We can learn a lot from the experience of Wendy Quan, Change Manager in a major insurance company. Based her knowledge that meditation can alleviate stress, she started organizing and leading mindfulness meditation sessions aimed at helping employees reflect on their attitudes and reactions towards the numerous transformations announced in their company. The ultimate goal was to “de-stress” the situation by helping them recognize it and distance themselves from it.
THE FIRST MEASURE of success was the great popularity of the meditation sessions. The initial group of 12 participants quickly added 178 new recruits, all volunteers, which represented nearly 25% of the company’s workforce. Even senior executives asked to join in. Keep in mind that the desire to participate in these sessions stems from the conviction that they’ll be beneficial – which is largely achieved through word-of-mouth within the organization.
THE SECOND MEASURE is the benefits extolled by the participants themselves, which Ms. Quan summarizes as follows:
- Resilience – Participants had an easier time managing stress and maintaining their calm and poise in the face of change.
- Self-awareness – Participants gained a deeper knowledge of themselves and their reactions.
- Acceptance – They learned to better accept the changes imposed by the transformations, both on a professional and personal level. Greater acceptance led to being less judgemental.
- Calm – They learned to be more reflective and calm.
- Personal Satisfaction – Reducing stress helps them stay calmer, more relaxed, more “zen”, and to stop manufacturing negative emotions and bogus problems.
THE THIRD MEASURE is the participants’ resilience with regard to the major changes announced in the company. Before Ms. Quan’s meditation sessions, only 28% of participants were rated as having high or very high resilience. Afterwards, that leapt to 65%.
Wendy Quan, Pacific Blue Cross – ACMP White Paper 2015
The following phenomena manifested themselves in several ways:
- Better reactions to stress and constraints
- A better attitude towards challenges (discussing them, trying to understand them, asking for help, helping others, etc.)
- A participatory attitude, vs. “everyone for himself” or even a toxic atmosphere
- The ability to rebound quickly
- A capacity for introspection in order to understand one’s reactions and choices
- A greater ability to stay calm and professional
- Less propensity towards depression
In a survey, 83% of respondents said that meditation had helped them deal with the major transformation that the company went through – a transformation that led to changes in processes, roles, responsibilities and even employment levels.
These results were confirmed by a second survey, in which 13.6% of company employees referred to meditation as the most helpful activity for managing work-related stress. Knowing that 25% of employees had attended Ms. Quan’s sessions, the survey result shows that over one out of two participants attributed their stress reduction to their meditation sessions.
Today, Ms. Quan details her positive experience in her blog (http://thecalmmonkey.com/my-blog/) and gives meditation classes in other organizations. She plans on measuring the effects of these sessions over the longer term.
So can meditation really become a change management tool? Why not – especially when you consider that stress is one of the great ills of our time. If we can put our prejudices aside, we can learn to look at meditation as a promising way to increase an individual’s ability to deal with change.