The impact of mindfulness on burnout:
the moderating role of gender
Bachelor Thesis Business Administration
Submitted to the faculty of Economics and Business For the degree of Bachelor of Business Administration Specialisation: Management in the Digital Age
Presented by Maud van de Graaf, 12326011
Statement of Originality
This document is written by Student Maud van de Graaf who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no
sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Every year more and more employees have to deal with stress and burnout related symptoms. A gender difference is found in previous literature on burnout and the three facets of burnout; emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment.
Mindfulness has been getting more attention for helping battle burnout symptoms.
Furthermore, research has proven that mindfulness is negatively related to burnout and it’s three facets. However, what effect does gender have on this negative relationship between mindfulness and the three facets of burnout? This study hypothesizes that said negative relationship is stronger for mindful women than for mindful men. More specifically, the hypothesis is made that gender has a different effect on the relationship with each burnout facet and mindfulness. The hypotheses are tested by having 214 full time employees fill out a survey on mindfulness and burnout. The hypotheses concerning the relationship between mindfulness and the burnout facets all received support from the results, however the hypotheses concerning the moderating effect of gender did not receive support. Thus, suggesting that gender does not have an effect on the relationship between mindfulness and burnout.
Table of contents
1. Introduction 5
2. Theoretical Framework 7
2.1 Mindfulness 7
2.2 Burnout 9
2.3 Gender 12
3. Research Methods 15
3.1 Research design 15
3.2 Sample & procedures 16
3.3 Measurements 16
3.4 Analysis 19
4. Results 19
4.1 Preliminary Analysis 19
4.2 Descriptives 21
4.3 Regression Analysis & Moderation 22
5. Discussion 24
5.1 Contributions & Implications 24
5.2 Limitations & Future Research 26
6. Conclusion 28
7. References 29
8. Appendix 34
A. 15 Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire 34
B. Maslach-Burnout Inventory General Survey 35
C. Big Five Personality Model 36
D. Reliability tests 37
E. Assumption checking 38
F. Tables 42
G. Regression Analyses 44
H. Moderation Analyses 58
I. Charts 52
Due to the workload and pressure put on employees increasing every year, more and more employees in seemingly all professions have dealt with a burnout or being on the verge of a burnout; e.g. teaching (Watts & Robertson, 2011), helping professions (Gabassi et al., 2002), IT professions (Pawlowski et al., 2007), social service professions (Wen et al., 2020) and management (Cordes et al., 1997). The average percentage of work-related stress is 51%
in Europe, moreover in the Netherlands 60% of employees regularly or often feel work related stress (European Agency for Safety & Health at Work (EU-OSHA), 2013). In fact, in the Netherlands burnout complaints have been rising since 2010 (Statista, 2020). Stress has previously been connected to health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes and mental disorders for instance anxiety and depression (Dimsdale, 2008; Leiter et al., 1998). Other issues following stress are insomnia, fertility problems and headaches. Insomnia goes hand in hand with a loss of concentration, just like anxiety and depression.
In short, stress is harmful, but not only for the individuals, but also for their employment. As stress can also decrease an employee's performance. Therefore, if an employee is feeling stressed for a longer period of time or has symptoms of a burnout, they become less productive and eventually of less value for the company. In previous findings from Maslach, Jackson, and Leiter (1997) it was found that there was a decline in the quality of service provided by those who noticed burnout symptoms, this effect was visible in job turnover, absenteeism and low morale. Subsequent backlash of burnout are increased use of drugs and alcohol, and family issues combined with insomnia and physical exhaustion as mentioned above.
During the past decade mindfulness has gotten more attention, not only in the medical field but also in the organizational field (Good et al., 2015). Mindfulness means to be in the
mindfulness change these high burn out numbers and thus decrease burnout in the workforce?
According to multiple experiments and researches done in different fields, it can be concluded that mindfulness does play an important role in diminishing burnout (Luken & Sammons, 2016). A next question which can be asked is to what extent do different groups benefit from mindfulness. In research from Purvanova and Muros (2010) the conclusion was made that women tend to experience burnout more. In addition, Rojiani et al. (2017) drew the conclusion that women and men benefit from meditation in different ways.
As shown above, though a lot of research has been done, most of this research has been performed in specific fields such as teaching and healthcare, therefore there is a scarcity of research in the organizational field. It is important that this gap is further saturated, as this will be beneficial for not only the individuals below the manager but also the organization itself. In research done by Dane (2011) it is found that mindfulness improves behavioral regulation and interpersonal relationship quality which are both critical for workplace performance. Another gap exists as there has not been looked at gender as moderator towards burnout symptoms. This research aims to bring forth more knowledge about the benefits of mindfulness for both women and men, and perhaps make it so that more skeptics will see the benefits of becoming more mindful. As gender is linked to experiencing burnout and mindfulness in different ways, and mindfulness has been proven to diminish burnout, this paper will try to answer the research question:
To what extent does gender play a role in the relationship between mindfulness and burnout symptoms.
