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Business and Workplace Culture

Spain - Business and Workplace Culture

When doing business in Spain it is worth noting that the Spanish prefer to work with those that they know, so relationships need to be cultivated over a long period of time. You will find that once you have built those relationships they will remain strong even if you move to another company. Most Spanish business people prefer face to face meetings rather than telephone conversations or email communication.

It is important to dress for the occasion and if you are in a business meeting you should always look smart as this is expected in Spain. If you are asked to talk about your achievements they expect facts that are presented modestly. The Spanish also expect workers to avoid confrontation where it is possible and when communicating – particularly with those you do not know very well – you should remain formal.

It is expected that when doing business in Spain you will deal with people who have the same rank as you in business and you should be aware that when you are in negotiations the decisions may not be made by the person that you are talking to, but could be made much higher up the ladder. You should expect to have every aspect of your work examined thoroughly. Spaniards will normally agree to a business deal verbally at first. Written contracts are always drawn up later. There should be no breaches of a contract on either side as the terms are considered to be final.

When you are in business meetings you should always make an appointment first and ensure you arrive on time as Spaniards consider that first impressions are important. First meetings are not normally for business, but for simply getting to know each other. An agenda is often drawn up but usually the conversation will deviate from the plan a great deal. Interruptions while you are speaking are normal and are not considered to be rude. Always have business cards with you and ensure you hand them out when you first meet someone. Your card should be in Spanish but can have an English translation on the other side. If this is the case you should always hand the card to the other person with the Spanish side showing.

The business language is Spanish, although some international companies will conduct meetings regularly in English. It has been traditional in Spain until recent years for women to take care of the home and family but this is changing as more and more women want to work full time. It is also no longer the case that most will work in their own family firms. In 1978 less than 21% of women worked but this figure had risen to more than 40% by 2002. The glass ceiling does exist, although gradually this is being broken down.

Sex discrimination has been strong in Spain and women generally earn around 30% less than their male colleagues. Women very rarely appear on the boards of large companies. The government has passed gender equality laws which prevent sex discrimination in the work place. A company which has more than 250 employees needs to have an equality plan in place which has been negotiated with staff.

Spain has agreed new anti-discrimination laws which cover other forms of discrimination. This includes race, age and health. Those who are guilty of breaking this law can be prosecuted and fined up to half a million euros. Schools which discriminate against pupils will have funding withdrawn and every government department has been involved in the planning of the legislation.

There are unions in Spain although membership is not compulsory. Strike action can take place quite often in some industries. Airport workers seem to strike on a regular basis although overall there are fewer strikes now than 10 years ago. Most strikes take place as a result of a lack of agreement when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement although strikes also take place when the terms of an old agreement are disputed. There are various mediation bodies which are available for those who wish to resolve a dispute without industrial action and most companies will have a procedure in place for dealing with the concerns of the workers.

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