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International Construction: British Managers in Poland Report

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2021

The modern business world is characterized by a high degree of cross-cultural communication and collaboration. Multinationals operate in different countries, which is often associated with various challenges related to the economic, political, social, and cultural peculiarities of the host countries. The cultural aspect of doing business is often underestimated, which leads to negative outcomes such as financial and reputational losses (Garavan et al. 2017). The construction industry may be specifically vulnerable since it often involves considerable investment and the collaboration of diverse groups including but not confined to policymakers, local people, small companies, and international partners and institutions (Tijhuis and Fellows 2017). Effective communication is one of the prerequisites of the successful implementation of international projects. This paper includes a brief analysis of possible barriers to effective managerial communication during the construction of the complex in Poland and strategies to be employed to overcome these challenges.

Major Barriers to Be Encountered and Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

Power Distance

This report is based on Hofstede’s cultural framework that is regarded as a viable instrument to measure cultural peculiarities of different countries. Although this paradigm is sometimes criticized for overgeneralization, it is widely employed in business research and has proved to be effective (Clarke 2017). It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom and Poland are rather different in terms of almost all cultural dimensions according to Hofstede’s paradigm (Hofstede Insights n.d.). These differences should be considered so that appropriate communication patterns and channels could be developed. At this point, it is necessary to note that the differences between the countries are mainly associated with their past political agendas. Poland was under the rule of the Communist Party, which made it develop a non-Western perspective and managerial behaviors (Eisenberg et al. 2015). Nevertheless, during the past three decades, Polish people have adopted western attitudes in many aspects of their life, which is also obvious in the business sphere.

Power distance is the dimension that reflects people’s attitudes towards authority and power distribution. This dimension is regarded as one of the most influential in terms of communication within multinational organizations. Poland is characterized by a high score (68), which means that it is a hierarchal society where people value centralization and authority. At the same time, there is an apparent shift in the business environment as an increasing number of employees report that they would like to have a supportive leader (Eisenberg et al. 2015). However, more discipline and higher results are achieved in companies with autocratic managers, which unveils the need to have a closer look at each employee. Oswald et al. (2017) emphasize that this dimension has a substantial impact on working place safety in the construction industry as UK and Polish managers and employees have different attitudes towards responsibilities and authority. UK managers may find working in such a working atmosphere rather inappropriate because British people prefer using a democratic leadership style.

Training is one of the central strategies that are necessary for the facilitation of cross-cultural communication. Training programs should address all the dimensions so that employees could understand each other’s worldviews and motivations (Targowski 2016). The development of communication skills should be one of the major priorities, which will result in the successful implementation of the project. The use of advanced technologies is essential since it reduces training costs and makes it more accessible and effective. Social networks can be instrumental in bringing people together during training projects (Wankel 2016). Apart from gaining specific sets of data, employees should be able to develop cross-cultural social ties, which will facilitate communication and collaboration within the organization. The use of such technologies may need certain training as well, but this investment will have a positive influence on the venture.

Apart from staff training, it is also important to ensure the use of proper communication channels. As far as formal communication is concerned, the company’s information systems should be characterized by wide access to a knowledge base and a communication platform with well-established levels. Supervisors should be able to inform employees, and the latter need a user-friendly reporting channel. Linear communication platforms should also be available, and Polish employees may be encouraged to utilize them, especially when it comes to knowledge sharing and innovation. Wankel (2016) states that Millennials are the group that will benefit from the use of advanced technologies and social networks. The use of mobile-based platforms can also be considered as it will facilitate the communication process, which is quite important for the construction industry.

Individualism

Individualism is another cultural dimension that has a substantial impact on the development of organizations. Polish society is rather individualistic with a score of 60 (Hofstede Insights n.d.). To compare, the UK’s score is 89, which makes it one of the most individualist nations where individual achievements and inputs are highly valued. As mentioned above, the influence of the communistic past is seen as collectivist values that were inflicted on Polish people for decades (Eisenberg et al. 2015). One of the major implications for managers related to this cultural peculiarity of the Polish society is the need to develop relationships at two levels.

