Study: Managers May Find Employees Who Work Earlier More Favorable

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 05/21/2014 | 03:30 PM EDT

Harvard Business Review finds stereotype when comparing 'early' and 'late' workers

Despite flextime programs becoming increasingly popular in the workspace, a new study suggests managers may deem employees who come into work early as more hard-working than those who don’t.

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) study found a stereotype among supervisors and their perception of workers who take advantage of flextime programs (this includes working from home), that allow employees to set their own work hours to accommodate their personal lives. Though workplace flexibility has proven to lead to increased employee productivity, higher job satisfaction and decreased turnover intentions, research shows that most managers find employees who utilize it unfavorable.


In other words, an employee who comes into work at 9 a.m. and leaves at 5 p.m. would be generally deemed more favorable than an employee who comes in at 11 a.m. but leave at 7 p.m.

“Across 149 employee-supervisor dyads, even after statistically controlling for total work hours, employees who started work earlier in the day were rated by their supervisors as more conscientious, and thus received higher performance ratings,” read the report.

Compared to people who choose to work earlier in the day, people who choose to work later in the day are implicitly assumed to be less conscientious and less effective in their jobs.

The report also reads:

Of course, the implications of this research are not pretty. It seems likely that some employees are experiencing a decrement in their performance ratings that is not based on anything having to do with their actual performance. Organizations may be inadvertently punishing the employees who use flextime to start and finish working later in the day. And as accumulated poor performance ratings have detrimental effects on career advancement, this could partly explain why we often see flextime utilization having negative effects on employee careers.

HBR noted the importance for senior managers to intervene in some way to keep supervisors from essentially punishing employees for using the very flextime policies their organizations endorse.

“Managers must be especially diligent in rating the performance of employees based on objective standards, and not allowing implicit prejudices – such as their morning bias – to color their assessments.” 

(Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images)

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