Monochronic vs Polychronic Cultures: Differences, Examples

Editorial Team

Monochronic vs Polychronic

Time is a fascinating concept and some abide by the clock and expect promptness while others take punctuality less seriously. Chronemics culture might not be part of your travel checklist but it is certainly important to gather some information about monochronic and polychronic culture. Before embarking on your journey to work across the world, you need to beware and understand that people perceive, value, and manage time in immensely different ways.

These differences can cause glitches in understanding what the other person is doing. A simple example is in the US: a firm and brief handshake shows confidence and masculinity. A wilted handshake by a man can be perceived as a sign of puniness. But in most parts of Africa, a wilted handshake is the right way to do it. Moreover, it is common in Africa for a handshake to last for an extended time, while in the US a handshake that is extended for a few seconds is taken as awareness, warmness, and probably attraction.

The function of time in interaction is known as chronemics. It is one of the numerous subdivisions from the study of non-verbal interaction. The use of time can have an impact on lifestyles, daily schedule, swiftness of speech, activities, and the extent to which people are willing to listen. Through cultures, time discernment plays a vital function in non-verbal communication development. The way diverse cultures observe time can impact interaction as well. Cultures are generally put into two-time structure classes: Monochronic and Polychronic cultures. In this article, we dive deep into these two concepts to understand their meaning and time management aspects. Some examples are also included to further understanding.

Monochronic Definition

Monochronic cultures like to act on just one thing at a time. They value a clear order and sense of there being a proper time and accommodation for everything. They do not value distractions. Monochronic culture runs the Western Domain. That’s not to say that everybody is bound that way; far from it. But lifecycle, grind, and the social order are systematized according to monochronic values. Events are organized and arranged linearly, based on the clearness of determination, the effectiveness of implementation, and economic advancement. The reason, order, reliability, and efficiency define the mentality in which being and knowing aid undertaking and partaking.

Monochronic people have the following appearances: they lean towards doing one thing at a time, are not easily interrupted, commit to grinding, place significance on time limits, stick to strategies, value and respect confidentiality, relate promptness to reputation and commit to short term relationships.

Polychronic Definition

Polychronic cultures lean towards being further unsolidified and less assembly. Connections, substitutions, changes, and attitudes take superiority. Having numerous ventures running at the same time is put before promptness. Numerous parts of America, Africa, Latin, and Asia are considered to run this way.

Polychronic people have the following appearances: they do numerous things at the same time, are vulnerable to interruption, commit to relationships, change dwellings easily and frequently, place less importance on a time limit, relate promptness to the relationship, finds importance in connection and lean towards long term relationships.

Monochronic Vs Polychronic Cultures – What are the Differences?

Perspective about time

  • Monochronic time cultures accentuate agendas, precise computation of time, and punctuality. Time is seen as a distinct product. Persons with this cultural orientation tend to do one thing after another, concluding each action before starting the next. On the other hand, in polychronic cultures, people tend to handle several things synchronously and to accentuate the number of completed dealings and the sum of people involved, rather than the observance of a schedule. Being on time is less vital in polychronic cultures than in monochronic cultures.
  • But monochronic people tend to view actions and time in inconspicuous sections, which are to be apportioned with one at a time. It is not rational to have two events going on at the same time. Monochronic people can become irritated with polychronic people who view time as something unsolidified, and who easily adjust schedules to fluctuating priorities. In polychronic time cultures, meetings may begin late, run strenuously, and allow external problems to disturb. Also, numerous events may be planned at the same time and observance to time limits may rely on the strength of the connection. Polychronic individuals are oriented towards individuals, human relations, and the family, which is fundamental for their existence. Family takes superiority over everything.

Using time at the workplace

  • Nevertheless, monochronic time cultures tend to make a totem out of an organization. There are points at which monochronic time does not make as much logic as it might. Life is at times volatile and who can tell precisely how long a particular consumer, patient, or set of dealings will take. Some days people will be hasty and cannot complete; on others, there is extra time, so they waste the outstanding time. For polychronic people, time is hardly ever experienced as it is misused. It is often measured as a point rather than a boulevard, but the point is often consecrated.
  • In the workplace, polychronic people choose to keep their time amorphous fluctuating from one action to another as the disposition takes them. Though polychronic people can meet time limits, they require to do so in their way. A polychronic does not need comprehensive strategies forced upon him, nor does he need to make his strategies detailed. Polychronic people choose to work as they see fit without a stringent timetable, following their inner intellectual processes from one minute to the next.
  • However, at work, monochronic people consider time as distinct and not incessant. Monochronic people see time as being separated into fixed essentials: second, minutes, hours, days, and so on. They consider these as chronological chunks that can be planned, enumerated, and arranged. Monochronic people love to design in detail, creating a list, keeping a trail of their actions, and systematizing their time into a diurnal routine.

