How passive 'face time' affects perceptions of employees: Evidence of spontaneous trait inference

Kimberly D. Elsbach, Dan M. Cable, Jeffrey Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We examine how passive 'face time' (i.e. the amount of time one is passively observed, without interaction) affects how one is perceived at work. Findings from a qualitative study of professional office workers suggest that passive face time exists in two forms: 1) being seen at work during normal business hours - or expected face time, and 2) being seen at work outside of normal business hours - or extracurricular face time. These two forms of passive face time appear to lead observers to make trait inferences (i.e. they lead observers to perceive employees as either 'dependable' or 'committed', depending on the form of passive face time). Findings from an experimental study confirm our qualitative findings and suggest that trait inferences are made spontaneously (i.e. without intent or knowledge of doing so).We discuss the implications of our findings for theories of person perception and the practice of performance appraisal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-760
Number of pages26
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 10 2010


  • Face time
  • Performance appraisal
  • Person perception
  • Trait inferences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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