At CLIQ, we strive for cultural diversity! This is demonstrated by the 37 different nationalities and various cultures currently represented in our workplace. More cultural diversity in the workplace can have advantages such as reduced employee turnover and increased productivity and innovation. We are proud of our team(s)!
However, we can only reap these benefits if we also prioritise intercultural communication and make sure we know how to interact with people effectively and appropriately, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and feelings of alienation and exclusion. This is a process which demands awareness and empathy.
Therefore, we believe that one of the first steps is to get to know each other better and ensure mutual understanding. This means that we need to become aware of different cultural dimensions. While we explored low-context versus high-context communication in the previous article of this series, this blog post gives insight into another dimension of cultural difference introduced by anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher Edward T. Hall: monochronic time versus polychronic time. Nonetheless, we need to mention that no single cultural characteristic generally applies to all people from a certain culture. Whereas some things may be representative on a national level, single individuals may significantly differ from the group average.
This aspect can prove relevant in work settings. This is especially important since understanding each other can make people feel included and that their viewpoints are taken into consideration. So, let’s dive into the concepts.
MONOCHRONIC TIME VS POLYCHRONIC TIME
Time and timing are relative. Often, it has nothing to do with a colleague being unprofessional but simply with cultural differences.
For example, monochronic time is characterised by doing one thing at a time. People who are used to this dimension lay emphasis on schedules and promptness. Plus, activities are compartmentalised and treated in a linear fashion. For a person living and working in a monochronic culture, time is a more rigid, stable concept and deadlines are to be taken very seriously. Conversely, we have a sense of polychronic time, which distinguishes itself from monochronic time in the sense that individuals do many things at the same time. They place emphasis on interacting with people and completing transactions rather than adhering to rigid schedules.
Thus, next time working with a particular colleague appears challenging because they, for example, may not seem to have the same concept of time as us, let’s consider whether this could be a cultural difference in order to avoid misunderstandings and alienation. Instead, let’s talk to each other, try to understand the position of our colleague and find common ground.
At CLIQ, we deeply understand each other and are able to see things from different perspectives thanks to our open minds. Even though we have different cultural backgrounds, we want to approach each other with an open mind and in an understanding, thoughtful, and reflective manner to ensure an inclusive workplace across all offices, departments, and teams.