Mindfulness will be the predicting variable and gender will act as moderators showing thus what effect this has on the likelihood of becoming burned out. Mindfulness will be seen as a trait and the three facets of burnout will be the outcome variables. The three facets being exhaustion, cynicism, and personal inefficacy. Another research gap is found in these three facets, as research is mostly done on burnout as a whole. This study will bring forth further knowledge about the above mentioned three facets of burnout. Two control variables will be implemented which are conscientiousness and neuroticism.
The paper will be structured as follows: Theoretical framework with in-depth analysis of the research already done, further introduction of the variables, method section explaining how the research will be executed followed by the results, discussion, and conclusion.
2. Theoretical framework
This section will analyze what is currently known about mindfulness, burnout, gender, and the relation to one another. The knowledge gap will be highlighted once more, which will then be followed with hypothesis formulation.
As mentioned before, mindfulness is being fully present in the here and now, being aware of both the body and the mind without being distracted by or judgmental towards one's thoughts and feelings (Glomb et al., 2011). Mindfulness is a state of mind and a trait found in people. Mindfulness was first found in Buddhist philosophy and is the literal translation of the word ‘Sati’ which means ‘wakefulness of mind’ (Davids & Stede, 1959, p. 672). Although mindfulness has been around for centuries, it became popularized around the 1920's by westerners after ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ was published and in the 1950’s in Burma it
(MBSR) program was developed by Jon Kabatt-Zin to help patients with chronic diseases through meditation. Kabat-Zinn also published multiple books about the advantages and other effects of mindfulness (1990). A meta-analysis consisting of 20 individual studies found that MBSR enhances coping with disability and distress in daily life and improves both mental and physical health (Grossman et al., 2004).
Since the beginning of this millennium meditation has been getting a lot of attention.
What started as a fringe topic has since turned into widely acclaimed practices such as MBSR mentioned above. Mindfulness-based therapy has been proven to reduce psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and stress as found in a meta-analysis research from Khoury et al. (2013). Mindfulness also aids emotion regulation in the brain (Davis & Hayes, 2011).
However, for this study, mindfulness as a trait will be further examined. Mindfulness as a trait means to be naturally mindful. In research done by Wallace (1999) the suggestion is made that due to inherent capabilities individuals are mindful or present in the moment without actively practicing mindfulness. People who are mindful, in comparison to less mindful people, are better at regulating their emotions. Brown and Ryan (2003) developed a scale to measure such inherent mindfulness called the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). This study also found that mindfulness practitioners can be distinguished by one another through the way their consciousness reacts to well-being constructs, this in combination with having increased self-awareness. It was also found that mindfulness is highly correlated with conscientiousness and neuroticism.
In a factor analysis of mindfulness questionnaires researched by Baer et al., five distinct facets of mindfulness were found, being: observe, describe, act with awareness, non- judgmental and non-reactive attitude (Baer et al., 2006). Included as well in this factor analysis was above mentioned MAAS. The other questionnaires are the Freiburg Mindfulness
Inventory, the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, the Cognitive Affective Mindfulness Scale and finally the Mindfulness Questionnaire. Although this division in the five different facets is helpful for understanding the complexity of mindfulness, this paper will research the mindfulness trait as one variable. Further research can be conducted to research the different affects the five facets of mindfulness have on the three facets of burnout.
According to the Maslach Burnout Inventory, ‘burnout is psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with other people in some capacity’ (Maslach et al., 1997, p.
192). This paper further explains burnout to be ‘an individual stress experience embedded in a context of complex social relationships and that it involves the person’s conception of both self and others.’ (Maslach et al., 1997, p. 204). Often burnout is seen as a part of the depression family, however where depression is penetrating every aspect of one’s life, burnout is concentrated on the work aspect (Leiter & Durup, 1994). Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson are two key researchers on the topic of burnout, both individually and together they have contributed to the vast literature on this topic since the 1970’s. They are also the researchers who created the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) in 1981, which will be used in this study to measure burnout.
Maslach and Jackson (1981) found that burnout is not solely exhaustion, it is a multidimensional concept. In their research they also mention that burnout is not just physical it is also behavioural, also displaying multidimensionality. Burnout consists of three different dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment (Maslach et al., 1981). Emotional exhaustion is the chronic fatigue caused by excessive demands from
study however, the facet will be named exhaustion. Depersonalization means to not feel or feel less and impersonally responding to care and treatments for instance. This study connects depersonalization to cynicism, therefore this facet will be called cynicism from this moment forward. Finally, personal accomplishment measures the feeling of competence and being good at one’s job. Another name for personal accomplishment is personal efficacy, however this study will be researching the opposite feelings and thus will be calling it personal inefficacy.
