Intercultural business communication in Spain

Being a Manager in Spain

Cross cultural management in Spain is more likely to succeed if you understand the level of formality required in business dealings. Communication is often indirect, which means that body language will be as important as the spoken word. A firm handshake, direct eye contact and underplaying your accomplishments are very important, as they indicate an understanding of proper business behavior.

The way you present yourself is extremely important in Spain. Dressing well, similar to the people you do business with, and maintaining proper respect for individuals if they want a formal relation, is necessary.

The Role of a Manager

Successful cross cultural management is more likely is you bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage.

In Spain, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.

Approach to Change

Spain’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Spain is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.

The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Spain is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Spain will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.

While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.

Global and intercultural means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met. Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.

Decision Making

Decisions are reached at the top of the company and are delegated downwards. Employees expect to be counseled about performance issues in private.

For effective cross cultural management it is important to remember that employees are accustomed to working with the same people for years and develop strong ties to their co-workers. They do not like to be put in situations where they are expected to compete against people whom they know and with whom they have a long-standing personal relationship.

Boss or Team Player?

Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.

Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies. The leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, but they do not dominate the discussion or generation of ideas. Praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.


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