Could personal biases make flextime ineffective?

by Human Capital21 May 2014
A new report shows manager biases could be negating efforts to improve employee work satisfaction with flex time, even as more HR leaders introduce flexible work arrangements to their organizations.

Researchers from the University of Washington published results that reveal managers have a bias that favors workers who begin the day early – even if they achieve less or work shorter hours than those who roll in a couple of hours later.

By studying 149 employee-supervisor pairs, the researchers found that employees who clocked in earlier were generally rated as more conscientious and received better performance reviews. The results were matched in a hypothetical quizzing of supervisors who were asked to rate fictional workers who checked in at 7am versus their counterparts who checked in at 11am – despite working the same number of hours and achieving the same results.

However, the morning bias disappeared amongst supervisors who identified as night owls – and was exacerbated for supervisors who admitted to being morning people themselves.

The takeaway for HR, the researchers wrote, is to be wary that performance ratings may not be accurate reflections of an employee’s actual performance, especially when they allow the supervisor to allocate subjective ratings to their employees.

“Organizations may be inadvertently punishing the employees who use flextime to start and finish working later in the day,” the report said. “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 organizations endorse.”

Another related factor to consider is the perceptions of why the flexibility is being used, research from the University of Minnesota indicates. Managers are more likely to look favorably on workers who are perceived to be using the flexibility to be more productive, rather than those who use it to accommodate a better work-life balance – regardless of whether those perceptions are actually true.

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