These are the three facets of burnout which will be used as the outcome variables in this study.
According to a systematic review done on mindfulness in 2016, practicing mindfulness has a strong effect on diminishing burnouts in the healthcare and education field (Luken &
Sammons, 2016). There is a lack of research in other fields. Mindfulness has also been positively paired with task performance before in the management field (Dane, 2011). A new study from 2021 actually found that although mindfulness does help to diminish the perceived techno-stress (the stress received when not being able to do computoral tasks etc.), it is not able to prevent a burnout caused by these techno-stressors (Pflügner et al., 2021). A study on educators by Abenavoli et al. (2013) found that those who described higher mindfulness levels, showed lower levels of burnout and the other way around; lower mindfulness levels in combination with higher burnout levels.
When combining these findings, one could suggest that mindful people maintain their balance because they are better at regulating their emotions thus protecting themselves from becoming burned out. Therefore, since mindfulness has been linked to burnout in previous research, the first hypothesis will be conducted to confirm the results from previous findings in this study as well:
H1A Mindfulness trait is negatively related to burnout.
As mentioned before, a gap exists in research about the three facets of burnout in relation to mindfulness. Therefore, this study will further examine these three relationships between mindfulness and exhaustion, mindfulness and cynicism, and lastly mindfulness and personal inefficacy. The relationship found in hypothesis 1B between mindfulness trait and exhaustion is expected to be the strongest as mindful people also tend to report lower on emotional exhaustion, whereas non-mindful people report higher on emotional exhaustion (Walsh & Arnold, 2018). Mindfulness has been previously linked to help with stress and feelings of exhaustion, this leads to hypothesis 1B:
H1B Mindfulness trait is negatively related to exhaustion.
Cynicism means to not care or care less for one’s work, mindfulness might not help with motivation but it does help with concentration. Perhaps rediscovering one’s work balance will help with becoming less cynical. Additionally, in research from Taylor and Millear (2016), it was also concluded that mindfulness has a strong negative relationship with cynicism. The next hypothesis is tested to see if this study finds the same results:
H1C Mindfulness trait is negatively related to cynicism.
Lastly, the relationship between mindfulness and personal inefficacy will be tested. The expectation is made that mindfulness brings forth positive feelings towards oneself. This in combination with being more in the present moment in your daily work life, the following hypothesis concerning mindfulness and personal inefficacy is:
Firstly, it must be clear that the genders discussed in this study are female and male, therefore excluding all other genders. Even though women and men are equal, there is quite a lot to be told about the differences between these two genders. Old stereotypes indicate that men are strong whereas women are vulnerable and sensitive; women cry, men do not. These stereotypes tend to indicate that women are more caring than men and that women are more empathetic. Fortunately, these stereotypes have become a notion of the past, but does that also mean that women are not actually more empathetic than men? According to research from Baez et al. (2017) women tend to describe themselves as emphatic more than men do, but the difference between men and women is actually insignificant when empathically responding to the pain of others. Furthermore, women and men tend to describe their emotional being according to stereotypes (women describe themselves as more open and sensitive opposed to men). In research from Barrett et al. (1998) it is found that although women describe themselves as more emotional in general momentary ratings than men, this difference between the genders is not seen in specific momentary ratings.
Speculations that burnout happens more often to women also follow these stereotypes.
Women are seen as more emotional and so more likely to burnout, but is this the case? Research shows that the general assumption is made that women are more affected and responsive to stress and therefore more susceptible to burnout, than men (Matlin, 2011). Such speculations or assumptions are very dangerous in the workforce, as women may be seen as less strong or even less qualified for stressful jobs. Not to mention the negative effect this can have for men.
This assumption can also lead to men not being recognized or receiving validation and appropriate care when having a burnout.
Research from Maslach and Jackson (1985) indicated that gender is not a predictor of burnout. As previously discussed in the introduction, Purvanova and Muros’ (2010) meta- analysis on the gender difference in burnout showed that there is in fact a small but significant difference between the two genders. By combining the results of 183 different studies, they diminished the previously inconsistent results of the past and concluded that the use of burnout overall measure should be discontinued as it is highly consistent with the exhaustion facet of burnout only.
According to research, women use more emotion regulating strategies than men (Nolen-Hoeksema & Aldao, 2011). Emotion regulation is also found in mindful people.
Women tend to be more balanced in their emotions, however, women also tend to worry more (Cabrera, 2016). Women often proudly present themselves to be good at multitasking, however when researching mindfulness traits multitasking is the opposite of being present in the moment. In research on Bosnian men and women and mindfulness traits, it is found that women score higher on observing whereas men score higher on acting with awareness (Alispahic &
Hasanbegovic-Anic, 2017). This also shows why men are ‘worse’ at multitasking, they put their full attention on doing one thing.
