What is it about?

Using two field studies with six total samples, we explore the potential downsides of mindfulness at work. While these have been long theorized, our studies are among the first to demonstrate that mindfulness may contribute towards decrements in job performance. Across our studies, we found that among more mindful people, inauthentic behavior at work (e.g. surface acting) resulted in greater losses in self-control, and that this contributed to worse job performance. This included supervisor-rated task performance and organizational citizenship behaviors (e.g. helping out the organization and colleagues), as well as self-rated counterproductive work behaviors (e.g. doing harmful things to the organization and colleagues).

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Why is it important?

Mindfulness has been widely theorized to act in only helpful ways to people, in general and at work. Our studies show that as previously theorized, mindfulness can also have costs at work. Specifically, under the right conditions, it may contribute towards lower job performance. It is interesting too that the reason mindfulness may contribute to lower performance is by contributing to reduced self-control. Extensive evidence shows that mindfulness usually offers significant benefits for self-control, and this is an important reason why it should help people at work. Finding that mindfulness contributed to lower self-control is a surprising finding that runs counter to typical views of mindfulness at work. To increase confidence that these surprising findings are not a statistical artifact (e.g., random chance), we replicated this pattern across six independent samples of different types of workers in different types of organizations.


It was great to work with a wonderful team of experts on this research!

Christopher Lyddy
Providence College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The costs of mindfulness at work: The moderating role of mindfulness in surface acting, self-control depletion, and performance outcomes., Journal of Applied Psychology, December 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/apl0000863.
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