Practicing mindfulness can improve interactions with co-workers, study says

RICHMOND, Va. — Practicing mindfulness can certainly provide plenty of benefits. Studies have linked the technique to stronger emotional control, less risk of depression and anxiety, and a better memory. Now, researchers in Virginia say mindfulness can also improve our interactions with co-workers.

Study authors from Virginia Commonwealth University report individual mindfulness can lead to mindful interactions and relationships with co-workers. These interactions, usually characterized by genuine intentionality, compassion, and presence, can conceivably make an entire office, company, or organization more harmonious.

“An understanding of how individuals bring mindfulness with them to work, and how these practices may contribute to interaction and relationship quality, is especially relevant as work landscapes are ever changing and interdependence is increasingly becoming the norm,” says Christopher S. Reina, Ph.D., an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship in the VCU School of Business, in a university release.

Study authors wanted to see how or if people bring their mindfulness practices to work, and how it influences their workplace interactions. Examples include taking a moment for a mindful pause before entering an important meeting. Or, on a more subtle level, listening to a fellow co-worker with a high level of attention.

‘Our thoughts and emotions are complex’

This qualitative research project used data pertaining to real leaders to explain how mindfulness impacts workplaces. Most of the data comes from interviews and on-site participant observations. In all, the team conducted 30 formal interviews with managers, consultants, and professionals of all kinds who practice mindfulness in the workplace. Additionally, researchers conducted over 50 informal interviews with numerous people who report applying mindfulness principles at their jobs.

“Interestingly, interviewees noted how other individuals around them had noticed the emotional effects of their mindful behaviors on interactions and relationships,” Prof. Reina adds. “We found initial evidence that our interviewees’ efforts toward bringing their mindfulness into the workplace were seen by their colleagues as having a positive effect.”

High-quality connections improve individual functioning, and positively affect group outcomes (psychological safety, trust). Researchers also note that mindfulness practices appear helpful and promote success while preparing for intense or important situations, such as a difficult chat with a manager.

“Mindfulness reminds us that our thoughts and emotions are complex,” Reina concludes. “They are contextualized by prior events experienced within a social environment, and within this social environment, individuals must be aware of both their own and others’ thoughts and emotions in order to navigate these complexities with skill and compassion.”

The findings appear in the journal Organization Science.

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