Are You or Your Employees Polychronic or Monochronic? Why It Is Important to Know.

Mark Ballanceby Mark Ballance "Time Saving Addict"
Last updated on Jun 2, 2015

How an observation in 1959 by anthropologist Edward Hall still applies to businesses today, and what this means for your team.

Thanks to globalization, firms can pull together teams from multiple continents and focus them on a single project. Even today's small businesses have frequent exposure with contractors or clients from different countries and cultures.

While this growing arena holds great opportunity for managers, it also poses new challenges to blend working styles and personalities from all walks of life. This is where Edward Hall's perspective of monochronic and polychronic time becomes helpful. First published in his book, The Silent Language, Hall's unique view of personality types can help explain some of today's employees most puzzling behaviours.

Monochronic Time

According to Hall, the industrial revolution caused many western cultures to grow more dependent on schedules and promptness. He cited the U.S., Great Britain, and countries in Northern Europe as cultures who are predominantly monochronic. This reliance is pervasive in business environments today. People in the monochronic mode (or M-people as Hall called them) see time as a resource to be carefully managed. In general, M-people:

  • Value promptness and deadlines
  • Tend to do things one at a time
  • Do not get distracted
  • Commit to work and adhere to plans
  • Relate punctuality to reputation
  • Value and respect privacy

  • Polychronic Time

    On the other end of the spectrum, polychronic people (P-people) developed out of the Mediterranean and Colonial-Iberian-Indian cultures. In a blog post for Psychology Today, author Thor Mueller echoed Hall's point. Polychronic time prioritizes context over process, and makes it difficult for people to abruptly end conversations when the clock strikes the hour. As opposed to M-people who focus on one task at a time, P-people thrive when faced with multiple tasks at once. They can:

  • Juggle multiple assignments
  • Value interpersonal relationships heavily
  • Put less value into schedules and dates
  • Change plans often and easily
  • Forge lifetime relationships easier than M-people

  • Managing M-People and P-People

    For managers, understanding the monochronic/polychronic dichotomy can help prepare team assignments, schedules, and productivity goals. M-people take things step-by-step. They need details, direction, and feedback. P-people are the opposite. They thrive off of freedom and interaction with others to produce. Aligning these personality types, either by grouping them similarly or balancing them together, is a key component of success.

    Scheduling software can be a helpful tool to promote this alignment. For the monchronic types, it provides solidarity. Deadlines can be easily set and viewed. Tasks can be laid out step by step, just the way monochrons like. And it also can promote accountability, which would appeal to their sense of work commitment.

    For polychrons, scheduling software is a great way to manage their multiple tasks without micro-managing them. Plus, it gives them an ability to set their own pace by changing their schedule when it suits them.

    To learn more about how Schedule It can help both polychronic and monochronic workers, visit our Employee Scheduling Software page.
    Last updated, 12 August 2023, 14:38

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