Supervisors: Have you ever considered that bringing out the best in your employees and organization may lie in your mindfulness practice?
We’ve seen rising interest in the impact of cultivating moment-to-moment awareness in the workplace. Most research has focused on benefits for employees who practice meditation or who possess high mindfulness traits or skills, like accepting feelings without judgment. Yet, very little work has been done to examine how someone’s mindfulness influences other people in a workplace setting. Is it possible that your mindfulness practice could influence your colleagues?
In two studies published in the journal Mindfulness, researchers sought to examine the effect of supervisors’ mindful traits on various aspects of employee well-being and performance.
Ninety-six supervisors and their subordinates from a variety of industries took part in the first study. In addition to measuring the level of mindfulness in the supervisor, this first study examined their employees’ emotional exhaustion, work-life balance, and overall job performance, among other measures.
The researchers confirmed their hypothesis: the more mindful the leader, the lower the employee’s emotional exhaustion. More leader mindfulness was also associated with better work-life balance for the employee and better overall job performance ratings of the employee.
The second study sought to conceptually replicate the findings of the first, and also extend it a bit further by including the examination of “organizational citizenship behaviors” while trying to find a potential mediating variable for their feelings of satisfaction.
Once again, leader mindfulness was significantly associated with greater satisfaction and more favorable job performance ratings. And this time, they also found that the more mindful the supervisor, the more likely the employee was to engage in good citizenship, such as showing concern toward co-workers and expressing opinions honestly even when others may disagree.
But the second study also found that something could stand in the way between a mindful leader and a happy employee—the absence of feelings of autonomy, competence, and connection with other people. That finding suggests that mindfulness alone isn’t enough; employees don’t receive the same benefits unless these basic psychological needs are also being met.
Although further replications with more diverse samples are needed, the results from this study suggest that the quality of attention and awareness that a leader possesses may actually have a direct impact on those she or he supervises. The results of this study also fit well within the broader mindfulness literature suggesting that mindfulness improves social relationships, communication, and empathic concern towards others.
So, supervisor: Does this mean that your company should start offering mindfulness classes to leaders like you? Perhaps. But in the meantime, there’s no reason why you can’t start meditating on your own.
Hooria Jazaieri, MFT, is a researcher and cognitive-behavioral therapist currently in the psychology graduate program at the University of California, Berkeley.