EVER have to listen to an early bird drone on about putting in two hours of work before you arrive at the office? Of course you have. There's one -- at least -- in every office.
Members of this species can be insufferable. Not satisfied in the belief that rising early is virtuous in and of itself, they seem compelled to lord their rectitude over those who sleep late and, of course, stay up late (no doubt watching television programs that have absolutely no socially redeeming value).
Now comes a possible reason that early risers seek validation from those around them: Management Recruiters International, a large search firm, asserted in a recent press release that people who put in overtime hours before the start of the workday fail to get the same recognition from their bosses as those who stay late.
''It's simply true that more notice is taken of people who work late than of people who come in early,'' said Allen Salikov, M.R.I.'s chief executive.
So that is what it may come down to.
Early birds may be as human as everyone else -- at least in one aspect. They may just crave recognition. Perhaps they are tired of those sidelong glances as they leave at 5:30 or 6 p.m., even after putting in more than their daily eight hours, often far more. Maybe they're not trying to make everyone else feel guilty -- not directly, anyway. Those whose natural quotidian clocks have the alarm set permanently on the unnatural hour of ''dawn'' may simply require a simple nod to their industriousness.
Little wonder, then, that early birds try to advertise their arrival hour. They send e-mail messages as soon as they get in that, of course, carry the time. They complain that it was hot, or cold, or stuffy when they arrived -- until the heat or air conditioning went on. They mention how little traffic they encountered on the way in.
As companies push to increase productivity -- especially at a time when the economy is slow -- everybody seems to be working more overtime. One recent survey tallied the average workweek for managers at 54 hours. As for workers, the government says the average manufacturing employee worked 4.2 hours of overtime a week in May. So, unless something is done, we can all expect more little hints from early birds.
Trying to be helpful, M.R.I. offered a few suggestions for early birds: ''Ask your supervisor if you require keys or a special security code to gain access to your office at off-hours'' and ''Don't be modest. Tell your boss when you have been putting in that extra time.'' The e-mail trick, of course.
Maybe if managers knew the overtime score, the early birds could stop making everyone else feel guilty.
Meantime, everyone can help. Wish out loud that you'd rather be an early riser. Complain that there are too many people around to get much work done after-hours. Finally, thank those who come in early for turning on the lights.
June 30, 2002, Sunday An article last Sunday about people who get to work early misspelled the surname of the president of Management Recruiters International, a research firm that concluded that early risers are not recognized for working long hours. He is Allen Salikof, not Salikov.