Following the first hypothesis, the moderation effect of gender on the relationship found in hypothesis 1 will be tested. As women tend to regulate their emotions more, it is hypothesized that women who have mindfulness as a trait are less prone to becoming burned out compared to men who have mindfulness as a trait:
H2A Gender has a positive effect on the relationship between mindfulness and burnout, such that the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout will be more negative when the gender is female.
To be more precise in the hypotheses, the moderating effect of gender will be tested on mindfulness and each of the three facets of burnout: professional exhaustion, cynicism, and personal inefficacy. The study mentioned above by Maslach and Jackson (1985) found that gender has an effect on experiencing burnout; in work-related burnout the two core components are dispersed among the genders as ‘women are slightly more emotionally exhausted than men (δ = .10), while men are somewhat more depersonalized than women (δ = −.19)’. As for personal accomplishment, research is inconclusive as it points in both directions (Maslach &
Jackson, 1985; Maslach & Jackson, 1981).
Women are more prone to experience professional exhaustion at work, as professional exhaustion is mostly based on stress. In previous literature it is found that women are more susceptible to stress than men, therefore it is hypothesized that mindful men are less prone to experience exhaustion than mindful women:
H2B Gender has a positive effect on the relationship between mindfulness and professional exhaustion, such that the relationship between mindfulness trait and professional exhaustion will be more negative when the gender is male.
Depersonalization is a male dominated facet of burnout. Furthermore, as mentioned before women are better at emotion regulating and expressing how they feel. Additionally, depersonalization and cynicism are more introverted emotions. Consequently, this leads to hypothesis 2C, mindful women are less affected by cynicism than men (depersonalization):
H2C Gender has a positive effect on the relationship between mindfulness and cynicism, such that the relationship between mindfulness trait and cynicism will be more negative when the gender is female.
Lastly, the moderating effect of gender on the relationship between mindfulness and personal inefficacy (reduced personal accomplishment) will be tested. The difference between men and women in personal inefficacy has brought a lot of contradictory evidence, however as women tend to be more emotional it can be supposed to play a decisive part in their day-to-day work life. Presumably, this leads to women having a part of their mind occupied with emotions and overthinking etc., which causes them to be less focused and less productive which then leads them to feel personal inefficacy. This leads to the following hypothesis:
H2D Gender has a positive effect on the relationship between mindfulness and personal inefficacy, such that the relationship between mindfulness trait and personal inefficacy will be more negative when the gender is male.
3. Method 3.1 Research design
This study tested the different hypotheses using a cross sectional survey design, which provided quantitative data provided by 349 working adults from different industries. However, after removing the participants who work less than 16 hours a week and the participants who are third gender/non-binary, this study was left with 214 participants. Convenience sampling was used to find participants, thus personal networks from seven bachelor students from the University of Amsterdam were approached. Answers to the survey were collected in a two- week period. The survey consists of 102 questions, divided into different blocks each consisting of different questionnaires. Only the blocks relevant to this study will be used for the results section. The choice for a cross sectional survey design was made so it would be easy to replicate this study for further research.
Figure A. Conceptual model
3.2 Sample & procedures
Of the 214 respondents, 36% were males and 64% were females. The age range is between 18 and 74 (M=3.22, SD=1.5), where option 3 equals age 25-34 and option 4 equals 35-44. 56.3% of the respondents had tried mediation before, however of those 120 respondents only 4.1% meditate daily, 9.1% meditate most days of the week and 47.1% meditate from time to time. The remaining respondents do not meditate on a regular basis.
3.3 Measurements Mindfulness
To measure mindfulness as a trait the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire as created by Baer et al. (2008) is added to the survey. The FFMQ has respondents rate themselves on 15 statements on a 5-likert scale ranging from “1=Never or very rarely true” to “5=Very often or always true”. The 15 statements are divided to measure the five facts: Observe, Describe, Actaware, Nonjudge and Nonreact. See appendix A. The FFMQ provides us with a reliable measure with a Cronbach’s Alpha of .648, although this is low it is of reasonable decency to continue. All reliability tests can be found in appendix D. The FFMQ that is used for this study is an abbreviated version which also causes the Cronbach to become lower. The study of Baer et al. found a Cronbach of .89, therefore this questionnaire is found to be reliable enough to be used in this study. Items included in the FFMQ are for instance ‘I do jobs or tasks automatically
without being aware of what I’m doing.’ indicating the facet Actaware and ‘I pay attention to sensations, such as the wind in my hair or sun on my face.’ indicating the facet Observe.
