"Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can't see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything."
- Dave Barry -
Welcome to the second issue of "Oddities & Curiosities", Mudita's "no-frills", irregular newsletter.
Further to the first issue (available here), as "I don't believe in cluttered inboxes" and since I've promised to only "write when I've got something interesting to share, something you should know about, something I think you might enjoy discovering", on this occasion I'm writing to briefly introduce the upcoming course on Workplace Conflict focusing on Time and Space Management.
How does chronemics – "the study of human tempo as it is related to human communication" (T. J. Bruneau) – affect personal interactions? Can understanding of time be assumed to be homogeneous across different cultures?
As some of you may already know, the sense of time is culture-bound, meaning that the notion of "time management" is mostly a cultural matter. In the late ’50s, Anthropologist Edward T. Hall introduced the concepts of monochronic (linear) and polychronic (cyclical) time, with polychronism indicating the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously (not to be confused with multitasking) and monochronism denoting a tendency to handle tasks sequentially.
What kind of time is predominant in a business environment?
Let's find out:
"Project creep, slipping deadlines, and a to-do list that seems to get longer each day – these experiences are all too common in both life and work. With the New Year's Resolution season upon us, many people are boldly trying to fulfill goals to ‘manage time better’, ‘be more productive’, and ‘focus on what matters’. Development goals like these are indeed important to career success. Look no further than large-scale surveys that routinely find time management skills to be among the most desired workforce skills, but at the same time among the rarest skills to find." (from: HBR)
You might have guessed that the answer is "monochronic/linear time", "an artefact of the industrial revolution in England: factory life required the labour force to be on hand and in place at an appointed hour". (E.T. Hall). The main problem with monochronic time is that for the majority of world cultures it is "arbitrary and imposed", a concept that clashes with traditional patterns of life.
Let's consider, for example, a situation described in a 2004 issue of the Journal for East European Management Studies:
"France and Italy were described as polychronic. Managers of these countries practise much more flexible and loose time management than Austrian, Belgian, English, German or Swiss managers. In these polychronic cultures, the best occasion to get acquainted with each other are frugal dinners or extensive luncheons. From the perspective of Austrians or Germans such long and unstructured conversations can be easily seen as waste of time, because, for them, the office is actually the place to have business negotiations. Below, is a typical case about different work rhythms: ‘From the mode of living perspective it is obvious that a regular workday in France is different from Austria. We (Austrians) may have a short lunch, but basically we work from morning to evening. The French start later. You may reach them after 9 A.M. They certainly take a two hour lunch break and really take a good meal. Therefore, they take off a relatively long time. This makes a difference. With us, when somebody takes off two hours at noon, but only starts work at 9 o’clock, he is assumed not to work at all’." (Lichtblau 999: 66).
Can you recall the previous occasion on which we've talked about France and the importance of meals and social time in a polychronic culture?
In case you don't, you can find the answer here: the topic has previously been discussed as an introduction to the Market Segmentationcourse (as always, I'm a strong believer in a holistic approach to learning).
- I'm happy to announce that the upcoming course will be featuring the work of Maitén Panella, Business Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Consultant. The release date will be confirmed soon.
Last but not least, since you have subscribed to a newsletter that promises "educational content that is relevant and helpful", today's knowledge bonus will take you to Ancient India to explore the links between "space, time, matter, and consciousness, the relativity of space and time, cyclic and recursively defined universes, and a non-anthropocentric view".
Hope you'll enjoy!
Despina Moralidou is a chartered linguist (CIOL) and accredited translator, and for the better part of her adult life she has been working as a freelance translator/editor and in-house project manager specializing in Web, Marketing and Software localization. She has a Master’s degree in Specialized Translation (Surrey) and a Postgraduate diploma in International Cultural Cooperation & Management (Barcelona). She sometimes writes and/or shares thoughts on language, culture, her field of work, and anything else that catches her eye here .