To understand Spain’s business ethics, it’s crucial to understand the laid-back, family-oriented approach to life dominant in that country. While in some countries, such as the United States, a strong work ethic is defined as reporting to work early and staying until the job is done, in Spain, making time for family and leisure often takes precedence.
Business vs. Family Life
While some countries place great ethical importance on putting job duties first and staying until the work is done or the deal is closed, for Spanish business people, it is just as ethically important to make time for family. For example, many businesses close in the early afternoon so families can gather for the afternoon meal, the main meal of the day and an important gathering time for families. Some businesses re-open in mid-afternoon, but many don’t. This is also apparent in the ample vacation time Spanish professionals take. According to the website Countries and Their Cultures, the ability of a Spanish family to take a month-long vacation is a key symbol of wealth and success. You may find that Spanish businesses and professionals aren’t as accessible as their American counterparts, but this doesn’t mean they don’t take their work seriously.
According to Executive Planet, Spain has two business cultures. Larger businesses that have significant foreign involvement or interaction have usually adopted many international management techniques and styles, such as those prevalent in the United States. Smaller companies, however, retain many of their traditional values and practices. Hierarchy is as an important aspect of Spanish business and social culture, and Spanish business ethics dictate that employees respect authority and follow the orders of their superiors. Only the boss holds decision-making power, and may take a hands-on approach to management, but rarely solicits input from subordinates.
Cultivating a personal connection is crucial to establishing a business relationship, and the right personal contacts can help open doors. It’s also important to choose your business connections carefully, because in Spanish workplace ethics, once you’ve established a business relationship with someone, it’s difficult to transition to doing business with someone else. Spain’s ethical system also favors interacting primarily with people of the same rank, and it is considered inappropriate to relate primarily with people of a lesser rank.
Ethical treatment of women is in transition, with women gradually winning more respect and equality. Just a few decades ago, married women had to seek permission from their husbands for many things. Now, however, there are an increasing number of independent and employed women, but they may not always enjoy equal status to men. Even if they hold high-ranking positions, they may still be subject to traditional stereotypes, and expected to care for the children and household in addition to meeting the demands of their jobs. However, according to Countries and Their Cultures, women found few barriers and restrictions when they started moving into the workplace, and working women can expect many of the same freedoms in the workplace as women in countries where they have been part of the workforce for much longer.