Characteristics associated with polychronic time philosophies

Image credit: Jarmoluk/Pixabay
Time is an interesting notion, some people abide and run their lives by the clock and expect punctuality while others take the promptness aspect of time much less seriously. In business there are a lot of variations across the globe when it comes to time.

What is polychronic time?

As the local business environment spreads its wings to the global network, the differences in time principles have become an important consideration in recent decades. Since not all cultures have the same philosophy with regard to the clock, this can often become a source of misunderstanding when doing business in different countries.

Some cultures have a tendency not to take the clock at face value and are more lax about the hours and minutes, this is known as polychronic time. It is of value to understand the principles of polychronic time in business, especially if you work in a western society which tends to base its workday according to the clock (the latter is known as monochronic time).

For the most part, people across the globe can live harmoniously with their own perceptions of time, but when it comes to business, this can end up in conflict if one or both parties do not understand the other's philosophies when it comes to the clock. While time cannot be ignored, there can be a conscious effort to understand and adapt to the differences in approaches to time.

Understanding the polychronic attributes makes it easier to do business with a company that may not hold the same values in time as yourself. Wondering about the characteristics of polychronic time philosophies? Attributes include:


Unlike monochronics, who tend to go about their day focusing on punctuality, conformity and speed, polychronics prefer to be more flexible with time. There are no defined boundaries with time; meaning that 9 a.m. appointment could mean 9:20 a.m., or just in the morning sometime.

It is easy to see how this could easily conflict with a business who operates in a society that schedules their entire day by the hours, and even minutes, of the clock. Lateness is seldom a problem as the flexibility with polychronic time is completely within the norm of a business day.
Not confined by the clock

Polychronics also do not confine themselves to the clock. If an appointment runs a little long, this is acceptable as their next appointment also would be flexible with time. Working under polychronic time principles means that people don't necessarily have a beginning and end time like people who work in monochronic cultures do.

High ability to modify

Polychronics tend to work with a great ability to modify their day if something comes up. Interruptions are less of an issue and the flexibility attribute allows polychronics to easily adapt to unexpected change. These interruptions are often welcomed, not a source of frustration as it may be in a monochronic society.

Focus on relationships, not deadlines

Another important factor to consider when working with polychronics is the fact they can be offended when pressured by the clock. Polychronics have a tendency to want to personally connect and develop a relationship before any business is conducted, and this will often come into direct conflict with a monochronic whose objective is usually to sign a contract and move onto the next assignment.

When a company who operates in a culture that runs on monochronic time works with another company that tends to take the clock less seriously because they live according to polychronic time principles, it is important to understand the other's philosophy or else problematic issues in the business relationship can emerge.


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