Researchers say that making up imaginary peers, who exhibit positive traits can lead to better job performance at the actual workplace.
According to Peter Harms, UNL assistant professor of management and the study's lead author, the results showed that your perceptions of others - even ones that are made up - says a lot about what kind of person you really are.
He said that imagining coworkers instead of reporting on how you perceive your actual coworkers produces more accurate ratings of having a positive worldview because it strips away the unique relational baggage that one may have with the people they know.
"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," he stated.
The study consisted of hundreds of working adults in a range of fields.
It specifically targeted their "psychological capital," a cluster of personality characteristics associated with the ability to overcome obstacles and the tendency to actively pursue one's goals.
After asking participants to conjure up imaginary workers in a series of hypothetical situations, they were then asked to make ratings of the individuals they imagined on a wide range of characteristics.
The researchers found that those who envisioned workers as engaging in proactive behaviours or readily rebounding from failures were actually happier and more productive in their real-life work.
The study will be published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.