On the one hand, hierarchy and power distribution should be strict and well-defined. It is essential to offer formal communication channels with a top-to-bottom approach. The introduction of standards and protocols will also be favorably accepted. On the other hand, managers should try to establish personal relationships, which will make Polish employees (at different levels) properly motivated (Soja 2016). As mentioned above, the ambivalent perspective in Polish society requires a personalized approach to employees whose views may differ significantly. Apart from training, UK managers must praise individual input and make it visible through benefits and appraisal. One of the characteristic features of the relationships between the UK and Polish managers will be attention to every individual’s needs and the creation of an atmosphere where everyone is important although unequal (Hofstede Insights n.d.). Soja (2016) also claims that managers should be supportive and guide the most active employees, which will help in addressing Polish people’s ambivalent attitude towards power and individualism. These measures may require certain training as British managers may be unprepared for such tasks.

Masculinity

The two countries have almost identical scores in the masculinity dimension with 64 for Poland and 66 for the United Kingdom. The analysis of this dimension shows that Polish and British managers focus on competition and equity rather than the favorable atmosphere in the working place. However, the proper working environment is still quite relevant in both cultures. Reporting and performance assessment may be beneficial strategies that would contribute to effective cross-cultural communication. This dimension can become the basis for effective collaboration and communication as the objectives and behaviors of the two nations are quite similar. The use of social media can become the communication channel utilized to share knowledge and find the points of convergence (Wankel 2016). Managers can create video blogs sharing their views on performance, organizational goals, communication issues, and other challenges or opportunities. The development of social links during training programs can become the ground for the creation of a favorable working environment.

Uncertainty Avoidance

The two societies are very different in terms of the dimension of uncertainty avoidance as Poland scores 93 while the UK scores only 35 (Hofstede Insights n.d.). This cultural aspect may be associated with various issues related to strategic planning and innovation. Polish employees try to avoid any uncertainty, so rigid rules and traditions are highly valued. Changes and innovation tend to be resisted as people try to adhere to the rules and behaviors with known outcomes. As mentioned above, the construction industry is characterized by complexity and rigorous standards, so this dimension is specifically influential and should be considered when developing cross-cultural communication patterns (Tijhuis and Fellows 2017). This attitude towards the unknown also explains the leadership styles prevailing in the two cultures. In societies with high uncertainty avoidance, leaders tend to make decisions without involving their subordinates, so autocratic styles are mainly employed (Clarke 2017). In Poland, managers are regarded as primary decision-makers, while UK leaders often encourage employees to take an active part in discussions and the decision-making process.

To ensure effective communication, UK managers should try to minimize the degree of uncertainty. The development of protocols and guidelines can facilitate the communication process as all stakeholders will be able to adhere to certain standards that are associated with an appropriate degree of certainty (Tijhuis and Fellows 2017). It is also important to make sure that the decision-making process involves managers who are willing to play an active role in this context. It has been acknowledged that employees who have international working experiences are more open and prepared to adopt western business strategies (Hammond et al. 2017). Therefore, UK managers need to identify Polish managers with western orientation and those who follow traditions. Each of these groups will require the development of specific communication strategies.

Long-Term Orientation

Long-term orientation is the cultural dimension closely related to uncertainty avoidance. This dimension is associated with the use of a normative or pragmatic approach to the future (Lai 2017). Poland’s score is rather low (38) while the UK scores more (51) (Hofstede Insights n.d.). In terms of these cultural aspects, Polish managers employ a normative approach and try to adhere to established rules and follow the existing traditions. British managers tend to adopt a more pragmatic strand as they are ready to innovate and change the existing rules if they are more appropriate for the current situation. Therefore, UK managers will have to communicate the benefits of the pragmatic approach to the Polish staff. It can be necessary to make the associated changes gradual so that Polish managers could accept them.

The facilitation of communication within this context involves training and the use of advanced technologies. The use of video blogs can be beneficial in this case as well (Wankel 2016). Employees can share success stories related to change implementation, innovation, and the establishment of new standards. Corporate instant messenger and a specific program related to innovation adoption can make employees more motivated and active (Targowski 2016). The establishment of personal relationships with Polish managers will also be fruitful as the creation of rapport will make them less resistant to changes.

