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Copyright  2020 Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM)

Mindfulness Strong. Culture Good.

Updated: Feb 3

Increasingly, there’s a gap between our good intentions for a positive culture… and that place where negativity, disengagement and conflict take root.


It’s a divide we’re all prone to fall into. Not because we’re bad people. Not because we haven’t memorized the mission statement. Not because the company doesn’t care about us. It’s because we’re under stress ourselves, which puts stress on the the implicit foundations of our culture... Here's how:


To some extent or another, we’re all impacted by information overload, digital distraction, interpersonal conflict and the pace of change. For some, this stress leads to chronic illness, anxiety or depression. For others, it means overwhelm, fatigue or burnout. Try as we might, none of us can entirely escape these pervasive challenges.


The Mental Siege in the Workplace


And of course, when we're mentally under siege, we’re not as sharp or aware as we otherwise would be. We’re not listening as carefully or paying as much attention as we could. We’re distracted, our nerves are frayed and our emotions are on the surface. We’re unhappy or dissatisfied, or impatient or frustrated.


Put that all together in an open-plan office or a high-stakes meeting and the experience can turn negative pretty fast. Enough negative experiences, and we lose our motivation and engagement… which then buries our performance and productivity... This downward spiral destroys the connective tissue of culture.

Organizations are machines made of people. When people feel crappy, whether mentally, emotionally or physically, the machine grinds down. At that point, it just doesn’t matter what the mission statement says, or whether there’s a ping pong table in the employee lounge.


The Way Mindfulness Helps


It’s a useful shorthand to say that mindfulness clears away these mental challenges in the workplace. But that’s not precisely true. Mindfulness doesn’t change the physics of an unpleasant circumstance. Stress and distraction aren’t going to disappear. Change isn’t going to slow down. We’ll still have too much to do and too little time to accomplish it all…


But mindfulness can and does change our perception and relationship to each challenge. It gives us the power to radically alter the way we understand it, and gives us the emotional control to respond strategically to it. We can feel stress, but not be impaired by it. We can see the distraction all around us, but not pay attention to it.


With mindfulness, challenges are still inevitable... but suffering is a choice. This is a valuable perception that spans the chasm between the aspirational values of our organization, and our personal ability to rise and meet them.


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