workplace psychology

Daydreaming About Cash Will Help You Forget Your Co-workers Hate You

1950s happy man with exaggerated smile holding fan of money looking at camera
Photo: Corbis

Here is the weird and sad conclusion to a new workplace psychology study from researchers at Columbia University and the University of Cambridge: If you feel left out at work, no matter! Just spend some time daydreaming about cash. That’ll make you feel better. 

Feeling ignored at work is even harder on employees than being bullied outright, previous research has found, and so Aurelia Mok of Columbia and David De Cremer of the University of Cambridge wanted to figure out some ways to help people deal with that. “Since one of the main reasons we work is to procure cold, hard cash – and since money has been shown to mitigate the effects of ostracism in previous research – we wanted to see if it would help ostracized people recover in a work context,” they write for Harvard Business Review

Here’s how they set up the study:

Specifically, in surveys conducted online of roughly 100 working adults, we first asked individuals to rate their levels of experienced ostracism at work. (Participants were based in the U.S. and employed across a variety of industries including financial, retail, technology, and healthcare.) Then participants engaged in a description task. A random half were asked to describe money (e.g., “list three thoughts about cash”) or a money-neutral object (e.g., “list three thoughts about a bottle”). Then we asked their intentions to engage in prosocial behaviors at work. Examples included: lend a compassionate ear when a coworker has a work problem; initiate better ways of doing your core tasks; or come up with ways of increasing efficiency within the organization.

The people who were told to think about money were subsequently more likely to come up with those prosocial behaviors at work than those who’d been told to think about a bottle, which suggests that this little daydreaming exercise might lead employees to better ways to cope with feeling excluded. In their HBR write-up, the researchers encourage the reader to adopt this strategy, writing, “the next time your boss ignores you in a meeting or a colleague excludes you from after-work drinks, perhaps try thinking of some cash or savings.” Might I also suggest that you maybe start looking for a new job, too? 

A Weird Study on Daydreaming About Cash at Work