Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium 2021

The Negative Effect of Working Just in Time on Interpersonal Judgments of Trust

With the current rise of nonstandard work arrangements, we have experienced more flexibility in how to schedule our work; however, the interpersonal implications of flexible scheduling have largely not yet been addressed. Using attribution theory as our theoretical basis and studies on the relationship between self-control and trust, we hypothesized that just in time workers, those who start and finish work right before deadlines, are trusted less compared to those who have another work style, or method in which one completes tasks for a project within a designated period of time, as just in time workers seem to be undeliberate in their work behavior. In Study 1, we had participants judge workers who held different work styles on a range of trust measures. We discovered that participants placed significantly lower levels of trust on just in time workers compared to targets who had other work styles. Given that we believed this effect to be due to the perception that a just in time work style is undeliberate, we further hypothesized that when a just in time worker is explicitly deliberate about their work style, they would mitigate the undeliberate attribution and therefore receive higher judgments of trust. In Study 2, we found that deliberateness moderated the effect of a just in time work style on trust, so that there was a lessened effect size when the just in time worker was deliberate. Overall, our findings suggest that just in time workers are the least trusted workers, and individuals’ scheduling of work indeed affects others’ judgements.

Grants for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research
College of Arts & Sciences 2021
Advised By
Rebecca Schaumberg
Assistant Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions
Grants for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research
College of Arts & Sciences 2021
Advised By
Rebecca Schaumberg
Assistant Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions


April 30 | 12:48 PM : by

Hi Andrew!

These findings are quite interesting, and clearly relevant to performance reviews at workplaces, and even to things like letters of recommendation.  An interesting question to ask in terms of ecological validity is what is the actual association between work styles and performance?  You held performance quality constant in your study, for obvious reasons, but IS there an association in the real world?  I can easily imagine that there is, although it's probably bi-modal.  My guess is that just-in-time sometimes results in excellent performance (because people are highly motivated and focused and bring a lot of energy to bear on the project) but sometimes results in really mediocre performance (because they really didn't leave themselves enough time to do a good job.).  So the question is whether other people's evaluations (and possible lack of trust) in the just-in-time folks are justified or not.  Maybe it is risky to hire someone like that, but it also might have high potential pay off.  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.


Dr. Hunt

May 04 | 11:01 AM : by


thanks for a clear presentation of your interesting findings, which are highly relevant today as companies ponder return to office. I wonder whether you have considered trying to parse trust in a business context along dimensions of warmth and competence (cf. Fiske). Are the work habits of just-in-timers untrustworthy because they predict lower competence or is it more of an emotional/social effect of unpredictability? Anna Jenkins may have some thoughts along these lines given her work.

Dr. Platt

Hi Dr. Hunt,

Thank you for your comment! I am glad you question the relationship between work style and performance. I did not get to cover this in my poster presentation due to time constraints, but in my paper we describe a third study we would like to conduct that involves evaluating the output of work. We focused on interpersonal judgments of trust and did not ask participants how well they thought the target performed on their project as we controlled for this across conditions; however, there could be interesting implications about performance as a result of work style. If people know that a target worked just in time on a project, would they believe this project was of lower quality compared to projects produced by targets who worked another way? If the answer is yes, then I believe it gets at your thought that people might think that the target did not have had enough time to do a good job.

To answer your question directly about if there is an actual association between work style and performance, I believe there certainly could be. Kim & Seo (2015) find that procrastination negatively relates to academic performance. Because the just-in-time work style could be considered to reflect procrastination, then just-in-time workers may be performing worse. However, you do bring up a good point that just-in-time workers could also be highly motivated to finish the work. Essentially, they complete everything all at once, but just near the deadline. Completing everything all at once is seen also in the eating-the-frog and mono-focused work styles, and all three of these work styles are only different in when this lumped work occurs. Maybe lumped work is good because it comes from people who are "in the zone," resulting in high quality work. But maybe lumped work is prone to errors as people don't take the time/have enough time to review/mull over/think of brilliant new ideas for the work. In my opinion, I think the habitual work style results in the best performance because people could come into the work with fresh energy and new ideas each time they decide to work. 