Handling tasks

  • Monochronic people choose to do one thing at a time, working on a job until it’s complete, then and only then, moving to the next new job. To a monochronic, swapping back and forth from one activity to another is not only careless and disrupting, but it is also undesirable.
  • Polychronic people do the opposite. They love to toil on more than one thing at a time. To a polychronic, swapping from one action to another is both interesting and industrious and hence the most necessary way to toil.

Monochronic Time Management

Monochronic time management refers to the cultures that set their responsibilities to a chronometer. Promptness and single emphasis in a given time setting is the custom for monochronic cultures. Precise time assigned for a certain job is to be followed. For example, in monochronic cultures, people will be more disposed to end a meeting on time and join the next task on the agenda. Monochronic people tend to take schemas, plan and set time limits quite seriously and will drive towards these times. Vigilant monochronic people are characterized by having complicated schedules and that may be triggered from things they may not be aware of.

A monochronic person may not permit space for others to converse point of skirmishes and they may try to pass over them swiftly to save the agenda. Schemas, responsibilities, and agendas are excellent ways to connect with monochronic people who tend to look for the arrangement of responsibilities and actions and the progression of the scheme. In respect to time, many cultures function on a very restricted time agenda, having conferences back-to-back, and in very simulated surroundings.

To them, time is a respected product and the value of time echoes their veneration to the teams. Some generate openings for conversation and discussion and list others into the meeting edifice. This way you are notifying the monochronic people that discussion and conversation are planned activities and a valued usage of the team’s time. Build affinity and confidence among the team by setting up in the launch possibly more meetings so coziness is created that team affiliates are presented, attentive, and moving onward.

Polychronic Time Management

Polychronic time management or orientation refers to the cultures where people tend to understand time as an unsolidified perception, go with the flow of the time. Time-based agenda is followed lightly and deviations or disruptions are seen as a usual part of the humdrum. For example, in polychronic cultures, it is more suitable for a meeting to linger until everybody feels the debate has come to an acceptable decision.

Polychronic time orientation is significant when a relationship is first developed. The rapport is a key implementor often driving the group towards the time limit and meeting the agenda. If your scheme is going to be managed as a practical team, consider a few head-on visits to create rapport and develop a connection. When you organize the conference, plan to devote extra time getting to know your polychronic time complements, also examine the procedure of the team meeting, how you will work composed allowing a common accord on the best way to manage schemes.

Polychronic time orientation can also be effective by steering a practical team meeting plan for the summits to begin late and finish late and expect the discussion to happen. Also, use submission complements that allow members to reply and not feel secluded. Try to outdo real summits as much as you can. Methods for polychronic time orientation may comprise of time at the start of the summit to dialog online around contemporary things such as societal proceedings, climate, retreats, and so on. Segment photos of each other so that people feel that the team is conscious and feel like affiliates are composed.

Polychronic Culture Examples

Examples of polychronic cultures are Latin American, Native American, Arab and African cultures. Their understanding of time is considered to be more linked to normal tempos and to the terrain and the time of year. This makes logic when we consider that ordinary events can happen instinctively, periodically, or synchronously. An example can be seen every day by the way society delivers any kind of facility at a counter or in bistros. In polychronic cultures, people behind a counter will handle two or more clients at the same time. This means doing things more rapidly, but it means diving their consideration among diverse clients.

The idea of being late versus keeping time for the summit, for example, may differ widely between an Arab businessman and a North American businessman; the American might far less tolerant of the North American’s late arrival. However, the North American might be offended by an American insistence on punctuality or on getting right down to business; the North American would generally prefer talking with colleagues first, and would not want to cut a conversation short to make an appointment.

Monochronic Culture Examples

Examples of monochronic cultures in North America, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, and North European countries whereby commercial directors stereotypically split work agendas into chronological masses.

In monochronic cultures, people providing amenity are anticipated to give their full devotion to one client at a time. This means other clients need to wait for their chance when they will have the total concentration and consideration of the facility provider, but not before that. Due to this, the facility is slower; lines move more unhurriedly. Clients already expect this, so not one person complains and no one has a sense of urgency nevertheless.


Regarding monochronic vs. polychronic cultures, it is important to understand that when it comes to planning time, we all think that how we do it makes full logic. But the reality is knowing if your contemporaries are polychronic or monochronic people will be helpful to realize the best ways of collaborating with them, including how you fit into their world and how they get along with others. When working across cultures, consideration should be rewarded to high and low framework cultures through the activities of others. For example, if people do not keep time for summits it may be because they are polychronic, not because they are impolite or lethargic. Besides, all cultures with high technologies appear to integrate both monochronic and polychronic culture.