For measuring burnout, the MBI-General Survey (MBI-GS) will be used (Maslach et al., 1997). This scale has 16 items on a 5-likert scale ranging from “1 = Strongly disagree” to
“5 = Strongly agree”. The 16 items on the general study are used to measure Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Professional Efficacy. See appendix B. The MBI-General Survey was created for professional fields outside of education and healthcare, for instance customer service, management, and most other fields. Cronbach’s alpha for burnout in general is .866, thus the MBI-GS will provide us with reliable measures of burnout. High scores indicate greater levels of each facet.
Out of the 16 questions in the burnout scale, five questions measure exhaustion. An example which measures exhaustion is ‘I feel tired when I get up in the morning and have to face another day on the job’. Cronbach’s alpha for exhaustion is .865, showing good reliability.
Cynicism is also called depersonalization in other studies. Five questions of the scale measure cynicism, an example is ‘I just want to do my job and not be bothered.’. Cronbach’s alpha for cynicism is .738, indicating sufficient reliability.
Professional efficacy is related to personal accomplishment. For this study the questions belonging to professional efficacy are reverse coded to create the facet Personal Inefficacy.
The six remaining questions measure personal inefficacy. An example of professional efficacy is ’I feel exhilarated when I accomplish something at work.’, for this study the answers are recoded to measure inefficacy. Cronbach’s alpha for personal inefficacy is .770, showing sufficient reliability.
The moderating variable for this study is gender. This will be measured by asking ‘What is your gender?’ to the participants along with other demographics. Although there are currently two dozen different genders (Zambon, 2020), the participants in this study were given the options: male, female, non-binary/third gender or they could choose not to include this information. For this study, those participants who answered non-binary/third gender were removed from the data set since this study focusses on the differences between female and male.
Demographic questions were asked in the survey such as age, country of origin, civil status, highest attained education, employment status, hours worked weekly and questions about meditation; whether the participant meditates and how frequently. However, for this study the control variables which will be used are age and the personality traits conscientiousness and neuroticism. These two personality traits have been found in previous literature as they are highly correlated with mindfulness, therefore these will be included in our tests as well. The well-established Big Five personality model developed by Robert McCrae
(McCrae & Costa 1987) will be used to measure these variables, see appendix C. The Cronbach’s alpha for the Big Five personality model is .639, more specifically the Cronbach’s alpha for neuroticism is .695 and for conscientiousness the Cronbach’s alpha is .662. Although these are on the lower side, they are all acceptable enough to use the Big Five personality as a control variable.
To test hypothesis 1A through 1D, linear regression analyses between the independent (mindfulness) and dependent variables (burnout, professional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal inefficacy) is done in SPSS. This effect is then assessed for significance, by the means of this either confirming or rejecting the hypothesis. For hypothesis 2A till 2D the PROCESS macro v3.2 model 1 by Hayes (2018) is used to assess the moderating effect of gender on the relationship between mindfulness and the three facets of burnout. For all analyses the same control variables are used: age, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Appendix F shows all tables including the moderation tables. Appendix G shows all regression analyses and appendix H shows all moderation analyses.
4. Results 4.1 Preliminary Analysis
For hypothesis 1A, a linear regression is done. Assumptions need to be checked to make sure this model can be used. Graph A shows that there is a negative linear association between mindfulness and burnout. This study follows a cross-sectional design, therefore assumption 2 about the independent values of the residuals do not have to be checked. For assumption 3, the normality of the residuals must be checked. This assumption can also be checked off as the
equally variable, thus assumption 4 can be checked as well (see graph C). When checking for outliers, 11 outliers were found in the data set however, after checking the effects of the removal of these outliers it is found that the difference is minimal. Therefore, the decision is made to not remove these outliers and thus not intervene with the data. Finally, multicollinearity is tested, which is also not present. Thus, it is concluded that the data is suitable for regression analysis.
Next the assumptions are checked for hypothesis 1B, the relationship between mindfulness and exhaustion. In graph D it is visible that there is a negative linear association between mindfulness and exhaustion. The residuals of the test are both normally distributed and equally variable as seen in graph E and F in the appendix. For the fourth assumption 7 outliers are found, however after checking the differences between the results including versus excluding the outliers the difference is minimal. Lastly, multicollinearity is tested. The variance inflation factor is 1, therefore multicollinearity is not present.
Hypothesis 1C, the relationship between mindfulness and cynicism is checked next. In graph G, the negative linear association between mindfulness and cynicism is visible. The residuals are normally distributed and equally variable in this test as well, see graph H and I.
Another 11 outliers are found, however, again the difference is not worth mentioning thus the outliers are kept in the data set. Multicollinearity is not present as the variance inflation factor is 1.
Lastly the assumptions are checked for hypothesis 1D, the relationship between mindfulness and personal inefficacy. Graph J shows the negative linear association between mindfulness and personal inefficacy. The residuals are approximately normally distributed as seen in graph K. Checking for homoscedasticity of residuals in assumption four, shows that the residuals are equally variable (see graph L). 9 outliers are found, however, since the difference
in results is minimal the outliers are kept in the dataset. Therefore, also not intervening with the date. Finally, multicollinearity is not present as the variance inflation factor is low.