We ultimately just focus on perception, but future directions could definitely involve investigating the physical effects of work style (e.g., on work evaluations, on product quality) to improve ecological validity! 

Hi Dr. Platt,

Thank you for your comment! We had 5 indices of trust, 3 of which are established in the literature and are ones taken from an organizational context (i.e., benevolence-based trust, competence-based trust, integrity-based trust) and 2 of which we created ourselves (i.e., willingness to work with the target, desire to control the target's behavior). I believe our measures of benevolence-based trust and competence-based trust are similar to what Fiske means by trust along the dimensions of warmth and competence as we adapted questions for our measures from Dietz and Hartog (2006). Since we found that targets who worked just in time had significantly lower judgments of competent trust compared to targets who worked another way, it certainly could be that people don't trust them because they don't trust their abilities. But I believe our findings point more toward your second line of reasoning that there is some sort of emotional/social effect of unpredictability that causes our effects.

We theorized that just-in-time workers seem to be undeliberate in their work behavior, in that they're not purposefully working just in time. This would make them seem to have less self-control. Based on Righetti and Finkenauer (2011), people who are perceived to have less self-control are trusted less. Thus, just-in-time workers should be trusted less. In Study 2, we test this prediction by manipulating whether the target is explicitly deliberate about their work style. We hypothesized that being explicitly deliberate about a just-in-time work style would mitigate the negative attribution of working undeliberately, thus having a positive effect on trust. We found support for this hypothesis, so it could be said that a just-in-time work style lowers trust in part because people see this work style as not deliberate. Perceptions of not being deliberate could relate to a number of other attributions—not just our theory that it seems like a lack of self-control—including that of unpredictability because people see there is no plan for when to work, but instead, work is just done randomly. 

May 05 | 10:33 PM : by

Hi Andrew,

Very nice presentation. Interesting results with clear implications for the workplace. Follow-up work in real group settings sounds like a great next step. I would be curious to see how such ratings play out over longer periods of evaluation. e.g. would trust ratings remain low for just-in-timers who consistently turn in excellent work? I thought it was interesting that the ratings for the sporadic work style were similar to mono-focused and habitual. I would expect sporadic workers to be judged as less predictable and therefore maybe less dependable and trusted. Did you have any predictions about this group going into the study? The deliberate effect in study 2 was quite nice. You mentioned that a "why" was provided for when work was planned to start and finish. How definitive was the justification? Were participants simply told to accept that there was a good reason or were they provided with some story that they had to judge for themselves?

Mike Arcaro

Hi Dr. Arcaro,

Thank you for your comment! I'm also interested in if trust ratings remain low for just-in-time workers who consistently turn in excellent work. If just-in-time workers still are able to produce work that is great and on par with work from other work styles, then theoretically they should not be judged so negatively. While I believe there's no reasonable justification for why people trust just-in-time workers less if they do regularly produce good work, this research implies that we aren't only judged by our work output. Instead, our work scheduling affects character attributions, and it's possible that if someone keeps working a peculiar way, they will be given the same character attributions associated with their one work style over time. 

We used the sporadic work style as a control of some sorts. We expected that participants would trust the eating-the-frog and habitual workers more than the sporadic work style. We do see a positive effect of the eating-the-frog and habitual work style on trust looking at the descriptive statistics, albeit this effect is nonsignificant/much smaller than the negative effect of a just-in-time work style on trust. 

Regarding the deliberateness manipulation, we provided a simple justification for why the target wanted to complete the project between XYZ dates. Here is our exact wording: "His reasoning was that he wanted to dedicate his full attention to one task at time, and not have different project tasks clashing in his work schedule." You bring up a good point that participants may not exactly buy this as a definitive justification, but we believe this was convincing enough to participants as it signals that the target wants to produce quality work and just needs to plan out their work schedule wisely to achieve their goal.