global Leadership

A Misleading Article on Mindfulness

I want to comment on an article that appeared recently in the New York Times with the title: “Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate.”

As often happens, the headline—most likely written by a copy editor—is an over-stated, inaccurate summary of the conclusions reached by the article’s authors, whose study indicates that mindfulness meditation reduces employee motivation for certain tasks but not their performance and who offered a far more nuanced assessment than the article title implies.

Still I found it interesting that the authors of the study, who conceded that mindfulness meditation might be helpful in certain circumstances, never referenced employee tasks that involved interacting with other people.

It’s a striking omission for two reasons:

  1. Interacting with others on the job, whether they are colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers, or vendors, is where mindfulness meditation is most likely to benefit employees at every level of an organization. Often it helps them remain calm in difficult situations and be more open to understanding others’ points of view.
  2. These interactions have come to play a bigger role in nearly everyone’s work life. For decades now, executives, managers, and business owners have been placing greater value on customer service, collaboration, and positive relationships between supervisors and their staff. In many positions, from receptionists to medical technicians to CEOs, interacting with others takes up more of the workday than any other activity.

So, while the article title is obviously misleading, the authors of the study have also limited the value of their results by taking a very narrow view of what constitutes work.

You’ll find there are a number of studies showing positive relationships between mindfulness meditation and job performance. And a 2016 study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments found that 22 percent of Fortune 500 companies were planning to implement mindfulness training programs by the end of that year, and the number was predicted to double in 2017.