The Polish business world is in some ways very different from the German one. Misunderstandings often arise, especially when it comes to business appointments and negotiations. In today’s blog post, you’ll learn what to keep in mind when sitting across from your Polish business partner at the negotiation table.
Since joining the EU, Poland’s economy has shown strong development, coming closer to its western neighbors [e.g., Germany and France]. Today, more and more German and Polish business partners collaborate closely. In the process, Germans are often confronted with all kinds of challenges, especially when it comes to negotiating with their Polish partners. To ensure that you’re prepared for these situations, we want to describe a possible negotiation situation in today’s blog. However, please keep in mind that there’s no such thing as “the” Polish negotiation style.
To start things off, be punctual! In contrast to some other Central European countries, punctuality plays a major role in Poland, and it’s frequently associated with professionalism and reliability. If at any point you can’t make it at the arranged time, inform your business partners and, if necessary, tell them why you’re running late.
When you arrive, it would be best to greet your business partners with a handshake and eye contact [please note that this point can vary depending on the region]. Be careful when addressing them, as it’s commonly perceived to be very impolite to address people as Mr. or Ms. + last names. You should rather use Mr. or Ms. + titles [e.g., Mr. Chairman or Ms. Director] or Mr. or Ms. + first names. In Polish, by the way, “pan” means “Mr.” and “pani” means “Ms.”
Before getting started
Before you get down to business, you should first create a pleasant atmosphere for discussion. This is conducive to the establishment of trust, which many Polish people value. Small talk is a suitable method to that end. However, topics like religion and World War II should be avoided. More suitable topics include family, sports, culture and famous Polish personalities. If you can speak a few words of Polish [Dzien dobry = Good afternoon; Dziekuje = Thank you; Do widzenia = Goodbye], this would be a good icebreaker and would show your esteem for your counterpart.
This phase may seem unnecessary to Germans, but the establishment of a relationship is essential in order to have an initial basis of trust for later discussions and potential conflicts. It’s also not unusual for first business appointments with new partners to be used exclusively to get to know each other as people, without even discussing the actual business. So give your Polish partners sufficient time and let them decide for themselves when to proceed to business issues.
At the negotiating table
For many Polish people, negotiations are about making their positions clear from the outset and not immediately agreeing to specific goals. You should nevertheless be well prepared for these meetings: work out a rough strategy, prepare a few facts and figures and develop arguments that reinforce your position or underpin your goals. Negotiations with Polish people can be tough, as they can lead to animated exchanges and discussions.
Please keep in mind here that Polish people tend to appear rather unorganized during actual negotiation discussions. Don’t let this give you the wrong impression. Things in Poland tend to be repeatedly discussed, rethought, flexibly adapted and thus not engraved in stone [like in Germany]. Keep this in mind, show flexibility and patience – and you’ll achieve your goal!
Another thing to pay attention to during your negotiation discussions is not to impair the level of your relationship. Remain friendly but objective; that’s important to most Polish people. Your Polish partners will often expect concessions and accommodations in this context [e.g., regarding prices or deadlines]. Try to find a solution that will satisfy both sides.
As you can see, culture plays an important role in the Polish business world, especially during negotiation situations. To assist you with your specific endeavors, we’d be happy to offer you a cross-cultural training on your target country, which covers content like offering criticism, the importance of hierarchies and appropriate behavior during business dinner.