Mindfulness at work: implications for leaders and followers

Walsh, Megan M. (2017) Mindfulness at work: implications for leaders and followers. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This dissertation investigates the benefits of mindfulness from the point of view of leaders (Study 1) and employees (Study 2). In Study 1, I draw on Conservation of Resources (COR) and dual process theory (Strack & Deutsch, 2004) to develop a framework that outlines the mediating mechanisms explaining the relationship between leader resource depletion (emotional exhaustion) and leadership style (transformational leadership and abusive supervision). Using Glomb, Duffy, Bono and Yang’s (2011) framework of self-regulation, I identify empathy and negative emotion as mediators that are of particular importance for leaders. In addition, I propose that leader mindfulness would disrupt this process to improve leadership style. Using a time-lagged survey of leader follower pairs (N = 63; follower perceptions of leadership style as the criterion), Study 1’s model was not supported. However, using the larger sample of leaders’ (N = 505; leader self-reported leadership style as the criterion), I found that leader empathy and negative emotion mediated the relationships between emotional exhaustion and leadership style. Furthermore, I found that leader mindfulness significantly moderated the indirect effect of leader emotional exhaustion on leadership style through negative emotion. However, leader mindfulness did not moderate the relationship between emotional exhaustion and empathy. In Study 2, I shift focus to the benefits of mindfulness from the followers’ perspective in terms of the relationship between leadership style and employee wellbeing. I define well-being in terms of four key categories: physical, social, psychological, and cognitive. I again use COR theory to suggest that employee mindfulness will boost the positive relationship between transformational leadership and employee well-being, and will buffer the negative relationship between abusive supervision and employee wellbeing. I found, using a time-lagged survey of 246 employees, that employee mindfulness boosted the positive relationship between transformational leadership and psychological well-being (null results for the other facets of well-being). Contrary to my hypothesis, employee mindfulness intensified, rather than buffered, the relationship between abusive supervision and employee psychological well-being. This study shows the benefits of employee mindfulness in certain contexts, and reveals one potential dark side of mindfulness at work. I conclude with a general discussion of both studies and outline future directions for research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/12860
Item ID: 12860
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 95-113).
Keywords: mindfulness, leadership, well-being, stress, emotional exhaustion, empathy, emotion, business, organizational behaviour, transformational leadership, abusive supervision
Department(s): Business Administration, Faculty of
Date: August 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Leadership--Psychological aspects; Employees--Psychological aspects; Psychology, Industrial; Mindfulness (Psychology); Organizational behaviour

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