The macho company culture in Spain

door Regina Coeli


The macho company culture in Spanish-speaking countries is often a topic of discussion during the lessons in the Spanish Section. Machismo is deeply embedded in the culture of Spanish and Latin American countries and anyone doing business in these countries would do well to remember this.

Of all the Spanish trainers at the institute, there is only one man and his name is Jesús Renau Rodriguez de Bustamente. He was born and bred in Barcelona. His manner of speaking is calm and considered; he comes across professionally, has respect for his female colleagues and is polite to them. This is all a far cry from our idea of the macho man. Nevertheless, he has a lot to say on the topic!

Women had no say

“Machismo has always been deeply rooted in the patriarchal Spanish cultures. Under the Franco regime that held sway in Spain until 1975, women had very little to say and men saw certain rights as being naturally theirs. It is not as extreme anymore but it does depend on the size of the company and what kind of a company it is. Furthermore, it differs from generation to generation. The macho culture is still very evident in a number of South American countries.”

Many organisations are hierarchical in structure

The macho males are slowly losing ground as far as social life is concerned, but a large number of Spanish companies still have a macho culture. “Many companies are extremely hierarchical and are led by powerful bosses who are obeyed rather than respected. You can imagine how that affects the way in which colleagues communicate amongst themselves and how they interact with their immediate superiors. If you come from another culture, you have to learn to read the Spaniards. I have noticed that this takes a bit of getting used to, particularly for the Dutch and Germans. They are used to a much more direct form of communication.”
Four tips on how to communicate in a Spanish business environment

Here are some useful tips from Jesús for people from other cultures who would like to communicate successfully with the Spaniards in a business environment:

1. Watch your language. Use more formal language than you are used to and be careful with direct questions. These can be interpreted as being personal and therefore aggressive;
2. Be careful when you give orders (except if you are the boss). Ordering people to do things can lead to apathy because you are actually taking away the person’s own responsibility for a task. He will do what you have asked him to do but without commitment;
3. Do not take the language literally. Non-verbal communication is more important than what people say. Sometimes ‘yes’ means ‘no’. The differences are often subtle. If one colleague uses the polite ‘you’ form and the other the informal ‘you’ form, then it’s clear who will eventually be the one making the decision;
4. Do not be too forceful in a negotiation. If you say that you absolutely do not want something, then the negotiation will immediately break down.

Turning their backs on the macho culture

Of course, the above does not apply to all Spanish organisations. There are many that have non-hierarchical cultures. “Take, for example, a number of businesses in Basque land. Traditionally, men and women there had very different rights. Some companies have rigorously changed their structure to one of cooperation which has positively influenced the unemployment figures. Here, it didn’t take them long to turn their backs on the reigning macho culture.”


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