Cultivating gratitude is critical in helping to promote good employee behavior at work. However, gratitude is becoming increasingly harder for organizations to foster due to the rapidly changing challenges of today’s workplace. Using a multi-study approach, new research (Sawyer et al., 2021) examines how mindfulness may help to increase employee gratitude.
MINDFULNESS AND GRATITUDE
The researchers conducted a total of four studies. The first two studies used an experimental approach. In both studies, participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the first condition (experimental condition), participants were asked to listen to an audio recording that guided them through a mindfulness meditation. In the second condition (control condition), participants did not listen to an audio recording and were directed to an online survey.
The results from the first two studies found that participants in the mindfulness condition were significantly more grateful compared to participants in the experimental condition. Additionally, results from study 2 found that those in the mindfulness condition reported higher levels of gratitude compared to the control condition, and that gratitude subsequently predicted more helping behavior. This provides preliminary evidence that mindfulness can affect helping behavior via increasing gratitude.
Study 3 surveyed participants from a US university over the course of six weeks. Results from the study indicated that mindfulness was related to employee gratitude at work, and that gratitude subsequently predicted prosocial motivation, which increased employee helping behavior.
WHY DOES MINDFULNESS WORK?
Finally, study 4 surveyed employees in the US four times a day for 10 days. This study examined why mindfulness may increase employee gratitude. Results from the study indicated that mindfulness may increase gratitude by increasing positive affect (or mood) and the ability to take the perspective of other people. Additionally, the increase in gratitude predicted employee helping behavior through increases of prosocial motivation.
Taken together, these results suggest that the link between mindfulness, gratitude, and helping behavior is complex, but in all, mindfulness plays a positive role in increasing gratitude, which subsequently predicts employee helping behavior.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The results from this study show the potential benefits of implementing mindfulness interventions within organizations. By incorporating mindfulness training into work programs, employees may become more grateful for various aspects of their employment. This will increase employee helping behavior, benefiting the work culture and the organization.
Sawyer, K. B., Thoroughgood, C. N., Stillwell, E. E., Duffy, M. K., Scott, K. L., & Adair, E. A. (2021). Being present and thankful: A multi-study investigation of mindfulness, gratitude, and employee helping behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.