Polish Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Expect to be introduced by a third party or the host of the meeting if you are the guest.
  • Meetings tend to begin and end with small talk at the instigation of the host.
  • Listen respectfully to anything managers have to say.
  • Hard facts and projections are more likely to appeal to them than broad claims or boasting. Arrogance is generally unappreciated.
  • Be frank about your approach, but tactful regarding their feelings.
  • You can expect them to argue against you quite fiercely if put under pressure. Aggressive behaviour is considered somewhat justified when people are unduly criticised or insulted.
  • They tend to have quite a discerning eye for fairness. If they are sceptical of your trustworthiness or business integrity, they may push back or avoid doing business with you.
  • Avoid appearing as though you are only concerned about the outcome of the deal. They will be looking for an honest commitment to the process and quality of relations.


Relationship Oriented

Generally, Poles like to build personal relationships with those they do business with and get to know people’s personalities. While people interact quite formally, there is a lot of ‘professional closeness’. Australians can misinterpret this and become too casual, open and spontaneous in the initial stages of getting to know people. It can be wise to keep a healthy distance in your business friendships as close relationships can often entail favours in the workplace later on. In communist times, people had to rely on personal contacts heavily; connections were especially important as they could help a person get introduced, obtain information, navigate around the bureaucracy or get access to authority figures. This tendency to use personal contacts to further objectives has somewhat remained.


Business Hierarchy

Polish workplaces and businesses are quite hierarchical. People are quite non-assertive to those in positions of power and managers expect full attention. There is a defined distance in between those who are superior and subordinate. It is unlikely for people to be cold with one another, but one is generally more formal when talking to their manager.


It is a rather new practice for staff to give feedback to their management. Therefore, independent initiative may not always be appreciated when it comes from those occupying the lower ranks of a business. Subordinates will be noticed and appreciated most if they work hard. This being said, managers usually look to stress that ‘everyone is important’ to an organisation.


Shifts Since Communism

There was a fundamental economic shift following the end of the socialist era in Poland. Described by some as ‘rampant capitalism’, many people have had to work harder in order to re-establish themselves. Things could be improvised as people adapted to structural shifts. However, this improvisation is becoming less of a feature in Polish business culture as the country is now much more settled. See ‘Problem Solving’ in Core Concepts for more explanation of the Polish approach to problem solving.


Considerations

  • Polish businesses tend to have a tolerance for imprecision.
  • Expect that telephone and email responses may not be prompt.
  • Not all Poles have defined boundaries between their private life and personal life. Due to the sometimes unpredictable and impromptu nature of business, phone calls can be conducted late at night outside of office hours.
  • Some people may hold several full-time jobs at varying locations.
  • On the Corruption Perception index (2017), Poland is ranked 36th out of 176 countries, receiving a score of 60 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is moderately clean from corruption.
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