Showing up to work at 10am – even when your flexible workplace practices allow it – could be damaging your career. And it doesn’t matter if you stay late to make up the missed morning.
New research from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business has found when it comes to your boss’s perception, an employee who starts work earlier in the morning will be viewed more positively than one who one who starts later in the day.
How much work you’re able to complete also doesn’t matter – your boss is still likely to judge you for starting late. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
During the study, which is yet to be published in full, researchers discovered something they called “morning bias”.
They asked 150 supervisors to rate an employee’s performance as part of the study, and employee start times for work ranged from 5am to 9.45am. They found that even when employees who started later worked the same number of hours as those who began the work day earlier, the bosses were more inclined to give them higher performance ratings.
If the bosses themselves preferred to work later hours, they were less inclined to show “morning bias”.
A second experiment got 141 university students to play the role of a supervisor and review a fictitious employee’s profile, and discovered the same results as the first experiment.
“People seem to have a tendency to celebrate early-risers. Witness the enduring popularity of aphorisms like Ben Franklin’s ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise’ or, in China, ‘a day’s planning should be done in the morning,'” said the researchers.
“In the eyes of managers with power over careers, are employees who choose later start times stereotyped as less conscientious, and given poorer performance evaluations on average? Do the ‘larks’ on a team hold a hidden edge over the ‘owls’?”
The team of researchers concluded employees who use flexible work schedules should aim, if possible, to shift their workday so that it is earlier, rather than later.
They also noted these results are “not pretty” and these later-working employees might unfairly receive poor performance ratings based on things which actually have nothing to do with overall performance.
“Organisations may be inadvertently punishing the employees who use flextime to start and finish working later in the day,” they wrote. “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.
“The important implication is that senior managers must intervene in some way to keep supervisors from essentially punishing employees for using the very flextime policies their organisations endorse.”