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Cultures in a Polish-U.S. Joint Venture


Cultural distance influences the efficacy of management approaches in different cultures. The differences affect aspects such as negotiations and conflict resolution, which form part of business processes such as mergers and acquisitions, and labor negotiations (Metcalf, Bird, Peterson, Shankarmahesh & Lituchy, 2007). This paper evaluates the differences in culture between the US and Poland and their implications for US expatriates working in Poland, as highlighted in the case study by Cullen (2011).

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Cultural Differences, Risks, and Difficulties of Working in Poland Compared to the US

Cultural differences between US and Polish cultures are wide with the Americans culture leaning towards individualism whereas the Polish culture leans towards collectivism as influenced by Poland’s communist past (Nardon & Steers, 2009). For instance, due to the importance placed on age as a measure of knowledge in the Polish culture (Nardon & Steers, 2009), adjusting the system to a merit-based US-informed system in the joint venture was challenging (Cullen, 2011, p. 75). Additionally, the importance of context in communicating messages in the polish culture, as opposed to the direct approach of the American culture, presented communication challenges within the organization (Cullen, 2011, p. 76; Metcalf et al., 2007).

One of the challenges arising from the cultural differences between the US and Poland is in managing older individuals. Since Polish culture considers age as an important indicator of knowledge and skills (Cullen, 2011, Nardon & Steers, 2009), a young manager could fail to establish the required authority for effective performance when managing older subordinates. Similarly, due to the indirect means of communication that the Polish use (Cullen, 2011), an expatriate manager may fail to diagnose problems facing the subordinates early enough leading to failure.

How Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions explain the noted Cultural Differences

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions explain various cultural differences noted in the case study. American and Polish cultures differ widely with regard to the power distance index (PDI), individualism-collectivism index (IDV) and uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) (appendix figure 1). The American low PDI culture, unlike Polish culture that has a high PDI, believes that effective leaders need not have a high amount of power in comparison to their subordinates (Nardon & Steers, 2009).

Such is evident in the preference of U.S. managers for informal relations (e.g. use of first names) with their subordinates, as opposed to Polish managers’ preference for formal relationships (Cullen, 2011). With regard to IDV, whereas the Americans prefer merit-based rewards and direct appraisals and feedback to subordinates, Poles value an individual’s age in offering rewards and prefer an indirect mode of communication (Cullen, 2011). Further, the wide difference in UAI between the two cultures is evident in the Americans’ optimism about the future, compared to the Polish cynical approach evident from their non-belief in the entity providing quality products (Cullen, 2011; Itim International, 2012).

The American and Polish cultures do not differ largely based on Masculinity/Feminity score (MAS) and Long-term orientation (LTO) score (appendix figure 1). The score in MAS for both cultures indicates that both are masculine-oriented cultures whose individuals will tend to display their successes (Itim International, 2012). Whereas in the U.S. such demonstration is mainly by talking or writing about the successes, in Poland the demonstration is in the symbols (e.g. cars) that indicate one’s status (Cullen, 2011). The LTO scores indicate that both cultures are short-term oriented, i.e. being receptive to aspects such as measurement of performance on a short-term basis (Itim International, 2012; Cullen, 2011).

Institutional Explanations for Polish workers’ reactions to U.S. Management Style

Polish workers’ reactions to the U.S. management system can be explained by the differences in organizational cultures between American-led organizations and Polish state organizations. For instance, the Polish embraced the US-led organizational culture where individual hard work was rewarded thus offering opportunities for progress and higher-status achievement for all employees (Cullen, 2011).

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Additionally, establishing a culture where organizational structures are based on well-articulated goals (e.g. profitability and efficiency) provided workers with a sense of job security, hence such workers became receptive to the U.S management style (Cullen, 2011). On the other hand, the negative attitude towards non-disclosure of employees’ salaries to colleagues, reflect experiences in previous organizations where such a practice offered a means of establishing one’s status in the entity and society (Cullen, 2011).

Types of Cultural Adaptations for the U.S. Expatriate Managers in Poland

Cross-cultural adjustment training would help US expatriates managers to adjust to the Polish culture to enhance their performance (Waxin & Panaccio, 2005). US expatriate managers for instance need to develop cultural intelligence with regard to the mode of correspondence with subordinates who are their seniors in terms of age. Such adaptation would help them to use appropriate tone while speaking to the old employees, thus avoiding cases where such employees consider the manager’s speech to be a form of disrespect (Brislin, Worthley & Macnab, 2006). Recognizing such importance of age as a means of acquiring respect would also help the managers to be effective in their correspondence with other entities in the country.

US expatriate managers would also need to develop their emotional intelligence to avoid frustrations that could lead to stress. For instance, emotional intelligence would help managers to appreciate the indirect communication approach preferred by Polish employees. By being self-aware and having the ability to control their impulses, expatriates would avoid feeling out of place whenever workers use formal titles during their correspondence (Cullen, 2011).

How the joint venture can take advantage of the Polish cultural differences

Polish cultural differences present various opportunities for building a stronger organization. For instance, the collectivistic orientation of the Poles would help the entity to build strong relationships with clients outside the formal business arenas. Since collectivistic cultures place significant importance on the context in the delivery of messages, having managers who are comfortable within such contexts would help to foster business negotiations with clients (Metcalf, 2007).

The cultural differences would also enable the joint venture to enhance its capacity to better employee relations. For instance, knowledge of the cultural differences would help in negotiations to resolve labor conflicts thus avoid disruptions of the entity’s business due to industrial action (Metcalf, 2007). Additionally, the cultural differences offer an opportunity for employees to learn different cultures thus foster their effectiveness in global assignments.


Differences in cultures among nations influence how effective managers are in different cultures. Such differences are exemplified in the case study highlighting the experiences of US expatriates and their interactions with employees in Poland. Wide differences in US and Polish cultures were evident in the individualism-collectivism score, power distance index and uncertainty avoidance. Such differences necessitate US expatriates to develop cultural intelligence and emotional intelligence competencies to enhance their efficacy. Although cultural differences could act as barriers to effective management, such differences also provide opportunities for cultural learning that enhances one’s skills to manage in a global environment.


Brislin, R., Worthley, R., & Macnab, B. (2006). Cultural intelligence: Understanding behaviors that serve people’s goals. Group & Organization Management, 31(1), 40 – 55, Web.

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Cullen, J. (2011). Multinational management: A strategic approach (5th ed). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning

Item International (2012). What about the USA? Web.

Metcalf, L.E., Bird, A., Peterson, M.F., Shankarmahesh, M., & Lituchy, T.R. (2007). Cultural influences in negotiations: a four-country comparative analysis. International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 7(2), 147-168, Web.

Nardon, L., & Steers, R. M. (2009). Cultural Foundations (part 1): The culture theory jungle: Divergence and convergence in models of national culture. In R. S. Bhagat & R. M. Steers (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of culture, organizations, and work (pp. 3 – 23), Cambridge: Cambridge University. Web.

Waxin, M. F., & Panaccio, A. (2005). Cross-cultural training to facilitate expatriate adjustment: It works. Personnel Review, 34(1), 51 – 67, Web.


Differences between US and Polish cultures according to Hofstede’s dimensions.
Figure 1: Differences between US and Polish cultures according to Hofstede’s dimensions. Source: Itim International (2012). What about the USA?

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