Positive Imagery Improves Work Performance and Self-WorthSometimes the little things can make a big difference. As an example, a new research study discovers that simply imagining a positive co-worker can improve your job performance and help you exceed your own expectations.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers note the findings show that your perception of others – even ones that are made up – says a lot about what kind of person you really are.

Imagining coworkers instead of reporting on how you perceive your actual coworkers produces more accurate ratings of having a positive worldview, said Peter Harms, Ph.D., UNL assistant professor of management and the study’s lead author.

Harms believes the reason this technique is helpful is because it strips away the unique relational baggage that one may have with the people they know.

“When you make up imaginary peers, they are completely a product of how you see the world,” Harms said. “Because of that we can gain better insight into your perceptual biases. That tells us a lot about how you see the world, how you interpret events and what your expectations of others are.”

Researchers studied hundreds of working adults in a range of fields. Investigators specifically targeted individuals’ “psychological capital,” a cluster of personality characteristics associated with the ability to overcome obstacles and the tendency to actively pursue one’s goals.

In the study — after asking participants to conjure up imaginary workers in a series of hypothetical situations – participants were then asked to make ratings of the individuals they imagined on a wide range of characteristics.

Those who envisioned workers as engaging in proactive behaviors or readily rebounding from failures were actually happier and more productive in their real-life work, the researchers found.

Although the benefits of having a positive mind-set are readily acknowledged, researchers have struggled to obtain an accurate assessment because people are typically unwilling or unable to make accurate self-appraisals, Harms said.

Researchers believe this study shows that projective storytelling can predict real-life work outcomes above and beyond other established measures.

“We’ve known that workplace relations are a self-fulfilling prophecy for some time,” Harms said. “If a manager believes that their workers are lazy and incompetent, they will elicit those patterns in their employees.

“It’s hard to be motivated and enthusiastic for someone you know doesn’t think of you very highly. But most people don’t want to disappoint someone who sincerely believes in them.”

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Man and woman working photo by shutterstock.