One article, titled "Mindfulness Mitigates Biases You May Not Know You Have," talks about research showing that mindfulness can reduce implicit and associative biases. Implicit biases and attitudes are measured using the IAT (Implicit Attitudes Test - you can try taking one yourself here) and are automatic or associative thoughts and feelings we have about a target. Usually these attitudes have to do with prejudices or stereotyping, such as our feelings about certain races or sub-populations. The research discussed in this article specifically looked at implicit attitudes toward race and age, and found that participating in a 10-minute mindfulness exercise before taking the IAT reduced implicit bias towards these groups. These differences were significant, though the effect sizes were not exceptionally large. This study provides further evidence that engaging in mindfulness can reduce reliance on associative processing, and thereby diminish harmful implicit biases - something that could be especially valuable in the workplace, where hiring decisions and employee interactions may be harmfully impacted by automatically induced prejudices and biases.
The second article, titled, "There are Risks to Mindfulness at Work" takes a completely different viewpoint. In this article, the author, David Brendel, argues that mindfulness can actually be misused as a strategy to avoid critical thinking. In other words, individuals may use mindfulness as a way to avoid critical thinking and making tough decisions, instead using mindfulness meditative strategies to disengage from the task and avoid the decision altogether. The problem here seems to be using mindfulness as an approach to dealing with all types of stress. When it comes to feelings of anxiety or burnout, I agree that mindfulness can be a helpful and simple approach for some individuals. But, engaging System 2 (more more effortful thought processes) can also increase feelings of stress and cognitive strain. These are not bad feelings - rather they are the normal feelings that accompany more critical and rational thinking - and they shouldn't be avoided (that is what relying on System 1 already does for us). If mindfulness is being used as a way to get more in touch with System 2, then it is a sound approach to decision-making; but if it is yet another strategy that individuals engage in to be "cognitively lazy" and avoid the strain and discomfort of System 2 thinking, then it should be avoided (and definitely not forced upon people as has become a practice in some workplaces).
Ultimately, I think both articles highlight a potential tactic for reducing associative thinking that can be positive if applied correctly, and potentially negative if used incorrectly (as an avoidance tactic rather than a way to truly engage with difficult mental tasks). As mindfulness becomes more prevalent in our society and the workplace, I think it is important to keep in mind that cognitive strain isn't always bad, and that any tactic that moves you away from deliberative thinking can be harmful in arenas where such thinking is necessary or required.
Thank you to Karen Hübert for sharing!