Mukherjee typically arrived at his office around 11 am and would then spend much of his day meeting constituents and Congress party officials.
He tended to read ministry documents late in the day and would often leave around 10 in the evening.
"Chidambaram comes in by 9 am, is very business-like, does his work, does not meet people to make small talk, clears his files fast and goes home by 6 pm," said an official.
The minister takes a dim view of officials who talk to journalists roaming the ministry's corridors.
"He would rather see them work," said one.
Chidambaram underwent minor surgery last week and was not available for an interview.
A former lawyer, he has a reputation for intellectual prowess, and also arrogance that has won him enemies within the ruling Congress party and on occasion alienated public opinion.
His eloquence, however, has made him arguably the most effective spokesman for the troubled Congress party.
Image: The Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, left, seen administering the oath of office to President-elect Pranab Mukherjee during the swearing-in ceremony in Parliament.