If you are feeling excluded or unappreciated at work, you might want to try counting some cash.
In a study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, psychologists Aurelia Mok and David De Cremer reveal that just thinking about money can help dampen down the negative effects of workplace ostracism, according to Psychological Science.
“On the surface, researchers may assume that reminders of money make ostracized employees act even less prosocial given evidence linking both money and ostracism to a lack of prosocial behavior,” the researchers write. “We showed that money ameliorates rather than exacerbates ostracism effects.”
For their study, Mok and De Cremer first had 102 working adults fill out an online questionnaire about their experiences being ostracized at work over the past year. The researchers then randomly assigned the participants to either imagine characteristics of a stack of cash or a neutral object, like a water bottle.
Participants who were more highly ostracized at work and thought about the neutral object were found to be much less likely to positively engage with or help their coworkers. Surprisingly, the opposite was found for ostracized workers who imagined cash — they were much more likely to be helpful at work than those who thought about a neutral object.
In a second experiment, Mok and De Cremer had 156 participants read fictional scenarios in which they were either regularly included or excluded by coworkers at a hotel. Afterward, the participants were prompted to either imagine counting a pile of cash at a hotel event or imagine counting a stack of cards in the same situation.
The participants were then given a choice to help out a sick coworker by typing customer comment cards into a database. Based on how much was typed, the participants’ prosocial behavior was then measured.
The researchers found that ostracized employees who had imagined counting money typed an average of about 42 words while those who had imagined counting cards typed around 32 words. Those participants who were in the scenarios where they had been included typed an average of 54 words whether they imagined money or cards.
“Ostracism can be a stressful, painful, and unsettling experience,” Mok and De Cremer conclude. “Our work suggests that exposure to money enables employees to maintain their organizational identification despite being ostracized, and furthermore, engage in prosocial behavior.”