Table 1 in appendix F presents the mean, standard deviation and correlation of and between the various variables, e.g. independent, dependent, moderator, and control variables.
This correlation matrix is made to get an initial understanding of the variables and their relations. Many correlations were found with high significance (p<0.01). First of all, the relationship between mindfulness and burnout is strongly negatively correlated as expected (- .44**). Each facet of burnout is negatively correlated to mindfulness; with personal inefficacy having the strongest correlation to mindfulness (-,426**), exhaustion (-,362**) and cynicism with the weakest yet still moderate correlation (-,282**). Interestingly, mindfulness has a significant correlation to every variable except for gender. Specifically, the correlation between mindfulness and neuroticism is quite strong (-.43**). Mindfulness is positively correlated to both age and conscientiousness (.32** and .23** respectively). This means that the older the person, the more mindful they are and the more mindful they are, the more conscientious they are. Gender on the other hand isn’t correlated to any of the variables of interest, except for neuroticism with which it has a positive correlation (.34**) meaning if gender is higher (1=male, 2=female) then neuroticism goes up. This means that women in this sample are more neurotic than the men. The control variables also show interesting results. Age is negatively correlated to all facets of burnout. As shown in previous literature, neuroticism is positively correlated to all facets of burnout, with the strongest positive correlation with exhaustion (.39**) and conscientiousness is negatively correlated to all facets of burnout with the strongest correlation with burnout (-.34**).
Descriptive statistics and correlations.
Notes: N = 214. Cronbach’s alphas are between parentheses on the diagonal line across the table. a 1 = male, 2 = female
** p < .01.
4.3 Regression Analysis & Moderation
For testing hypotheses 1A to 1D, linear regressions are performed with age, conscientiousness, and neuroticism in model 1 and mindfulness in model 2. All results are visible in appendix G. To test hypothesis 1A (mindfulness trait is negatively related to burnout), a linear regression was done with age, conscientiousness, and neuroticism in model 1 and mindfulness in model 2. The regression results show that the R square of model 2 (mindfulness included) is 30.9% (.309), this explains the percentage change in burnout by the model. The change in R square between model 1 and 2 is .049 (p < 0.01). This shows that 4.9% of the variance in the model is explained by mindfulness only (B = -.367, se = .096, t = -3.834 and p
< 0.001). Therefore, the negative effect supports hypothesis 1A which states that mindfulness is negatively related to burnout.
Next hypothesis 1B (mindfulness trait is negatively related to exhaustion) is tested. The regression results show that the R square of model 2 is 25.1% (.251). This means that age, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and mindfulness explain 25.1% of the variance. The R square
.150, t = -2.532 and p < 0.05). Hypothesis 1B is supported by the results, so mindfulness is negatively related to exhaustion.
Hypothesis 1C states that mindfulness is negatively related to cynicism. In the regression results, the R square of model 2 is 16% (.160) so the variables explain 16% of the variance. The R square change between model 1 and model 2 is .019 ( p < 0.05), so 1.9% of the variance is explained by mindfulness (B = -.300, se = .138, t = -2.178 and p < 0.05).
Hypothesis 1C, mindfulness is negatively related to cynicism, is supported by the results.
Lastly, hypothesis 1D (mindfulness is negatively related to personal inefficacy) is tested. The regression results showed that the R square of model 2 is 22.9% (.229). The R square change between the models is .078, therefore mindfulness explains 7.8% of the variance in personal inefficacy (B = -.419, se = .0.91, t = -4.612 and p < 0.001). The negative effect found means that hypothesis 1D is supported, so mindfulness is negatively related to personal inefficacy.
To test hypothesis 2A, the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout is moderated by gender, the PROCESS macro (model 1) of Hayes (2018) was used. The control variables are age, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Results of the test rejected the hypothesis, the model is significant (p < 0.05) however the interaction effect is not (b = -.3283, se = .1754, t = - 1.8719, p > .05, 95% CI = -.6740; .0175). Therefore, it can be concluded that the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout is not moderated by gender.
To test hypothesis 2B, the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout facet exhaustion is moderated by gender, the PROCESS macro (model 1) of Hayes was used with the same control variables. The results of the test did not show support for the hypothesis, as the interaction effect was not significant (b = -.3752, se = .2771, t = -1.3544, p > .10, 95% CI
= -.9214; .1710). Gender does not moderate the relationship between mindfulness trait and
To test hypothesis 2C, the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout facet cynicism is moderated by gender, the PROCESS macro (model 1) of Hayes was used with the same control variables. Again, the results of the test indicate no interaction effect as it was insignificant (b = -.3367, se = .2532, t = -1.3298, p > .10, 95% CI = -.8359; .1625). Gender does not moderate the relationship between mindfulness trait and cynicism.
