A state of mindfulness is characterized by focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. CLSBE Professor Andrew Hafenbrack and Kathleen Vohs published an article in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes that tested whether and how state mindfulness influences task motivation and performance. People who listened to one 8 or 15 minute mindfulness meditation recording, relative to comparison conditions, said they were less motivated to do mundane and pleasant tasks. Focusing less on the future and feeling less energetic were the processes that explained the demotivating effect of mindfulness. In contrast to changes in motivation, mindfulness did not affect task performance, as seen in all experiments but one. Meta-analyses of performance experiments, including unreported findings (i.e., the file drawer), supported these conclusions. The final experiment showed that mindfulness enabled people to focus less on the things that made them feel stressed, which improved task focus.When combined with mindfulness’s demotivating effects, these results help explain why mindfulness does not alter performance. The authors also published a summary Op-Ed article in the New York Times.
Hafenbrack, A.C. & Vohs, K.D. (2018). Mindfulness meditation impairs task motivation but not performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 147, 1-15.
To answer this question, we posited an important ethical role for self-conscious emotions (versus moral emotions) in the business context. In contrast to moral emotions, which generally focus on the interest or welfare of others (e.g., contempt, anger, disgust, or compassion), self-conscious emotions, such as pride and shame, focus on the agent as the center of attention and subsume personal judgments of both the self and one’s own actions.
This self-evaluative mechanism relates particularly to the expectations of others and what this means for the concept of self. That is, individuals might decide to sustain moral actions if the pride or shame that they experience (as a result of their previous actions) is consistent with the maintenance or reparation of their positive ideal self-image.
One way in which individuals evaluate if they lived up to their ideal self is by gauging what others think of them. Accordingly, in this research, my co-author and I investigated how pride and shame act as trigger for employees’ future actions, either by repairing damages done to other organizational stakeholders, or by sustaining positive behavior on behalf of their firm. Further, since doing good or causing harm as a member of the organization makes one the focus of attention by organizational stakeholders, we tested how individuals’ orientation toward others (measured as individuals’ perspective taking and other-directed life guiding principles) regulates the effects of pride and shame.
Specifically, we expected that individuals’ orientation toward others would accentuate the relevance of pride. In fact, a higher sensitivity in perceiving others' approval should augment the experience of pride and fulfill the actor's self-consistency needs required to sustain positive behaviors on the behalf of the company (i.e., a proud self).
Although important in amplifying the effects of pride, we expected that orientation toward others would lead to opposite results for people experiencing shame. In fact, a high sensitivity for perceived disapproval by others should induce ashamed individuals to flee the situation, because acting upon shame entails additional exposure to others' judgments, which eventually threaten one's self-concept. Low other-oriented individuals, in contrast, should try to repair the situation and, indirectly, their self-image. This is because engaging in reparative behaviors and facing others' judgments will not pose additional threats to their egos.
In simple words, this article suggests that the simple gaze of others on us provide additional strength to our felt pride (by making us even prouder), and block important reparative behaviors associated with shame (by making us feel even more ashamed). To test these hypotheses, we conducted an experiment with 258 individuals from a business college in the Western United States. The bulk of the participants were students preparing for their future role as full time managers, currently engaging in business management coursework and their internship program.
In the experiment, feelings of pride were induced as a result of engaging in perceived actions that enhanced a firm’s adoption of environmental responsibility with specific acts of moral strength taken to prevent an oil spill. Greater pride was shown to increase intended proactive behaviors (i.e., actions taken to sustain the firm’s doing good) to the degree that individuals held a strong orientation toward others.
The alternative manipulation induced shame, experienced by a perceived consequence of engaging in acts that resulted in an oil spill. Feelings of shame influenced positive proactive behaviors (i.e., actions taken to benefit other people or the firm after the oil spill) to the extent that the individual had a weak orientation toward others.
In conclusion, understanding how morally responsible and irresponsible management actions lead to feelings of pride and shame can help us learn more about what motivates future action toward the organization, such as repairing the damage one has done to organizational stakeholders (e.g., in corporate scandals), or sustaining the company's responsible actions already in place. The findings of our research also offer business implications that can be applied to management education, as well as to corporate training and ongoing adult moral development in the workplace. For example, by explicitly discussing and valuing self-awareness and, more specifically, the ability to recognize one's own self-conscious emotions, managers can come to appreciate what enables (or disables) their ability to address an ethical issue, challenge, or dilemma with moral strength. In workshops or training sessions, employees can learn to openly discuss how affective influences play a role in fostering or thwarting an employee's desire to address an ethical issue.
Bagozzi, R.P, Sekerka, L., & Sguera, F. (2018). Understanding the Consequences of Pride and Shame: How Self-evaluations Guide Moral Decision Making in Business. Journal of Business Research, 84, 271-284.