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Monochronic culture vs. Polychronic culture

Karishma Daswani, Jennifer Lombardo
  • Author
    Karishma Daswani

    Karishma Daswani has 13+ ongoing years of experience in global talent acquisition. She holds a CIPD Masters in Human Resource Management and is currently pursuing a PGDip in Digital Education having made a foray in online teaching and curriculum development.

  • Instructor
    Jennifer Lombardo

    Jennifer Lombardo received both her undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing from Rowan University. She spent ten years in consumer marketing for companies such as Nielsen Marketing Research, The Dial Corporation and Mattel Toys. She is currently an adjunct professor of marketing at Rowan University and a social media marketing consultant.

Learn about monochronic vs. polychronic cultures. Examine the monochronic and polychronic culture definitions and discover examples of these cultures. Updated: 04/18/2022

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Monochronic Vs. Polychronic Culture Definition

Chronemics is defined as the manner in which individuals interpret time in a business environment and accordingly perceive and structure their relationship with co-workers.

Every organizational culture views time and its effect on workplace communication differently, leading to the division of cultures on the basis of chronemics as Monochronic VS Polychronic.

Monochronic culture deals with strict, time-monitored workplace culture, while the Polychronic culture definition states that it is more concerned with employees' multi-tasking skills allowing for different working styles and communication aspects

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  • 0:02 Chronemics
  • 0:36 Monochronic Cultures
  • 1:23 Polychronic Cultures
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Characteristics of Monochronic Culture

Monochronic definition refers to a type of working style where only one thing is done at a time. A monochronic culture requires an appropriate time and place for everything valuing orderliness. Careful planning and scheduling are part of the daily routine. Thereby time management is a management principle to be followed. Employees concentrate on the job and adhere to strict deadlines. Doing things in turn and order is crucially important. They are committed to the job and accustomed to short-term relationships. People show respect for organizational and private property and are not comfortable borrowing or lending things. There is a consideration for privacy and self-respect, tending to a low context culture. It is expected to have direct, verbal interaction with one specified, clear meaning derived from it. Therefore, communication is concise, straightforward, explicit, simple, and clear.

Organizations that have a monochronic culture display the following characteristics -

  • A linear time orientation where only one thing can be accomplished at a time.
  • Valuing time as a commodity that should be saved and not lost or wasted.
  • Adhering to schedules and punctuality is a strict requirement in the workplace. If one planned event is missed, this may interfere with the schedule and may lead to missing more events.

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Examples of Monochronic Culture

Monochronic culture is prevalent in places like North America, Israel, Switzerland, and Germany. These regions like to work in a single task-based manner within a stipulated time. In such a culture, if there were a scenario that a presentation was to be helped in an organization, all invited executives would take the time out from their schedule and assign it specifically to attend the presentation and not cater to any other task during the presentation. If by any chance the speaker at the presentation was to arrive late, the impression the audience would carry was that the entire event was unprofessionally organized and led to delays which inconvenienced all.

Canada is a country that follows a strict monochronic culture as actions pertaining to decided upon goals are taken systematically in a timely manner with little patience or consideration for interruptions or digressions.

Characteristics of Polychronic Culture

Polychronic definition means the ability to cater to multiple tasks simultaneously. As the name states, a Polychronic Culture is defined as a is a type of workplace environment wherein employees handle multiple tasks simultaneously and allow a rhythmic approach to their work, which encompasses many things.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does Polychronic mean?

Polychronic means the ability to handle multiple tasks at one given time. A Polychronic culture is typical of employees multi-tasking and socializing heavily.

Is the US Polychronic or Monochronic?

The US is a Monochronic country because the work culture follows a linear cycle catering to one aspect of work, finishing it, and then moving on to the next task in the order assigned. Time management is adhered to by careful planning and scheduling of work with high regard for timelines.

What is an example of a Monochronic culture?

A Monochronic culture involves a workplace wherein employees focus on one task at a time, completing them in an assigned order. The culture follows a linear orientation wherein time is highly valued and not meant to be wasted.

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