Applying Mindfullness to HR Requires Practice

Defining Mindfullness

First, let’s define mindfullness. For the purpose of this post I’ll submit that mindfulness is a state of awareness about the situation at hand, with attention toward thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Why is the suspension of judgment important for mindfulness? Because, stepping back and first witnessing an event without the burden of deciding what’s right or wrong, enables a person to understand the situation on a deeper level.

Being mindful about an event means eventual decisions and actions can be taken with wisdom rather than emotional coercion. This is why mindful HR practitioners are better at their job. But, mindfulness requires space, thought and practice.

Surly vendors can make anyone angry

Like a lot of tech company leaders, I’m constantly searching for quality talent. Recently, a new agency recruiter contacted multiple executives in our company, asking for an opportunity to help us with our search.

We didn’t need another vendor, but I wanted to reward his persistence and decided to give him a chance. He sent his fee agreement for review, but it didn’t get approved before we stopped adding new vendors to our list.

The recruiter responded to our decision professionally, but his boss fired off an angry email to our HR manager and copied me with inaccurate accusations and offensive name-calling.

I was already having a bad morning when I read his comments and I had plenty of well-founded reasons for not using their company in the first place. So, I promptly drafted an equally heated response.

Creating room between action and reaction

Before I could press send, one of our managers stopped by my desk and asked me to join her and a few other people in a conference room. I was thrilled to discover an old friend had come by our office for a visit.

The wonderful surprise put me into a totally different mood. Someone asked what I had been doing and when I described the surly vendor email and my equally surly response, everyone laughed and exchanged their own versions of the chaos we all deal with every day.

At the end of the meeting my mood was opposite of what it had been when I was at my desk. As I thought about my reply to the vendor, I thought about how hard that recruiter had worked to get my attention. I thought about the pressure his manager was under to perform. I thought about the embarrassment he experienced when he had to tell his legal team the changes he requested were a waste of time.

I thought about the impression my angry reply would make on them. I thought about the opinion they would then have about our company. I thought about the stories they would tell their contacts in our community about my behavior.

Taking time to respond mindfully

So, I started a new reply. It wasn’t because I had been mindful on my own. Random circumstances caused me to pause and created enough room for me to be mindful. Space and time had been inadvertently created between an action and my reaction and gave me time to think.

Practicing mindfullness is the act of creating that space on purpose. It’s as simple as taking time to think, so you can push your innate wisdom in front of your emotion. This doesn’t mean you should smother your emotions, just let wisdom take the lead. When you do you’ll receive different outcomes.

Nothing good comes from blasting people in email or emailing blasting in general. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and vent anger and frustration. It’s harder (at first) to pause and be mindful of the situation and make a more creative and positive choice.

Mindfullness reduces bad reactions from those we know, as well as associated reactions from others we might not know. It keeps situations from spinning out of control and often keeps negative, non-productive events from getting spun up in the first place.

As an HR practitioner, researching and practicing mindfulness should be at the top of your professional to-do list.

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Scott Kinnaird

Scott Kinnaird is Director of Sales for Mercury Network. He has been a technical recruiter, staffing company founder, and recruiting division president for a publicly traded IT consulting firm. He loves to write and talk about applying uncommon corporate empathy to key segments of the talent lifecycle to increase employee engagement and corporate profits. Connect with Scott.

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