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Monochronic vs. Polychronic Cultures: Definitions & Communication Styles

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  • 0:02 Chronemics
  • 0:36 Monochronic Cultures
  • 1:23 Polychronic Cultures
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
This lesson covers the difference between monochronic and polychronic cultures. It explains how communication styles are affected by how individuals interpret time.

Chronemics

It is essential when communicating in business to understand chronemics, or the way individuals interpret the use of time. Every culture views time differently and how it relates to the communication process. In this lesson, you will learn the difference between monochronic and polychronic cultures and the effects on workplace communication. We are going to examine two different companies, Fun Town Amusements and Pear Products, to see how chronemics impacts their productivity and worker relationships.

Monochronic Cultures

The company of Fun Town Amusements takes a monochronic approach to time. This means that they have a linear time orientation where only one thing can be accomplished at a time.

To a monochronic-based company, time is a precious commodity that can be lost, saved, or wasted. Companies that embrace a monochronic time orientation view schedules and punctuality as an indispensable part of their workday. If executives of Fun Town were facing a delay in a presentation due to a speaker running late, they would be extremely upset and view the entire episode as unprofessional. Most monochronic time oriented companies are found in Western based cultures, such as the United States and Germany.

Polychronic Cultures

Pear Products is a high technology multinational company that embraces a polychronic, or cyclical, time orientation. They prefer to multi-task, or work on different activities at the same time. They do not stay on schedule, and in fact, will work while socializing in order to keep strong business relationships. For example, Pear Products' South American offices are known to have 3-hour business lunches where meetings are held, friendships are developed, and phone calls are answered.

Polychronic type companies view relationships with people as more important than completing a work activity in a specified time. Punctuality and schedules, therefore, are not as important as work relationships. For example, managers at Pear Products always have an open door policy and are happy to set aside a task to listen to what an employee has to say. If this was Fun Town Amusements, or a monochronic culture, then the manager would say to the employee, 'Not now. Can't you see I'm really busy?' Polychronic time oriented companies can be found in South America, which is known for valuing personal relationships over work tasks.

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