Improve Emotional Exhaustion and Employee Retention with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“In ten years of informally and two years of formally teaching agents mindfulness techniques, I can boldly and honestly say there is no downside to introducing it to your employees. I have seen it completely revolutionize things, transforming a call center in amazing ways. I have also seen it integrated on a small level, added as a tool along with many others. Regardless, the results are always positive.” – Debi Mongan
Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations burnout is all too prevalent. It frequently results from emotional exhaustion. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Sleep disruption is an important consequence of the stress. This exhaustion produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion.
Call centers can be particularly stressful due to a heavy workload, sustained fast work pace, repetitive tasks, lack of control over the job, the blurred relation between feelings and actions, a competitive environment, and being faced with losing a client. These stresses can lead to problems, including visual, auditory, and speech fatigue. Indeed, each year, 60% of employees take sick leave and 39.4% of employees showed psychological distress symptoms and 8.3% found themselves in a severe situation of psychological distress, and 24% were taking psychoactive drugs. This also produces high turnover, with the average employee leaving the job after only a year.
One technique to counteract these problems that is gaining increasing attention is mindfulness training. It has been demonstrated to be helpful in the workplace in reducing stress, improving emotional regulation, and treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments. In today’s Research News article “The Mediating Role of Emotional Exhaustion in the Relationship of Mindfulness with Turnover Intentions and Job Performance.” (See summary below). Reb and colleagues conducted two studies on the relationship of mindfulness with workplace well-being. They recruited call center workers and had them complete measures of mindfulness, emotional exhaustion, and intention to leave the job.
They found that the higher the level of the employee’s mindfulness the lower the level of emotional exhaustion and interest in changing jobs. They also found that the higher the level of emotional exhaustion the higher the interest in changing jobs. They further found with a mediation analysis that the majority of the relationship of mindfulness with lower interest in changing jobs was due to the negative relationship of mindfulness with emotional exhaustion which in turn was related to lower interest in changing jobs. So, mindfulness was associated with retention of employees directly and indirectly by being associated with lower emotional exhaustion.
In a second study Reb and colleagues recruited worker – supervisor pairs from a variety of industries. They again collected measures of mindfulness, emotional exhaustion, and intention to leave the job but also collected supervisor ratings of the employees’ job performances. They again found that the higher the level of the employee’s mindfulness the lower the level of emotional exhaustion and interest in changing jobs and the higher level of job performance. They also found that the higher the level of emotional exhaustion the higher the interest in changing jobs and the lower the job performance. They further found, as in study 1, with a mediation analysis that the majority of the relationship of mindfulness with lower interest in changing jobs was due to the negative relationship of mindfulness with emotional exhaustion which in turn was related to lower interest in changing jobs. But, they also found that the positive relationship of mindfulness with higher job performance was due to the negative relationship of mindfulness with emotional exhaustion which in turn was related to higher job performance.
These are interesting findings but are correlational, so causation cannot be concluded. But, the findings suggest that mindfulness is highly related to job performance and employee retention and better job performance. The results further suggest that these associations of mindfulness are due to a large extent to mindfulness’ relationship with lower emotional exhaustion. In other words, mindfulness appears to be related to less likelihood of leaving the job and better performance on the job both as a direct result of their relationship with mindfulness and indirectly due to mindfulness’ relationship with lower emotional exhaustion.
So, improve emotional exhaustion and employee retention with mindfulness.
“My advice to companies looking to introduce mindfulness techniques in their contact center culture is simple: start small but cultivate it and tend to it so it grows. One small step for your contact center, one giant leap for your entire company!” – Debi Mongan
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Reb, J., Narayanan, J., Chaturvedi, S., Ekkirala, S. The Mediating Role of Emotional Exhaustion in the Relationship of Mindfulness with Turnover Intentions and Job Performance. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 707. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0648-z
Mindfulness in the workplace has emerged as a legitimate and growing area of organizational scholarship. The present research examined the role of employee emotional exhaustion in mediating the relationship of mindfulness with turnover intentions and task performance. Drawing on theory and empirical research on both organizational behavior and mindfulness, we predicted that more mindful employees would show lower turnover intentions and higher task performance and that these relationships would be mediated by emotional exhaustion. We tested these hypotheses in two field studies in an Indian context. Study 1 was a field study of call center employees of a multinational organization, an industry in which turnover rates are very high. This study found that mindfulness was associated with lower turnover intentions and less emotional exhaustion, and that emotional exhaustion mediated the relationship between mindfulness and turnover intentions. Study 2 replicated these results in a sample of employees based in major Indian cities and drawn from different industries. In addition, it showed that mindfulness was positively related to supervisor-rated task performance, with emotional exhaustion again playing a mediating role. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of our findings, as well as future research directions.