Updated: Mar 1, 2020
The author Ronald Purser provides useful background and historical context on mindfulness. He then argues that mindfulness aims to reduce the stress of the private individual and does not admit to any interest in the social causes of stress. Particularly in the workplace, companies spend money to send their employees to mindfulness training classes, and even introduce meditation rooms.
Studies conducted by SAP also confirm that mindfulness at the workplace has a lot of positive measurable impact. For instance, the average sick days per person decreases, while happiness and wellbeing is increasing. This looks promising at first glance!
However, making people “numb” to better cope with a toxic work environment using mindfulness techniques like breathing and meditation will not solve the underlying root cause - the work environment still remains toxic.
How do we get rid of the toxic work environment or prevent it in the first place?
The environment and culture within an organization is primarily dependent and shaped by its leadership team.
However, in my experience, many leaders are motivated and driven by their intellect and egos. This is not unexpected, as the ego helped them to rise in their career. They are typically able to generate strong business results in the short term, but in doing so, they may cause harm to others and our environment.
Such a leader could certainly benefit from mindfulness training. But that alone will not do the trick.
It is compassion towards yourself and others that needs to be strongly cultivated to result in real change. This emphasis on compassion is exactly one of the primarily goals of Mindful Leadership.
As an employee you can quickly sense whether a leader has a strong ego and cares about others than him/herself - a lack of compassion.
Also the choices such a leader makes along the way to reach a goal, no matter what the consequences are, yield to toxicity in the workplace, which in turn has a negative impact on the company in the long term.
This is the root of the problem, and needs to be addressed.
However, for leaders to change their behavior, they require at least a minimal amount of present awareness, and ability to self-reflect. Impulses from the outside can be helpful, but it is the inner self motivation that will initiate a change.
It also takes courage as a leader, curiosity, and a strong will to try out and experiment with novel approaches to leadership.