Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are there bridges to consider?

On the front page of the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday was a headline:  Spain Plans to Burn its Bridges to Keep Vacationers on the Job.

My imagination saw bridges across rivers and roads being blown up.  Debris flying everywhere like a World War II film.  Wrong.  The bridges they plan to destroy are not concrete structures.  These bridges are days of the workweek that link two holidays together.  For example if a holiday falls on Wednesday then Thursday and Friday create a “bridge” to the weekend.  Suddenly a one-day holiday becomes a five-day vacation - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  (

Why the concern?  Reduced productivity and competitiveness for Spanish enterprises. Thanks to bridge days people aren’t in their offices.  Meetings are hard to schedule.  Projects delayed.  Just one example was a woman who managed to use the "bridges" to add 14 days to her officially granted 36 holiday days one year.  Thirty-six days became 50 days  - 10 weeks of time off.  Great for the tourism industry.  Not so great for the larger economy.  

But what struck me weren't the difficulties relating to  management issues, projects stalled, decisions delayed.  Rather it raised practical, logistical questions:     How would you know when to go?  When could you schedule a conference, a meeting with a partner, client, customer?  Will anyone on your team be available for an urgent Skype meeting?  What dates do we select for a global conference? 

The article is a reminder that knowing the date of a legal holiday isn’t enough. You need to know the pattern of activity associated with a holiday.  Does everyone travel?  What are the bridge days?  The forms of celebration?  How important is a particular holiday is in the country, the culture?

In a recent newsletter Sonia Garza, of Garza Protocol Associates ( pointed out two instances where not paying attention to holidays and the pattern of celebration had an impact on business, politics and diplomacy.  One noted that the Chinese officials did not attend Economic Forum at Davos due to a conflict with the celebration of Lunar New Year. 

The second mentioned that a firm manufacturing in Mexico didn’t recognize the two week holiday that is part of the Christmas celebration there, endangering their ability to deliver an order in early January.

These stories remind us that it isn’t enough to consult a calendar and note the date of a legal holiday.  We have to do some research, ask the questions:  How is the holiday celebrated?  One day or many days?  Remember  - look for the bridges.

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