Managers, adjust your deadline expectations: powerful people perceive time differently

Available time seems plentiful to high-powered people

Illustration of a high powered office with clocks melting everywhere

(Kagan McLeod)

According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, being in a position of power influences your perception of time—namely that you have more of it. The study included a series of five experiments that involved 557 participants.

The researchers asked a group of participants to complete an online questionnaire that were designed to measure their sense of power and their perspective on time. They were asked to rank themselves at that moment in time on statements like: “I feel like most of my life lies ahead of me,” “My future seems infinite to me,” “Time is slipping away,” and “I have a lot of time in which to get things done.”

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In one of the experiments, the researchers primed some of the participants for feelings of either power or powerlessness by assigning them to roles as bosses or employees in a face-to-face mock task of solving brain-teasers. Candidates who were in positions of power were seated in chairs that were cushioned and adjusted so that they were physically higher than powerless participants’ chairs. The bosses were instructed that they would be making decisions about which puzzles to solve and how to divide a seven-piece candy prize at the end of the exercise. Once participants were primed, they were asked to fill out surveys that revealed their perceptions of time availability.

The study’s authors concluded that the less power a participant had, the more likely he or she was to report feelings of insecurity about time. The study, which was published in the September issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, also indicated that one’s perception of available time led powerful people to be, in general, less stressed.

Why do powerful people believe they have more hours in the day? Perhaps the control one has in other areas of life spills over to one’s sense of time. Moreover, if time really is money, it’s another way your boss is richer than you.