Employee Start Time: Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?

Topic(s): job performance, personality
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Morning Employees Are Perceived as Better Employees: Employees’ Start Times Influence Supervisor Performance Ratings
Authors: Kai Chi Yam, Ryan Fehr, Christopher M. Barnes
Reviewed by: Soner Dumani, M.A.

We have plenty of adages emphasizing the positive implications of starting the day early. Past research seems to suggest that elevated morning activity is seen as an indicator of being responsible, dutiful, and a hard worker.

In a series of three new studies, lead researcher Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues examine whether this pro-morning bias actually exists by examining how employee start time influences supervisor ratings of their job performance.

They also question how the supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity might play into that relationship.

 

EMPLOYEE START TIME AND JOB PERFORMANCE

Past empirical research found that employees’ level of morning activity is usually associated with positive traits such as being conscientious and having a solid work ethic.

Conscientious employees are typically rated as higher performers because they tend to display stronger work motivation when compared to employees who are low in conscientiousness.

Across two different samples, Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues found that employees who report later start times are perceived as less conscientious by their supervisors, and this negative stereotype ultimately results in lower performance ratings for those employees.

 

THE ROLE OF THE SUPERVISOR’S PREFERENCE

The authors found that the negative implications for employees who start the work day late largely depend on their supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity.

That is to say that late-starters are rated as low performers due to being perceived as less conscientious only among supervisors who prefer morning activity themselves.

For those supervisors who are more night owls than day larks, the morning bias doesn’t usually translate into negative repercussions.

 

IMPLICATIONS OF THESE FINDINGS

The current study highlights the potential consequences of using flexible work arrangements, such as starting the work day late.

Given that performance ratings may largely depend on the supervisors’ own chronotype, it is recommended that managers are reminded of potential negative consequences of morning bias, and encouraged to remain objective in their performance evaluations of employees.