Having a cynical attitude isn’t just likely to make you the least popular person in the office, it also might make you the lowest paid worker. According to results from a recent study, individuals who believe that others are motivated purely for self-interest rather than unselfish reasons earn less than their more optimistic co-workers.

The cumulative study was based on three separate research projects spanning two continents and including data on the salary and personality of thousands of individuals. After reviewing the information, the team concluded that cynicism and pay are undeniably tied, so much so that, according to the press release, in Germany, cynical workers earned on average $300 less a month. This association between cynicism and lower income was found to be strongest in countries that put more emphasis on altruistic behavior.

While it was clear that cynical attitudes often held people back in their earning potential, understanding why gets a bit complicated. The researchers hypothesize that the traditional cynical attitude may prevent individuals from making important partnerships in the workplace, which in the long-run is detrimental to their career.

"For example, employees who believe others to be exploitative and dishonest are likely to avoid collaborative projects and to forgo the related opportunities,” Olga Stavrova, lead author of the study, explained in a press release. Cynical individuals may also be more likely to be overly concerned with protecting their resources from others and “covering their backs” to the point that it takes away from their focus on their actual job.

Interestingly, not all countries displayed a preference for non-skeptical workers. The research showed that in countries with rare pro-social behaviors (such as charity donations) and widespread antisocial behaviors, as demonstrated in homicide rates, cynical individuals did not earn less. Stavrova hypothesized this may be because in these countries cynicism is a necessary survival mechanism.

This is not the first study to suggest that a cynical mentality may lead to a harder life. A 2014 study found that cynical distrust, anger, and hostility were linked to a higher risk of dementia in older age. This disposition still existed even when the researchers took factors such as socioeconomic position, age, sex, health status, and smoking into consideration, Reuters reported.

The team hopes their research can help individuals become aware of their possible obstacles in order to best overcome them and achieve their goals “by encouraging people to adopt a more benevolent and idealistic view of human nature and trustful attitude toward their peers,” Stavrova concluded.

Source: Stavrova O, Ehlebracht D. Cynical Beliefs About Human Nature and Income: Longitudinal and Cross-Cultural Analyses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2015.