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Being mindful can make you more generous to your colleagues

Learn about how meditation, mindfulness and a "culture of service" can improve the workplace.

4 min read


Being mindful can make you more generous to your colleagues


Meditation is a good practice for anyone. Rooted in ancient practices, chiefly Buddhist, regular meditation can reduce stress, reduce heart rate, improve focus and help individuals feel more centered.

“Mindfulness is being in the present moment — not being distracted thinking about what just happened, or being concerned about what’s coming next. It’s being aware of how you are feeling and behaving in the present moment, without judgment,” says Gretchen Spreitzer, a professor at the Ross School of Business.

When coupled with mindfulness — the sense of awareness of moment and condition — meditation can also improve generosity. “When you are more present in the moment, does that also allow you to be a better colleague, to be more helpful, to be more compassionate? And, indeed, that’s what we found: People were more helpful,” says Spreitzer, who conducted a study with colleagues from the US, Great Britain and China.

According to Spreitzer’s team research, meditation enabled people to be more empathetic as well as more readily understand another person’s viewpoint. This outlook made for more satisfied customers and a happier workplace.

The good news about mindfulness exercises? “It doesn’t take a major investment of time,” Spreitzer said. “It can just be seven to 10 minutes online, listening. And that makes it much more palatable for a business.”

Such an outlook contributes to a culture of service, something that I have been doing in my coaching work. The culture of service is the ability to connect more effectively with another individual. In short, you are “there for them.” That means you are available to assist them in their work, find resources for them, or be present with them.

Those who adopt this service mindset are not meddlers; they are listeners first, and participants second. They see a need, and they put themselves forward to help. Importantly, they know when to back off if help is not wanted. Part of serving others is knowing what you can do, as well as what you cannot do.

For example, if you see a colleague struggling, you can strike up a conversation about the issue. Don’t put forward your advice immediately. Hang back until invited. You can, however, liken the situation to yourself, and ask, “Would you like to hear my experience with this issue?”

Doing so puts the person who is struggling in control. Some of us like to figure things out for ourselves and resent interference. Others of us welcome a helping hand. Note: If you are managing a person who is struggling, you can — and, in fact, should — intervene because you are responsible for helping the team, as well as the individual.

In a follow-up email with me, Spreitzer said, “Daily practice is important to create a habit.  In an organizational setting, it is also important to have a community of others who practice mindfulness too.”

She adds, “If you are an island on your own, I think it can become something that fades over time as people become exposed to new practices that help with their well-being.”

When it comes to mindfulness in the workplace, there are two aspects. One is self; the second is the situation. First, know yourself and your condition. Second, determine what is in going on around you. Seldom is the workplace a solo endeavor, so mindfulness needs to be both inward and outward-directed.

Spreitzer concurs, “I do feel like our results suggest that the prosocial helping behavior can contribute to a service culture where employees want to help each other, but also go the extra mile to help customers too!.”

While mindfulness begins with centering on self, it can contribute to a greater understanding of others around us. And that’s where the ethos of service toward others takes hold.


John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. In 2019, Global Gurus ranked him No. 9 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. Baldoni is the author of 14 books, including“MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership” and his newest, “GRACE: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us.” Learn more about why he wrote “GRACE” in this short video.

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