Work Smarter with Meditation

It has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve productivity. In fact, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on its effectiveness.

In today’s Research News article “The Association between Meditation Practice and Job Performance: A Cross-Sectional Study”

Shiba and colleagues take an empirical look at whether meditation improves job performance. They found that meditation practice was associated with better job performance, job satisfaction, and work engagement.

It should be noted that the study was correlational and as such does not show a causal connection. A controlled trial with manipulation of meditation is needed. Regardless, this is an important first step and suggests that meditation practice is associated with improved performance at work. This raises the question as to what does meditation do to facilitate work performance.

The most obvious possible mechanism is stress reduction. In the modern business environment stress is ever present. Stress can impair performance by decreasing the ability to concentrate, by increasing fatigue and nervousness, and by reducing wellness. Under high levels of stress people are more emotional and less rational in their behavior. Meditation has been well established to significantly reduce stress by altering both physiological and psychological responses to stress. Meditation doesn’t change the external sources of stress. Rather it improves job performance by reducing our responses to stressors.

But meditation does much more that can positively affect work. It can reduce the individual’s responsivity to “sunk costs.” People have a tendency to respond not only too what is appropriate for the present conditions but also tend to overly consider how much they have already invested in the situation, “sunk costs.” This can lead to decisions that are overly reliant upon past history rather than what is right for the present situation. Meditation by focusing the individual on the present moment can thus produce better decisions.

Meditation has been shown to improve emotional intelligence. It makes us better at understanding and responding to emotions. In other words it makes us smarter regarding our emotions. This can be a great asset in a job making the individual less apt to make rash emotional decisions and more likely to factor in but not be overly influenced by emotions.

Meditation has been shown to increase creativity. Hence, in a work environment the individual is more likely to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to problems. The individual can look at more alternative solutions and evaluate which are most likely to work the best.

Finally, meditation has been shown to improve concentration. Meditation is a practice in controlling and focusing attention. This practice pays off in increased ability to concentrate on a problem. This can improve job productivity by keeping the individual more “on task.” The ability to concentrate also improves memory by excluding inappropriate intrusive memories. This can allow for better use of information from past decisions to inform current decisions.

Hence meditation produces multiple effects that can positively affect job performance.

So meditate and work smarter.


Mindful Negotiations

Mindfulness practice is generally a solitary practice. We venture deep into ourselves. But, mindfulness practice does more than just improve the individual it also improves the individual’s ability to interact with others. There are a number of ways that mindfulness can work to improve interpersonal relationships including by increasing attentional focus.

In today’s Research News article, “The Influence of Mindful Attention on Value Claiming in Distributive Negotiations: Evidence from Four Laboratory Experiments.”

It was demonstrated that a brief exercise in mindful attention could significantly improve an individual’s success in simulated negotiations. The authors attribute the improvement to increased attention produced by the exercise.

Indeed, mindfulness has been shown repeatedly to improve attention in many disparate contexts. Today’s article suggests that even in negotiations, heightened attention can result from mindfulness and improve the outcome. How can attention improve negotiating ability?

In negotiations being sensitivity to the nuances in the subtle behaviors of the person being negotiated with can be very helpful. By being more attentive and screening out irrelevant stimuli the individual becomes better able to read the nonverbal cues coming from the other person. These cues are important for understanding the emotional reactions of the other person to each stage of the negotiations and can thereby assist the negotiator in refining offers and counteroffers. Being attuned to another makes your responses better aligned with what the other wants making you more successful.

Another way that mindfulness can be of help in negotiations is through improved emotion regulation. Mindfulness is associated with a heightened ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions. In a negotiation it is easy to react to your own emotions and as a result respond inappropriately or ignore the most logical negotiating step. So, being able to better regulate emotions would provide a negotiating edge.

Mindfulness has also been shown to improve problem solving and creativity. A negotiation can be viewed as a problem solving task where the negotiator must figure out the optimum strategy to produce the desired outcome. Also, by applying greater creativity to the problem the negotiator can devise novel solutions, optimizing outcomes.

So, practice mindfulness and become a better negotiator.