By William Seidman When people envision the contributions they can make to the greater purpose of an organization, and visualize themselves mastering a critical attitude, behavior or body of knowledge, dopamine increases and motivation grows. According to a recent study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, simply imagining a coworker who is positive can improve your job performance and help you exceed your own performance expectations. As Rick Nauert explains in “Positive Imagery Improves Work Performance and Self-Worth,” a person’s perception of others—even those that are just made up—reveals a lot about that person. Peter Harms, Ph.D., UNL assistant professor of management and the study’s lead author, says this technique is useful because it removes the particular details one may associate 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.” The researchers studied hundreds of adults in a variety of fields. After asking participants to make up imaginary coworkers in hypothetical situations, they were then asked to make ratings of the imagined individuals on a wide range of characteristics. Those who imagined workers exhibiting productive behaviors were actually happier and more productive in their real working situations, researchers found. Although the benefits of having a positive attitude have already been established, researchers believe this study illustrates that storytelling can predict outcomes in the real-life work world better than other methods. “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.”  ]]>

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