Monochronic and Polychronic Time

Lesson 2: Topic 17 of 19

This is defined as monochronic time, a feature in which culture members “prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule.” We prefer to call it fixed time in our training. Scientific studies and popular culture tell multitaskers that their methods are inefficient and simply don’t work. [34] Also, American society has been heavily impacted by the Protestant work ethic, so that we “equate working time with success: the harder you work — the more hours, that is — the more successful you will be and the more money you will make.” [33]

Polychronic time is used by most cultures in the world. Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are regions filled with polychronic cultures. Individuals often prefer to do several things at once. Progress is slower, and there is more of an impulse approach to what is prioritized, rather than a strategic approach. We refer to this as flex time in our training. Be aware that there are many cultures that are still quite strategic in business, with a more fixed time method applied to projects and appointments. Social and family time might fall completely in the flex category. Then relationships are most certainly the primary focus, with accomplishments a far secondary goal.

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In Brazil, for example, business is filled with relationships. Physical touch is to be expected, and personal space much more limited than in many western cultures. Participatory management is quite commonly found within even large corporations. This means that supervisors receive input and spend time relating to employees so that they feel heard. 

Just as with fixed time, flex time has more extreme examples. 

Pause and consider: Is your time orientation fixed? Are you able to have patience with slower-paced people?

“Time will tell.”