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Feeling stressed but in full flow? Leader mindfulness shapes subordinates' perseverative cognition and reaction

Haoju Xie (School of Marxism, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China)
Xingyu Feng (School of Management, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China) (School of Business, Monash University, Subang Jaya, Malaysia)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 21 September 2023

Issue publication date: 3 April 2024




This study aims to illustrate the mechanisms underlying the effect of stress on flow states in the context of a multilevel organization, in which case employees' perseverative cognition and reactions to challenge–hindrance stressors are affected by leader mindfulness.


Study 1 employed a three-wave time-lag survey, and study 2 conducted a diary study across 10 workdays to replicate the results of study 1. Multilevel structural equation modeling and Monte Carlo simulation were performed using Mplus 8.0 software to test all hypotheses.


Problem-solving pondering transmits the nonlinear effect of challenge stressors on flow, and affective rumination mediates the negative effect of hindrance stressors on flow. Leader mindfulness amplifies the tendency of followers to ruminate on the positive aspects of challenge stressors, consequently increasing their positive reactions and flow. Although leader mindfulness fails to influence followers to ruminate less on hindrance stressors, it negates the harmful effect of affective rumination on the flow experience.


This study is one of the first to examine the associations between stressor types and flow in the workplace. The authors also develop a new theory that highlights the ability of leader mindfulness to shape subordinates' stress, cognitions and reactions through social modeling and the authors identify the boundaries of its beneficial effects.



Funding: This research was funded by supported by the general project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (72271196 and 71671137) and major research projects of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (92146005).


Xie, H. and Feng, X. (2024), "Feeling stressed but in full flow? Leader mindfulness shapes subordinates' perseverative cognition and reaction", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 323-351.



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