Indulgence

The dimension of indulgence reveals the difference between the two nations with 29 in Poland and 69 in the United Kingdom (Hofstede Insights n.d.). This cultural aspect unveils people’s attitudes towards their desires. Polish society is characterized by a significant degree of restraint, while British people are likely to indulge themselves. Restrained societies are oriented on adherence to the existing norms and pay little attention to leisure time. In this respect, UK managers should try to develop personal relationships with employees, which can be achieved during team-building activities and similar venues (McLean and Kim 2017). Informal communication will help build bridges and overcome any misunderstanding or tension (Targowski 2016). Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that these events should include activities that have implications in employees’ professional life. Polish managers can be unwilling to spend their time playing games and having a good time as they might see it as indulging themselves.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In conclusion, it is essential to note that the development of effective communication channels and patterns is the key to the success of any international project. The developed cross-cultural communication strategy should be evidence-based and consistent with the goals of the venture. For such different societies as Poland and the UK, culture-related barriers to the implementation of the project are quite anticipated. To address these challenges, UK managers should follow several recommendations.

  1. Staff training is one of the primary steps to undertake as employees should have the necessary skills and knowledge to address the project’s objectives. This training should involve such areas as cross-cultural communication skills, cultural peculiarities of different groups, success stories, and sharing experiences. The use of technology is essential as it will facilitate the development of a favorable working environment irrespective of the time frame and geographic location. Video conferences, instant messengers, wikis, and various social networks can help to make training effective. Training should also include team-building activities that contribute to the development of informal communication in cross-cultural teams.
  2. The development of personal relationships between Polish and UK managers is another priority linked to cross-cultural communication. Polish people value this approach and are more motivated when they feel that their effort is noticed. The ambivalent attitude towards power distribution also suggests that a considerable number of Polish employees do not think that autocratic leadership can be effective in the modern business environment. Personal and informal communication can help in developing proper relationships among managers and make democratic leadership (that is typical of UK business contexts) a norm.
  3. The creation of linear communication channels can facilitate cross-cultural communication and entrepreneurial zeal in the organization. Although Polish employees tend to be resistant to significant changes and innovations, the identification of active change agents among Polish managers can be beneficial. Instant messengers, knowledge base, and reporting protocols can help people explore their creativity, which can improve the organization’s competitiveness. Knowledge sharing is another aspect to pay considerable attention to since people should be exposed to success stories and various approaches to solving typical issues.

Reference List

Clarke N (2017) ‘IHRD and leader development’, in Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (eds) Handbook of international human resource development: Context, processes and people, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 357–76.

Eisenberg J, Pieczonka A, Eisenring M and Mironski J (2015) ‘Poland, a workforce in transition: Exploring leadership styles and effectiveness of Polish vs. Western expatriate managers’, JEEMS Journal of East European Management Studies, 20(4), 435-451.

Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (2017) ‘International IHRD: Context, process and people – introduction’, in Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (eds) Handbook of international human resource development: Context, processes and people, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1–28.

Hammond M, O’Shea D and Pearson J (2017) ‘IHRD and global careers’, in Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (eds) Handbook of international human resource development: Context, processes and people, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 336–56.

Hofstede Insights (n.d.) [online]. Web.

Lai Y (2017) ‘IHRD: National cultural and cross-cultural perspectives’, in Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (eds) Handbook of international human resource development: Context, processes and people, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 100–28.

McLean GN and Kim S (2017) ‘IHRD and developing global teams’, in Garavan A, McCarthy, A and Carbery R (eds) Handbook of international human resource development: Context, processes and people, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 377–95.

Oswald D, Sherratt F, Smith SD and Hallowell MR (2016) ‘Exploring safety management challenges for multi-national construction workforces: A UK case study’, Construction Management and Economics, 36(5), 291-301.

Soja P (2016) ‘Reexamining critical success factors for enterprise system adoption in transition economies: Learning from Polish adopters’, Information Technology for Development, 22(2), 279-305.

Targowski A (2016) The history, present state, and future of information technology, Santa Rosa: Informing Science.

Tijhuis W and Fellows R (2017) Culture in international construction, London: Routledge.

Wankel C (2016) ‘Developing cross-cultural managerial skills through social media’, Journal of Organizational Change Management, 29(1), 116-124.

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