance at Rome Business School, an expert in finance, management, and business psychology, who confirmed: 

“The Great Resignation is certainly in part a consequence of the emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the phenomenon we are witnessing on a global scale is much broader. There are many reasons for this: the inability to go to work due mainly to the more or less long periods of lockdown and/or quarantine, but also partly due to the significant government stimulus that in some cases has encouraged people not to work, and also partly due to dissatisfaction with an underperforming job.

In the U.S., $5 trillion has been earmarked for refreshments: today, paradoxically, some people can make more money by not working than by keeping their underpaid jobs. It is not at all wise, in my opinion, to continue to reward people for not working, Prog. Langer says. 

Leaving your job is never an easy choice, and often it’s not just a matter of salary, but rather a matter of not feeling valued in an organization, which affects your self-esteem and your ability to advance your career. In America, the approach to work is different than in many other countries because it rewards an employee’s abilities, there is more ethics in employers, and you don’t get ahead by heredity or last name.

“I worked on Wall Street,” Langer continues, “and we were always challenged to do something new, something unique. It was a constant challenge: only good results were reconsidered. That’s the challenge of the business world. From this perspective, it’s no accident, for example, that Google, Apple, Netflix, Amazon were born in America, companies that could easily have been started elsewhere. It’s a question of mentality“.

Great Resignation in Italy

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies, nearly half a million people in Italy opted for voluntary resignation in the second quarter of 2021. Many factors may have determined these choices: the unblocking of layoffs, turnover, the passing of Quota 100, the Citizenship Income, and the desire for improved working conditions. But there is a worrying fact: according to the findings of the Labour Inspectorate, voluntary resignations in the months of the pandemic concerned mainly women: it is certainly too difficult to reconcile family time, especially with very young children, with working time in the total absence of job sharing.

It will therefore be important, also in our country, to introduce different working methods based, where possible, on space-time flexibility with greater benefits for a better quality of life, with an eye to the satisfaction of the worker towards more satisfying tasks related to his or her abilities. 

The relationship between family and work 

According to Marshall Langer, the dynamics of the Italian and American family-work systems reflect the diversity of the two societies and mentalities with a different value placed on work: 

“In Italy, where I lived for 17 years, I noticed an important amount of time dedicated to the family, the real pillar of society, perhaps because the worker is often poorly paid despite the important commitment made. This is one of the triggers that lead the individual to look for something else. If Italy wants to be competitive at a global level and to attract foreign capital, it must go in search of talents and competencies to reward”.

The point, therefore, is to overcome the paradigm of the ‘family’ approach to work and open up to an international mentality, going beyond ideological fences based also on ethnicity and religion to measure oneself against competitors on a global scale.  

“The choice must fall on “a first-team,” and this, I’m sure, would inspire the new Italian generations to not want to change jobs and stay in Italy, because the only real difference, all over the world, is the way things are done. An ambitious vision, but real and concrete: economic success leads to social success and happiness. Look at China, the policies adopted by Deng Xiaoping, the courage to overturn the rules that led the country’s citizens to be happy, even if poor. Businesses Schools and Universities are important in this sense because they push for excellence.”

Actions to curb Great Resignation 

Is there a recipe for dealing with a phenomenon that could, in the long term, undermine the global world of work and business? It would seem that there is: start again from man, from his needs, peculiarities, and potential. Follow the path indicated by Leonardo da Vinci, the Vitruvian Man, an expression of the microcosm and the entire cosmos on a human scale. The companies, and more generally the societies, that will know how to reorganize themselves by focusing on the growth of their employees, investing in their skills, and motivating them for goals to be achieved, will be the only ones that will remain competitive. Innovation and digitalization will then do the rest.

MARSHALL LANGER 

A native of Miami, Florida, Marshall received his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and has additionally taken extensive graduate coursework in counselling psychology at New York University. Marshall enjoyed a 12-year career in diverse business and finance sectors in the U.S. and Europe. He has worked on Wall Street on investment banking and risk arbitrage for firms like Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette as well as in trading for BNP Paribas. He further worked in the areas of corporate management, marketing strategy, management consulting, and real estate. Marshall has also taught at universities in New York, Rome, Connecticut and China.  

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