Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

She Quit Her PR Career at 25 and Moved to Spain, and Her Book Helps Us Understand the Great Resignation

By Leon Kaye
Great Resignation

Abha Malpani was living the dream. At 25, home was Dubai, where she had a promising career at a public relations firm. Then one morning, she woke up, literally looked at herself in the mirror and imagined how her life would be in 10 years. She then crafted a bold exit plan to move to Valencia, Spain.

Now back in Dubai, Abha is a social media consultant, and we are proud to have her as an occasional contributor to TriplePundit. She recently published her first book, Diary of an Indian Girl in Spain: A Memoir.

As many workers mull what’s important to them in the midst of a global pandemic that seems to have no end in sight, her book is recommended reading for three groups of people. First, any worker who feels they are “stuck” but aren’t sure how to break out free from a career that is more of a personal struggle, if not soul-sucking, than offering any hope of success or fulfillment. Second, people in a supervisory or managerial role who are trying to wrap their heads around what their direct reports are thinking and why they seem less than enthused or distracted. Third, anyone who feels that a colleague is far less than 100 percent engaged might also score some insight from the book.

In short, that just about covers everyone.

“Are you crazy? You want to leave your skyrocketing career to move to Spain!? Have you ever been there? Do you know anyone there? Do you speak Spanish?”

That tirade to which Abha was subjected occurred more than 15 years ago, yet it sums up what many employees often hear if they dare to tell their boss they are moving on to other opportunities. Her response was fairly muted, as would be the case for many employees when they decide to share such news; after all, most wait to share their true feelings about an employer in the safe haven known as Glassdoor.

Most of the book is a fine chronicle about Abha’s adventures and misadventures in Spain: the quest to find wireless internet, finding short-term work to pay the bills, nauseating boat rides to off-the-beaten-path islands, and holding her own as an Indian woman while dealing with Spanish men.

It wasn’t always easy, but her journey was definitely rewarding, and what she learned has helped her in the more recent stages of her career.

“I’m too young to be working in a job that yes, pays but for all the wrong reasons,” she wrote at one point. “The last five months have probably been the most nourishing for me because for the first time I took time off and did exactly what I want to do. Why should things be different now?”

While written in the mid-2000s, those words certainly ring true now. 

This Great Resignation isn't necessarily new: Many of us have had that "what's the point" feeling, as our grandparents' and great-grandparents' formula of entering a company, having a safe job and being able to enjoy a secure retirement has long evaporated. The past 18 months, however, have accelerated and exacerbated this rethink about what work is all about.

Whether they are standing all day during their shift at a store or are working from the sofa, the pandemic and everything that came with it has made many people rethink their priorities. Perhaps they’ve had months of hell dealing with customers or traded a toxic office for a toxic virtual space.

There’s no easy solution for solving the Great Resignation, but as companies struggle to maintain that pipeline of talent, the rules we lived and worked by only two years ago do not apply any longer. It’s up to companies and managers to figure out and shoot for bold answers. A sabbatical, unpaid or partly subsidized? An entirely new position in a different department or function for those eager to learn new skills? Unlimited leave? A monthly day or days off where everyone shuts down and takes time to chill?

“The impact on small and medium enterprises, where finding departments of one is not unusual, will be especially severe,” wrote Phillip Kane for Inc. “As with any potential crisis, addressing the situation is best achieved once one understands what is causing it.”

Therein lies the challenge for companies: You can’t plan and solve for which you can’t, or are unwilling to, understand.

Image credit: Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye