If you want a pay raise, try being a little more optimistic.
A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that workers who are cynical often have a lower income than those who are optimistic in the workplace. In fact, researchers found that cynical workers make $300 less a month (or $3,600 a year) than their positive co-workers.
“Why would cynical people earn less money? The authors suggest their unwillingness to trust others may lead to a refusal to cooperate,” Forbes’ Amy Morin wrote about the study. “Additionally, their constant suspicion of other people's motives may make them less likely to collaborate and less likely to ask for help, both of which can harm their careers.”
But cynicism doesn’t always result in lower pay. Forbes reported that in areas where there’s high amounts of negative and antisocial behavior — like a city with a high homicide rate — negative attitudes don’t affect incomes as much.
And, as Quartz’s Akshat Rathi points out, low incomes may be the cause of cynicism from employees.
“Although the researchers believe that cynicism may lead to lower pay, it is possible that lower salaries make people more cynical,” Rathi wrote. “Also, life experiences, such as growing up in economic hardship or a negative family environment, can obviously impact people’s attitude, which can further affect their ability to form trusting relationships — and conspire to generate a lower income.”
This study somewhat conflicts with a University of Amsterdam study that found being a jerk — or having a better-than-the-rest attitude — in the office can give you more power. In fact, the study said overconfidence and acting like you’re “the smartest person in the room” can help improve your chances of moving up the company ladder, according to The Atlantic’s Jerry Useem.
“We believe we want people who are modest, authentic and all the things we rate positively (to be our leaders),” Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford, told The Atlantic. “But we find it’s all the things we rate negatively that are the best predictors of higher salaries or getting chosen for a leadership position.”
So although the message may be mixed about whether positivity or negativity will get you a higher paycheck, optimism may be the better direction for the entire office. Fast Company’s Aaron Pitman reported that new businesses often succeed when workers are optimistic, since optimism breeds resilience and passion from employees.
“Cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy unlikely to win you any success,” Pitman wrote. “It's not naive to believe in yourself and your company despite the odds. Surround yourself with positivity and this positivity loop will help to boost your spirits.”
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.