Making Poland Smile Tim Bridgman

Misery is Optional

Misery is Optional

The above picture is a campaign poster from the recent presidential elections for the Polish city of Łódź. The candidate’s slogan translates to: What hurts you? What f*#ks you off? What do you want?

Poles have a reputation for being dissatisfied and confrontational and posters, such as above, only seem to prove this point. However, not everyone in Poland is of this mindset. Below are two examples of recent campaigns trying to make Poland smile.

Ralph Talmont at TEDxKrakow – Smile!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpsv3e48kFY

ASPIRE Happy Video;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK4ePwJB0Ns

But can it really be that simple? And is a smile the final ingredient Poland needs on its road to recovery?

Upon closer examination, you may have noticed that both videos are set in Poland’s most attractive, prosperous and developed city, Kraków, which is now one of the world’s top 10 outsourcing destinations. Furthermore, both videos are also associated to organisations set up in Poland by immigrants from abroad (Australia and Britain) and, obviously, are in the English language.

So the message seems to be that foreign companies setting up in Poland are expecting their Polish workforce to smile and if they don’t this could be detrimental to future relations. This is a tall order for a nation used to short-term contracts, authoritarian bosses and intense (sometimes back-stabbing) competition from colleagues.

Such management techniques and work environments were all used to create an atmosphere of extreme insecurity in the past that guaranteed people would work as hard as possible for as long as possible. It is this that has created the drive behind Poland’s tiger economy and, in many ways, is the thing that foreign investors most want to retain.

So who knows what is best now, to be cheerful or to be a grump? After all tigers are not supposed to smile, but to growl at everyone who passes.

Timothy J. Bridgman lives and works in Poland with his young family. He is the author of;
Positively Disappointed: Cross-Cultural Awareness and Communications in Poland
published by SZKOLENIA ŁÓDŹ