Polish Management Style

Poland remains a somewhat hierarchical business culture and managers could probably be best described as authoritative. (Although this has to be written with a caveat around the national origins of the company – a US company will work hard to ‘teach’ US management theories to its local managers.)

Therefore, managers will be less democratic and participative than in certain other European countries such as the Netherlands or Sweden.

It would be expected that the manager knows the answer to difficult problems and that the manager issues direct instructions to employees. As Poles are direct in their speech patterns, these instructions can sometimes seem to be given in a very abrupt manner. Subordinates can get frustrated if instructions are not given in a precise and comprehensive way – and this can result in work remaining unfinished.

It is expected that more junior colleagues show great respect to their superiors and this will often result in meetings being dominated by the most senior person present. Despite the Poles love of direct speech, it is probably unwise to directly contradict the boss in an open meeting. As the manager usually makes the decisions, it is important to cultivate relationships at senior levels.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Poland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Poland has been the most successful of all the countries in central and eastern Europe and has managed the transition from its former Soviet era system to a liberal, free-market economy remarkably well. Poland even grew during 2008 whilst the rest of the world was in seeming economic meltdown.

How did Poland achieve this success when so many of its neighbours have found the transition much more difficult? Poland got its institutions right from the outset – it focused on the rule of law, on property rights, democratic accountability and on building robust market institutions. Having got those things right, it then worked hard at making EU accession a success. The result? One of the smoothest movements from middle-income to high-income status on record.

Many international companies have found doing business in Poland to be highly profitable and have benefited from a well-educated population who are both internationalist and aspirational. Many Poles have worked abroad, learnt English and then returned home to work for one of the many global companies who have set up operations not only in Warsaw but also many of the second-tier cities.

If you are thinking of doing business in Poland or with Polish colleagues we recommend that you learn about Polish business culture in advance. Poland has manged to work smoothly with its Western European neighbours but that does not mean that it has adopted the same approach to day-to-day business activities as Germany (it’s largest trading partner.) Poland has its own unique business culture which is, like the rest of Poland, going through a period of transition – some say it has more than one business culture split along generational lines. Why not find out before you get there?

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Polish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips