Being Present and Thankful: A Multi-Study Investigation of Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Employee Helping Behavior

Katina B. Sawyer, Christian N. Thoroughgood, Elizabeth E. Stillwell, Michelle K. Duffy, Kristin L. Scott, Elizabeth A. Adair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Gratitude plays an integral role in promoting helping behavior at work. Thus, cultivating employees’ experiences of gratitude represents an important imperative in modern organizations that rely on teamwork and collaboration to achieve organizational goals. Yet, today’s workplace presents a complex array of demands that make it difficult for employees to fully attend to and appreciate the various benefits they receive at work. As such, gratitude is difficult for employers to promote and for employees to experience. Despite these observations, the role of attention and awareness in facilitating employees’ feelings of gratitude is largely overlooked in the extant literature. In this study, we examined whether one notable form of present moment attention, mindfulness, may promote helping behavior by stimulating the positive, otheroriented emotion of gratitude. Across two experimental studies, a semiweekly, multisource diary study, and a 10-day experience sampling investigation, we found converging evidence for a serial mediation model in which state mindfulness, via positive affect and perspective taking, prompts greater levels of gratitude, prosocial motivation, and, in turn, helping behavior at work. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our investigation, as well as avenues for the future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-262
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 12 2021
StatePublished - Apr 12 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge The George Washington University, University of Minnesota, Clemson University, and Villanova University for providing funds which supported this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Gratitude
  • Mindfulness
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Perspective taking
  • Positive affect


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