Cultural Differences, Risks, and Difficulties of Working in Poland
The cultural differences between Poland and the US included the following. First, the Polish employees believed that they could become managers without experience. By contrast, the US employees believed that gaining experience in various business functions as a prerequisite for becoming a manager. Specifically, Americans believed that having adequate experience facilitated success among managers. Second, the Americans’ corporate culture rewarded competence and performance. The Polish culture, on the other hand, rewarded seniority because the Polish believed that experience and knowledge improved with age. The risk of this cultural conflict is that tensions and disharmony are likely to arise if old employees are forced to report to young managers (Primecz, Romani, & Sackmann, 2011, p. 87).
Third, the Polish employees valued discussion of personal information such as salaries. However, the Americans believed that confidentiality was a basic right of every employee. Third, the Polish employees valued individual success, whereas their American counterparts valued team success. This cultural conflict can lead to difficulties in achieving the company’s objectives if the employees’ goals are not aligned to those of the organization (Hill & Jones, 2012, p. 114). Fourth, the Americans’ culture promoted trust among employees and their bosses, whereas the Polish employees and customers did not trust each other and the company’s products. In this regard, it would be difficult to sell the company’s products in Poland. Moreover, the lack of trust among employees increases the risk of poor teamwork, which can lead to organizational failure (Hill & Jones, 2012, p. 116). Finally, the Americans believed in informality, whereas the Polish employees believed in informality. The emphasis on formality would prevent American managers from communicating freely with the Polish employees in order to identify and to solve their problems.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension
According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension model, the Polish employees had a high power distance in which unequal distribution of power between managers and subordinates was acceptable. By contrast, the Americans had low power distance. They valued close relationships in which managers and their juniors interacted freely as equals.
The Americans demonstrated high levels of individualism. For instance, maintaining privacy over personal matters such as salaries and rewarding hard work was important to them. By contrast, the Polish employees had low individualism because they valued intrinsic rewards such as positions and nurturing harmony rather than trust.
The Polish employees held the values of a masculine society where achievements such as an employee’s position at work or the type of car that he or she drives were very important (Cullen & Parboteeah, 2013, p. 96). However, the Americans considered such achievements to be meaningless. According to the Americans, performance and cooperation among employees were more important than personal accomplishments.
The US employees valued informal business attitudes, whereas their Polish counterparts believed in formal business conduct. This suggests that the US employees had a low uncertainty avoidance index, whereas the Polish employees had a high uncertainty avoidance index (Cullen & Parboteeah, 2013, p. 126).
According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension, the US employees had a low long-term orientation. This explains their focus on achieving self-actualization through individual performance and competence. On the other hand, the Polish employees had a high long-term orientation. This explains their belief that senior employees should have more authority than younger ones by becoming managers.
The Seven Dimensions of Culture
The culture of the US employees was universalistic since it promoted rule-based interactions such as direct communication and addressing others by their first names. However, the Polish employees valued particularism. For instance, they preferred to discuss their problems among themselves rather than reporting them directly to their bosses. The Americans’ culture promoted individualism where employees were expected to use their ability to achieve success at the workplace. By contrast, the culture of the Polish employees promoted collectivism in which individuals are evaluated based on their contributions to a group (Primecz, Romani, & Sackmann, 2011, p. 149). The Polish employees believed that everyone was responsible for his mistakes and contributions to the company.
The US employees had a specific culture, whereas their Polish counterparts had a diffuse culture. For instance, the Polish employees thought that developing a psychological contract with the company would create an overlap between their work and private lives. By contrast, the Americans believed that close involvement with the company could improve performance rather than negatively affect employees’ personal lives. Unlike the Polish who valued ascription, the Americans believed that every employee had a right to achieve high status through exceptional performance. In addition, the Americans believed in internal direction rather than outer direction. To elucidate, they believed that every employee could manage his career by working hard to climb the corporate ladder. By contrast, the Polish employees believed that external factors such as membership to a political party were important determinants of employees’ career development.
Analysis of Institutional Explanations
The Polish workers welcomed the US management style to improve the performance of the organization. For instance, both local and expatriate managers believed that individuals were to be promoted based on merit. However, implementing this strategy was a challenge because the Polish workers believed that age should also be considered when promoting employees.
The Polish employees also welcomed the US management style because they believed it would promote the development of the individual. The US management style would enable the workers to express themselves freely and to respect each other. However, the development of the individual was limited by the fact the Polish workers could not embrace free expression by criticizing various issues in the presence of Americans.
The Polish workers accepted the US management style to promote harmony within the organization. For example, most of them addressed their US counterparts by their first names as was required. Addressing the Americans according to the dictates of their culture was likely to prevent conflicts in the organization (Hill & Jones, 2012, p. 158). However, the Polish workers did not address themselves using their first names since it was against their culture.
Recommendations for Cultural Adaptation
The US managers should adapt their culture in the following ways in order to improve their management style. First, they should adapt their communication style to the needs of the Polish workers. Specifically, they should learn and encourage indirect communication in order to understand the needs of the Polish employees (Cullen & Parboteeah, 2013, p. 163). This strategy is supported by the fact that the Polish workers rejected the direct communication style by establishing an informal communication network to present their views to the US managers.
Second, US managers should change their approach to staff promotion. Apart from performance and competence, US managers should also consider age when promoting the employees. This will help in avoiding the resistance that is likely to arise when old employees are forced to report to young managers (Hill & Jones, 2012, p. 186). Finally, US managers should adapt their approach to employee integration in the company. In particular, the managers should help the Polish employees to increase their involvement in the organization without creating an overlap between their work and private lives.
Strategies for Strengthening the Organization
First, the joint venture can take advantage of the Polish workers’ low individualism to strengthen the organization. For instance, the company can use intrinsic rewards such as recognition and promotions to motivate Polish employees to improve their performance. Second, managers can take advantage of the Polish workers’ masculine culture to increase productivity. Since the polish employees value personal success, the company can compensate them based on the achievement of work targets (Primecz, Romani, & Sackmann, 2011, p. 211). For instance, the sales team can be paid bonuses based on the extent to which they achieve their targets. This will promote high productivity because the employees will strive to earn high bonuses in order to achieve their personal financial targets. Finally, the company can take advantage of the Polish workers’ indirect communication style to strengthen teamwork. To elucidate, the company can allow the Polish employees to form informal groups to articulate their problems rather than approaching the US managers directly. The participation in the groups will strengthen cooperation and teamwork among the Polish employees.
Cullen, J., & Parboteeah, P. (2013). Multinational management. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
Hill, C., & Jones, G. (2012). Strategic management: An integrated approach. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Primecz, H., Romani, L., & Sackmann, S. (2011). Cross-cultural management in practice. London, England: Palgrave.