To test hypothesis 2D, the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout facet personal inefficacy is moderated by gender, the PROCESS macro (model 1) of Hayes was used with the same control variables as before. The final results also reject the hypothesis (b = - .2729, se = .1666, t = -1.6385, p > .10, 95% CI = -.6013; .0555). Thus, it can be concluded that the relationship between mindfulness trait and personal inefficacy is not moderated by gender.
To conclude, hypothesis 1A through 1D are statistically supported and hypotheses 2A through 2D are not statistically supported by the data as seen in tables 2 to 5 in the appendix.
5. Discussion 5.1 Contributions & Implications
This study aimed to examine whether gender impacts the relationship between burnout and mindfulness.
The results support the first hypothesis, which states that mindfulness trait is negatively related to burnout. This indicates that a person who is very mindful is less likely to feel burned out, than someone who is less mindful. Thus, the results also support previously found evidence by Abenavoli et al. (2013). This study also found support for hypothesis 1B, which states that mindfulness trait is negatively related to exhaustion. This indicates that a mindful person is less likely to be professionally exhausted, than someone who is less mindful. Furthermore, support was found for hypothesis 1C (mindfulness trait is negatively related to cynicism). Thus, a person who is mindful is less likely to feel cynical, than someone who is not very mindful.
Lastly, this study found support for hypothesis 1D which states that mindfulness trait is negatively related to personal inefficacy. This indicates that a mindful person is less likely to feel personally inefficant in their work life, than someone who is less mindful. Hypotheses 2A through 2D all fail to receive support from the results. This indicates that gender does not influence the effect of mindfulness trait on burnout or on the three facets of burnout;
exhaustion, cynicism and personal inefficacy.
As anticipated considering previous research, this study shows that burnout and it’s three facets are all negatively related to mindfulness trait. Interestingly, our results showed that mindfulness has the strongest negative relation to personal inefficacy and not to exhaustion as previously predicted. An explanation for this strong relationship between mindfulness and personal inefficacy could be that mindful people are less judgmental towards oneself and therefore feel more secure about their competencies. However, this study was not able to show that gender influences these relationships between mindfulness and the facets of burnout. A possible explanation is that the sample used for this study was off, as the distribution of the female to male ratio in the sample was not equal (36% males and 64% females). Secondly, the possibility exists that gender does not have a moderating effect on the relationship between mindfulness trait and burnout because burnout is not restricted to gender but to character.
As mentioned before, mindfulness and burnout are both related to neuroticism and conscientiousness. According to new research, mindfulness also has an effect on openness to experience (van den Hurk et al., 2011). Therefore, it would be interesting to add this factor to the equation and see if different personalities will influence the relationship of mindfulness and burnout. Mindfulness is related to character, so this could be a factor in its relationship with burnout. In combination with the fact that each facet of burnout is also related to one or more personality traits, give a glimpse into a possible moderator effect (Ghorpade et al., 2007).
extroverted mindful woman is less likely to become burned out than an extroverted mindful man.
Even though the results did not show support for the research question, the results are still important. In some way it is a positive result that gender is not a factor in this relationship, as it shows that all are equal in facing burnout symptoms. Therefore, the way to move forward is to highlight mental health continuously and pay (perhaps even closer) attention to employees' needs. This study suggests that no matter the gender, burnout is still common in many professions and therefore should be taken into consideration even more than it is now. To show how big the impact of burnout currently is, added are figures of burnout from the sample. 10.4%
of the participants responded with ‘somewhat agree’ or strongly agree to the question “I feel burned out from my work.”. Out of these 22; 8 were male and 14 female. Although 10.4%
might not sound as much, one must remember that we are considering people not just numbers and consequently 22 out of 214 employees is quite a lot. 68 out of 214 participants (31.7%) agreed to feeling used up at the end of the workday and 53 people (24.8%) feel emotionally drained from their job.
5.2 Limitations & Future Research
As mentioned above, the distribution of the two genders is not equal in this sample.
This introduces a limitation as it makes it difficult to analyse the moderating effect of gender since males were underrepresented. Another limitation is found in the countries of origin of the participants. It is important to acknowledge that out of our 214 participants, 181 participants are Dutch (84.6 %) (see table 6). This can have an influence on the results as there can be a big difference between for instance Dutch employees who are quite straightforward and e.g.
Japanese employees who tend to be withdrawn as to respect the business hierarchy. However, research shows that there is barely a difference between Asian (Singapore, Hong Kong &
Middle East) and western (France, United States, United Kingdom, Australia & Germany) countries for financial professionals with burnout symptoms (Statista, 2014). Future research can be done with a bigger sample to remove this limitation, or perhaps even more interesting, multiple researches can be done in different countries/regions to show the differences between countries and the way employees have this relationship between mindfulness and burnout.
