Characteristics associated with monochronic time philosophies

Time is an interesting concept. Some people strictly live by the clock, while others take a much more lax attitude towards time. Often this is a cultural difference and, for the most part, people can harmoniously live under their own time perceptions.

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However, when it comes to doing business, the differing perspectives on time cannot be ignored. This is especially true for those cultures that operate under the principles of monochronic time.

People who work on monochronic time tend to focus on punctuality, conventionality and speed. Generally, those who operate on monochronic time also prefer to set defined boundaries. Typically, everything has a beginning and an end point which is connected to designated times of the day.

When trying to understand the principles of monochronic time, there are three tendencies that stand out and that are all connected to the aforementioned punctuality, conventionality and speed and these are:

Run by the clock

Monochronic people keep a calendar and specify blocks of time of the day for certain tasks. Granted there may be a level of flexibility, but for the most part days are planned. This could vary, it may mean the workday starts and ends at a designated time which is inflexible, or it could be that different tasks are scheduled for certain times. For instance, in a doctor's office, the doctor may see patients in the morning and do hospital rounds in the afternoon, and except in times of emergency, this is usually not flexible.

High respect for time

In cultures that run themselves on monochronic time, heavy emphasis is put on time. For appointments, people tend to strictly adhere to the time of day. For example, if an appointment is set at 9 a.m., it is expected the meeting will be prompt and take place at that time.

Lateness not well tolerated

Those who hold a firm belief in monochronic time may not have a high tolerance for lateness. Punctuality is expected and when others are late for appointments, this is often perceived as rude, unprofessional or simply unacceptable. This last tendency in particular can cause problems in business because it could be that no harm intent was meant and the other party comes from a culture that operates on polychronic time principles; a practice that involves the clock being entirely flexible.

For polychronics, that aforementioned 9 a.m. appointment could simply mean "in the morning sometime" and it would be entirely acceptable for someone to show up at 9:15, 9:30 or even 10 a.m. These philosophical beliefs are intrinsically a part of one's inner being and are based on the way a monochronic person conducts their day, so it is easy to see how there could be potential clashes when doing business.

Cultures that operate on the clock and do business with those who don't really pay too close attention to time usually have to reach some sort of consensus that is appealing to both approaches. If compromises aren't willing to be met, business deals that could be very profitable and beneficial to both parties could quickly fail.

Due to the integration of the Internet in business, international dealings have significantly expanded over the decades. Today's companies are doing more business across borders and with many different cultures in markets that they may not have embraced before because they were not attainable due to geography. Nowadays, businesses do have the opportunity to explore distant markets and partner with companies located in different parts of the world. When engaging in these opportunities, if doing business with a monochronic culture, it is important to take time structure into consideration.


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