3 Keys to Polish Business Culture

by Djulia Montana de Veyra

No longer a centrally planned economy, Poland has made massive strides towards creating a stable market-oriented economy. Since the fall of communism, the country has put a lot of efforts into economic restructuring, adaptation of global financial and legal standards, and liberalization of trade. Recent changes in Poland’s economy have made it grow at an increasingly quick pace, providing an ideal environment for internships.

St. Mary's Basilica in Poland
Beautiful St. Mary's Basilica, the home church of Pope John Paul II. Photo by WSA Europe

Learning more about the local business culture will help you thrive as an intern in Poland; read on to find out the three keys to successfully understanding Polish business culture:

Management Style

Poland has retained a hierarchical business culture overtime. While management styles may differ among different personalities and company cultures (especially for American or multinational companies in the country), you should expect your Polish manager to be authoritative. Managers in Poland are generally less democratic than those in other European countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands. They are always expected to know the solution to difficult problems and tend to issue direct instructions to employees, who are supposed to follow without question. 

The Poles are known for favoring direct communication styles, and the same holds true for Polish managers who have a habit of throwing quick and abrupt instructions. This managerial style sometimes leaves subordinates frustrated at the lack of clear instructions, which occasionally leads to unfinished or subpar work. Seniority is an important concept in Polish business culture, especially evident in meetings where the senior employees dominate most of the discussions. Polish subordinates should try to learn to hold back their usual habit of direct communication, as cultivating a healthy relationship with the seniors is vital to their own personal success.

Business Meetings

Poles like to arrive at a meeting well prepared and they expect the same diligent preparation from others. Those who are unable to meet this expectation will be deemed unprofessional. The meeting’s agenda is also planned well in advance and proceedings are expected to follow the agenda, with very little room for deviation. People are expected to arrive on time, and meetings are always adjourned at the pre-arranged time. In general, Poles are very time-sensitive and always keep things on schedule. 

Before meetings start it is traditional for Poles to exchange cards, with no hidden meaning other than sharing contact information. Keep in mind that people in Poland put a lot of value on titles and educational background, so business cards typically incorporate the two.

Meetings in Poland are formal affairs. Attendees take turns to speak, expecting minimal interruptions. If you come from a culture where people tend to be emotionally expressive, you will have to make little adjustments in Poland. Do not take it personal when people do not express any kind of reaction while you are talking. Lack of physical responsiveness in meetings is very common and does not translate to lack of interest. Individuals will verbally express their response when they feel it is necessary.

Team Dynamics

Locals tend to be suspicious of people they have just met, a characteristic people attribute to Poland’s history of Soviet-era uncertainties and foreign domination. Sometimes this tendency can affect the dynamics of newly formed teams, taking more time for teams to establish camaraderie. Extra efforts to build team unity, like trust-building exercises, may be necessary in Polish companies.

Now that you're armed with the keys to success in the Polish business world, it is time to find an internship in Poland!