The common wisdom claims that Polish and Ukrainian cultures are similar as both countries have common religious, cultural and ethnical roots thus people from Ukraine exhibit the same organizational behaviour and practices. Due to the GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness) study – Polish and Ukrainian cultures belong to the same cultural cluster – Eastern European cultures (which constitutes one of ten distinguished clusters) and differ from other clusters. This is an indication that both cultures are more similar then for example Polish and German or Ukrainian and German cultures. But as in one cultural cluster there are numbers of countries and they still differ in-between in a more subtle way, Ukrainian and Polish management cultures are such a case.
When we dig deeper in them, we start to see the differences. The Foundation Polish Mentoring Institute had conducted on 2016 a research among Poles and Ukrainians comparing both management cultures. Let’s discuss study results in 3 aspects: 1. Management style 2. Team working and 3. Communication style.
1. How does a manager treat an employee?
Regarding management style, in both cultures respondents indicated a hierarchical style as predominant but in case of Poland to lesser extent than in Ukraine. This attribute was confirmed in answers regarding managerial practices like: delegating tasks, a way of giving a corrective feedback and rewarding people. Organizational structures in both countries were assessed as hierarchical, but what came out was – that Polish managers are regarded as having an ability to manage people in a more partnering style even in rigid organizational structure.
How does a manager treat an employee who is his/her friend? Is he treated the same way (universalistic) or better (particularistic)?
In both cultures managers exhibit particularistic approach to the employees. In case of Ukrainian managers, they deploy more particularistic approach than Polish ones, who exhibit relatively more universalistic approach. Additionally, this approach is also exhibited by employees upon other colleagues in both cultures, what confirms that Polish and Ukrainian cultures are embedded in particularism. As particularistic and universalistic behaviours in organization settings differ in many aspects (for example: support of ideas of a project based on its merit or colleagues’ interest, assessment based on competencies or relationship), it is crucial to know how to navigate in both cultures.
2. Collectivistic or individual work?
In both Ukrainian and Polish cultures collectivistic approach in teamwork is predominating, thus co-workers help each other and value good atmosphere (harmony). What differentiates the relation between colleagues in both countries is the separation of professional life from private life in Poland to higher degree than in Ukraine. This confirms that Poland belongs to “a specific culture” while Ukraine belongs to “a diffuse culture”.
The knowledge how people in different cultures build their professional and private relations are important for their efficiency at work and well being in private life.
3. Communicating neutrally or emotionally?
According to study results people in both cultures communicate emotionally, whereas Poles express their feeling mostly through voice intonation, while Ukrainians express their feeling additionally also via body language. A higher level of expressed emotions by an Ukrainian can be misinterpreted by a Polish interlocutor who can consider such way of communication as overemotionally and not proper command of the temper.
The study of the working cultures in Poland and Ukraine has confirmed that there are many general similarities between Poland and Ukraine in working cultures (as both countries belong to the same cultural cluster – see GLOBE study), but still there are fine differences between them.
This cultural awareness and consideration of differences by Polish managers when managing Ukrainians distinguishes a manager with high intercultural competences from an average manager. Being just an average manager in a globalised world is not enough.
Dr Wiola Malota