Mindfulness Decreases the Impact of Abusive Supervision at Work

Mindfulness Decreases the Impact of Abusive Supervision at Work


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness has stopped many workplace snafus from happening in the first place. Once the mind is calm, a resolution can be reached.”Diane Dye Hansen


Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.


To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. For example, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving well-being and work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on mindfulness’ effectiveness at work. In addition, there is no information on the effectiveness of mindfulness to help overcome the effects of a hostile work environment.


In today’s Research News article “The Buffering Effect of Mindfulness on Abusive Supervision and Creative Performance: A Social Cognitive Framework.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01588/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_398354_69_Psycho_20170921_arts_A, Zheng and Liu recruited employees and managers from an electronics manufacturer. They had them complete measures of abusive supervision, mindfulness, self-efficacy. The supervisors also rated them for their levels of creative performance at work.


They found, as expected, that the higher the level of abusive supervision, the lower the level of self-efficacy and creativity and the higher the level of self-efficacy the greater the level of creativity. Further, they found that employees who were low in mindfulness were severely impacted by abusive supervision by showing significantly lower levels of creativity and self-efficacy when they were subjected to high levels of abusive supervision. On the other hand, when mindfulness was high abusive supervision had no significant effect on either creativity or self-efficacy. Hence, mindfulness appeared to buffer the employees from the negative impact of abusive supervision.


This is a correlational study, so causation cannot be conclusively concluded. But, the relationships are clear. Mindfulness is associated with an improved ability to function effectively regardless of the supervisory methods used. This may result from the ability of mindfulness to improve the individual’s physical and psychological responses to stress. In this way, mindful individuals do not react to the stress imposed by an abusive manager and thereby their performance is unaffected. It is also possible that the ability of mindfulness to increase the individual’s ability to respond to and regulate their emotions. As a result, they are able to cope with the negative emotions produced by abusive supervision and can be productive nonetheless.


So, decreases the impact of abusive supervision at work with mindfulness.


“Blunting the harm of a workplace stressor like abusive supervision may unwittingly promote acceptance of mistreatment, potentially interfering with adaptive responses, such as proactively addressing supervisor conflicts and behavior, filing a grievance, or changing jobs. So while mindfulness may leave individuals less affected by negative work events, an open question is whether it coincides with passivity, allowing unhealthy patterns to continue unchecked.” – Darren Good


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Zheng X and Liu X (2017) The Buffering Effect of Mindfulness on Abusive Supervision and Creative Performance: A Social Cognitive Framework. Front. Psychol. 8:1588. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01588


Our research draws upon social cognitive theory and incorporates a regulatory approach to investigate whyand when abusive supervision influences employee creative performance. The analyses of data from multiple time points and multiple sources reveal that abusive supervision hampers employee self-efficacy at work, which in turn impairs employee creative performance. Further, employee mindfulness buffers the negative effects of abusive supervision on employee self-efficacy at work as well as the indirect effects of abusive supervision on employee creative performance. Our findings have implications for both theory and practice. Limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.


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