Interestingly, out of the above mentioned 22 participants who feel burned out, 13 are Dutch.
Which means that out of all the Dutch participants 7.2% feels as if they are burning out.
Another limitation which follows having a lot of Dutch participants is the English language. Although the Dutch are quite literate in English, perhaps the English used in the survey was too difficult or too vague for the participants to fully understand the questions. Of course, this would not only be an issue for the Dutch participants, but for the other participants for whom English isn’t the first language as well. However, nowadays translating apps and websites are readily available so it is not expected that this would have caused an issue for the results.
Furthermore, the survey results were based on self-rating questionnaires. This could form a possible limitation as participants could mitigate their symptoms, which could lead to non-conclusive results, as the results would not give this participant the proper label as burnout patient. An opposite limitation is that people exaggerate their feelings. An interesting example is the previously mentioned study by Barrett et al. (1998) where they found that women overestimate their empathy in contrast to men. There is a possibility of a response bias in this survey as people also tend to describe themselves better for a desirable social image or because the participant wants to ‘help’ the study and therefore answers in such a way. A final possible limitation which should be mentioned is the fact that the outliers were kept in the data set, as to not tamper with the data.
Future research could take a closer look into the differences between gender and personality and the combined influence on mindfulness and burnout. Another interesting study would be to inspect the differences in the fields the participants work in. This was not part of our survey, however it would be interesting to see whether there is a possible difference in results between different female dominated fields versus male dominated fields (e.g. teaching vs. IT). Or for instance the difference between fields where one works with people versus fields where one mostly works alone.
To conclude, previous literature already proved that mindfulness has an effect on burnout however does not take into consideration the moderation effect of gender. Thus, leaving unclear whether there is a difference between male and female employees. Therefore, this study examined the effect of gender on the previously acknowledged relationship between mindfulness and burnout. Results do not lend support for the above-mentioned effect of gender on the relationship between mindfulness and burnout, or the relationship between mindfulness and the three different facets of burnout. To answer the research question, to what extent does gender play a role in the relationship between mindfulness and burnout symptoms? This study has not found evidence that gender plays a role in this relationship. However, this does not mean we should pay less attention to burnout. If anything can be taken away from this study, it is that burnout’s grip on the working world is still strong and not letting go any time soon.
Hence, we should make sure we take care of ourselves and one another.
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Appendix A. 15 Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire
Please use the 1 (never or very rarely true) to 5 (very often or always true) scale provided to indicate how true the below statements are of you. Circle the number in the box to the right of each statement which represents your own opinion of what is generally true for you. For example, if you think that a statement is often true of you, circle ‘4’ and if you think a statement is sometimes true of you, circle ‘3’.
Appendix B. Maslach-Burnout Inventory General Survey
Appendix C. Big Five Personality Model
Appendix D. Reliability tests
Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire Big five personality model
Big five Conscientiousness Big five neuroticism
Burnout total Burnout facet exhaustion
Burnout facet cynicism Burnout facet personal inefficacy
Appendix E. Assumption Checking Assumption Checking Hypothesis 1A Graph A
Assumption Checking Hypothesis 1B Graph D
Assumption Checking Hypothesis 1C Graph G
Assumption Checking Hypothesis 1D Graph J
Appendix F. Tables Table 1.
Descriptive statistics and correlations.
Notes: N = 214. Cronbach’s alphas are between parentheses on the diagonal line across the table. a 1 = male, 2 = female
** p < .01.
Moderation Tables 2 to 5 Table 2.
Results for the interaction effect between mindfulness and gender on burnout
Dependent variable is burnout.
R square = .32 N. = 214
Results for the interaction effect between mindfulness and gender on exhaustion
Dependent variable is exhaustion.
R square = .26
Results for the interaction effect between mindfulness and gender on cynicism
Dependent variable is cynicism.
R square = .17 N. = 214
Results for the interaction effect between mindfulness and gender on personal inefficacy
Dependent variable is personal inefficacy.
R square = .24 N. = 214
Table 6. List of countries
Appendix G. Regression Analyses
Regression Analysis Hypothesis 1A mindfulness and burnout
Regression Analysis Hypothesis 1B mindfulness and exhaustion
Regression Analysis Hypothesis 1C mindfulness and cynicism
Regression Analysis Hypothesis 1D mindfulness and personal inefficacy
Appendix H. Moderation Analyses Moderation Analysis Hypothesis 2A
Moderation Analysis Hypothesis 2B
Moderation Analysis Hypothesis 2C
Moderation Analysis Hypothesis 2D
Appendix I. Charts
Chart A. Meditation Chart B. Meditation on a regular basis
Chart C. Gender