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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Poland

The guidance offered below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Poland.

It provides some useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Polish employees in their global or multicultural teams.

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Being a Manager in Poland

The business culture in Poland is still undergoing a transition as the country beds in a free market system.

  • Professionals tend to be formal so it is best to err on the side of caution and adhere to conservative etiquette and protocol.
  • There are marked differences between young entrepreneurs and older businesspeople.
  • Younger businesspeople generally have a less bureaucratic approach.
  • There is an abundance of institutions that regulate business practices in Poland.
  • To successfully manage in the country you will have to navigate a myriad of rules and regulations.

The Role of a Manager

Successful management is more likely to be achieved with some knowledge and understanding of Poland’s history.

  • Management in countries of the former Soviet Union is a complex, constantly evolving state of affairs.
  • Each country moving towards a market economy (with its’ accompanying protocols) at a different pace.
  • The transition to a free-market economy has brought about remarkable, but not wholesale changes in the business culture.
  • Generally, among the older generation, you will find deference to authority, coupled with a sense of loyalty and a detached attitude toward meeting the objectives and goals of the company.
  • Among younger workers, however, you’ll find an eagerness to explore the new opportunities that the market has to offer.

Approach to Change

Poland’s cultural appetite for change is developing all the time. The country is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk.

  • The fear of exposure and the potential embarrassment that may accompany failure means cultural sensitivity will be required.
  • Failure can be viewed as a personal shortcoming and can cause a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Poland is a moderate time culture and typically there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.

  • When working with people from Poland, in order to achieve effective management, it is advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon.
  • Global virtual working 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.

Decision Making

In businesses that retain a strong hierarchical structure, managers tend to be autocratic. They expect their subordinates to follow standard procedures without question.

  • In such companies, getting things accomplished is often a matter of knowing the right people who can then help circumvent the bureaucracy.
  • In more entrepreneurial companies, individual initiative is prized and managers expect subordinates to work out the best course of action according to the current situation.

Boss or Team Player?

In post-communist nations, there is a tradition of teamwork inherited from the communal aspects of the previous era where groups and work units commonly met together to discuss ideas and create plans. However, those plans seldom resulted in implementation or results, leading to apathy and cynicism among the workers.

  • Today the after-effects are still evident among much of the older generation resulting in a lack of drive and energy.
  • However, there is vibrancy among the younger generation, who seem to be eager to tackle many of the challenges and take the opportunities presented.
  • They will participate in teams and share ideas, but sensitivity will be needed and it should be understood that they will need to be coached in the process.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Personal relationships are important. Poles prefer to do business with people they trust.

  • Communication is often direct to the point of appearing blunt.
  • Negotiations are straightforward and not emotional.
  • Poles can be fearless and frank negotiators and are detail-oriented and may ask many questions.
  • Poles may provide data without analysis.
  • Committees are often formed to make decisions so that no one individual bears all the responsibility.
  • Business moves slowly since most decisions require approval from multiple people.
  • It may take several visits to accomplish your goals.
  • This is especially true if the government is involved.

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