Anyway, who cares about class in this day and age? On the face of it, Italians seem so egalitarian and unassuming that you wouldn’t think it matters a lick. But it does matter, and nowhere is pedigree more important than in the workplace, where nepotism is the name of the game. Admittedly, the oldboy network is alive and well in the United States in certain industries, but in Italy, all good jobs are relatively scarce. There just isn’t the same selection there is in the United States, where new companies are born and grow every day. In Italy, the few new businesses that do grow very large tend to be family-run. The CEOs often have the same name as the company itself. Rarely do you hear of a tycoon who started from scratch. With a few notable exceptions, those who land the choicest jobs in the business world are raccomandati; that is, protgs of a well-connected clan.
In the workplace, everyone knows their part and plays it well. The boss is addressed as direttore (literally, director). Such democratic inventions as flat companies and glass doors between the management and the staff are laughable concepts in Italy, where firms are run like fiefdoms”the power is almighty, but so is the protection, namely, job security. For reasons discussed later, you wouldn’t think of job-hunting if you already have a job. For those in positions of authority, a business suit is obligatory, and you’ll never really feel out of place in Italy if you’re dressed to impress. If you walk into a store and are well dressed, you’ll be addressed as signore or signora. The same people who wear jeans and T-shirts into the store can expect to be referred to as il ragazzo or la ragazza. (It’s a very rejuvenating feeling to be a 30- something and still be referred to as that boy over there who wants a coffee.) In Italy, it is not success, but merely the appearance of success, that counts.