Morning Employees Are Perceived as Better Employees


Morning Employees Are Perceived as Better Employees: Employees’ Start Times Influence Supervisor Performance Ratings

Kai Chi Yam, Ryan Fehr, and Christopher M. Barnes University of Washington

In this research, we draw from the stereotyping literature to suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are affected by employees’ start times—the time of day they first arrive at work. Even when accounting for total work hours, objective job performance, and employees’ self-ratings of conscien- tiousness, we find that a later start time leads supervisors to perceive employees as less conscientious. These perceptions in turn cause supervisors to rate employees as lower performers. In addition, we show that supervisor chronotype acts as a boundary condition of the mediated model. Supervisors who prefer eveningness (i.e., owls) are less likely to hold negative stereotypes of employees with late start times than supervisors who prefer morningness (i.e., larks). Taken together, our results suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are susceptible to stereotypic beliefs based on employees’ start times.

Keywords: stereotyping, implicit bias, job performance, morningness, chronotype

For most of the 20th century, employees’ work schedules were highly regimented. Office managers and factory workers alike arrived at work at set times determined by their employers, with little say in their schedules and little variability across employees. Today, technological and social forces have provided employees with greater say and more flexibility in when they start and end their work days through programs collectively referred to as flex- ible work practices (FWPs; Kelly & Moen, 2007). FWPs allow employees to meet obligatory duties such as driving their children to school and caring for aging parents, while enabling organiza- tions to attract and retain talent by enhancing employees’ job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

Meta-analyses suggest that FWPs generally produce desirable individual and organizational outcomes such as increased produc- tivity, higher job satisfaction, and decreased turnover intentions (Baltes, Briggs, Huff, Wright, & Neuman, 1999; Gajendran & Harrison, 2007). However, research suggests that FWPs can also be harmful to employees’ career outcomes (Glass, 2004). For instance, when supervisors believe that employees are only using FWPs to help them manage their personal lives, FWPs have a negative impact on employees’ career success (Leslie, Manchester,

Park, & Mehng, 2012). Although scholars have demonstrated the potential downsides of FWPs, research to date has only begun to consider the precise mechanisms and boundary conditions of these effects. In addition, research has tended to consider FWPs holis- tically, providing limited insight into the specific aspects of FWPs that might be most directly responsible for their negative impact on employees’ success.

In this article, we address these limitations by focusing on employee start times—one of the most frequently discussed and utilized components of FWPs (Galinsky, Bond, & Sakai, 2008). Drawing from the stereotyping literature, we specifically examine the implications of a stereotypic negative perception of people who begin the day’s activities late—referred to here as a morning bias—for employees and their career success. We suggest that supervisors exhibit a pervasive morning bias and stereotype em- ployees with late start times as less conscientious than employees with early start times. These perceptions in turn lead to lower performance ratings for employees with late start times. Further- more, we explore supervisor chronotype as an important boundary condition of the mediated model. Based on decades of research on social identity theory and ingroup favoritism (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), we argue that supervisors with a preference for eveningness exhibit less negative stereotyping of employees with late schedules than supervisors with a preference for morningness, thereby avoid- ing the morning bias when evaluating their employees’ perfor- mance. In other words, we propose a first-stage moderated medi- ation model in which supervisors’ chronotypes act as a boundary condition to affect the link between employees’ start times and their perceived levels of conscientiousness, which in turn affects supervisors’ ratings of employees’ performance (see Figure 1).

By developing and testing a model of supervisors’ automatic inferences about employee job performance, we make several key contributions to the literature. First, we provide insight into the

This article was published Online First June 9, 2014. Kai Chi Yam, Ryan Fehr, and Christopher M. Barnes, Department of

Management and Organization, Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington.

We thank associate editor Deidra Schleicher and participants in the IdeaLab, a student-run research seminar at the Foster School of Business, for constructive comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kai Chi Yam, Department of Management and Organization, Michael G. Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Box 353226, Seattle, WA 98195-3226. E-mail:

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