Teams: Morning larks vs. night owls

Does your team have a hard time getting into a good working rhythm? Are your designers reworking layouts late into the night, while your project managers are scheduling early morning meetings? Does part of your team love to brainstorm together, while the other half needs time to think solo?

The conditions that bring out the best of team members can bring out the worst of others. A great manager creates a work environment where everybody’s needs and preferences are reasonably addressed, so that everyone can have as close to their ideal working conditions as possible — without taking the team’s flow hostage.

Transient

The smart thing is to apply a proactive approach to working style conflicts. Take some time to map out differences and find possible points of tension before anything goes wrong. Empathy and a willingness to accommodate are key, or working style conflicts can lead to trouble with your duos.


Morning larks vs. night owls

The team member who’s happily firing off at emails at 6 am is a morning lark; the team member whose finest thinking happens post-9-to-5 is a night owl. Each person’s ideal working time is determined by biology, lifestyles, family obligations, etc. Problems arise when shared conventions aren’t established — for example, if an owl logs on mid-morning to finds he’s missed out on an early-bird decision-making email chain. Or a lark is rocked with a steady stream of incoming emails just as she’s powering down for the night.

Such email disconnects can undermine the team’s happiness and the flow of the work. Create some ground rules so everyone knows what’s expected, and when. Try these tips:

  • Establish set working hours. When are people expected to be on call? Except for emergencies or other situations when it’s all-hands-on-deck, make it clear that team members are not expected to be fielding emails during off-hours.
  • Develop a shared language for communicating when the emails require answers. For example, a night owl firing off ideas after hours should write in the subject line: “Please review in the morning.”
  • If you’re a team member whose ideal work time falls outside the team’s norm (e.g. the majority is in by 8 a.m., but you like to go to the gym in the morning and start working at 10:30 a.m.), the burden is on you to demonstrate responsiveness. How can you avoid creating bottlenecks and frustrating team members waiting for your input? How can you show your dedication, so that your limited availability doesn’t look like a lack of care or commitment?

I hope that these suggestions help you with your team! How do you create an environment that lets the different styles of work ethic thrive in your organization?