Believe it or not, positivity can be a bad thing. That’s right, too much positivity in the workplace might not seem like something you need to worry about. But actually, toxic positivity at work can be detrimental for your employees and is something that you should strive to avoid. Toxic positivity might sound like a strange term because it can be tricky for us to wrap our heads around how something positive can be toxic. Chronic positivity is a trend at the moment, both outside the workplace and within it. And it can actually be very harmful to your employees. For this reason, it’s important that leaders know how to spot signs of toxic positivity, and how to avoid it in the workplace.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Just as it sounds, toxic positivity is the belief that everyone should always try to have a positive mindset no matter what the circumstances. This can be something that is enforced upon yourself or enforced upon others. It’s the mentality that everyone should always be trying to be happy, no matter what is going on in their personal lives. In contemporary society, toxic positivity has very much become a trend. We see it almost everywhere these days, and the workplace is no exception to that rule. When surrounded by toxic positivity, it’s easy for many individuals to fall into the trap of believing that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t feel happy all the time.
Now, being an optimistic person in general and striving to live life with a positive mindset is certainly a good thing. But there’s a point where it crosses over into toxic territory, and sometimes, that line can be very thin. Toxic positivity isn’t just being generally optimistic, it’s the belief that you should reject negative emotions, even when they’re entirely understandable.
In many circumstances, feeling negative emotions is the right reaction to a certain situation. Pushing those justified emotions to the side in favor of forced happiness isn’t a healthy thing to do. Toxic positivity can cause many employees to feel ashamed of their justified negative emotions, which can perpetuate a toxic work culture overall.
Are Your Employees Experiencing Toxic Positivity at Work?
It can be difficult to determine whether or not employees may be subject to toxic positivity at work. But toxic positivity can have a detrimental effect on the overall productivity, engagement, and satisfaction of your workforce. It’s also quite contagious, meaning that, just like a negative work environment, toxic positivity can spread dangerously quickly. If you notice any of the following, it may be time to start implementing some steps to counteract toxic positivity.
Coworkers Are Always Telling an Employee to Cheer Up
If you notice an employee expressing genuine concerns at work only to be responded to with pleads to cheer up or try to see the bright side, that’s a warning sign of toxic positivity. If something understandably upsetting or worrying is happening in an employee’s life, it’s ok for them to feel some negative emotions surrounding it. For example, if an employee is stressed regarding an upcoming deadline, and they tell a coworker about this stress, only to be responded to with dismissal of their concerns, that’s a red flag. If your employees are expressing understandable or justified negative emotions. Try listening to their concerns and responding with understanding. This will help them to deal with their negative feelings appropriately and move past them.
Leadership Doesn’t Acknowledge Hardships
When hardships occur, negative emotions are bound to come up. These negative emotions are justified in such situations and should be treated with care and concern. Of course, we don’t want to encourage employees to constantly bring their home life problems to the workplace, but in some circumstances, it’s unavoidable. If an employee is experiencing serious family problems, telling them not to express those emotions or telling them they should try to be more positive about the situation can be quite unnerving, upsetting, and detrimental. If you notice other employees or leadership dismissing justified hardships, it’s time to step in.
Unemployment Concerns are Dismissed
During the Covid-19 pandemic, this was a prevalent starting point for toxic positivity. In certain circumstances, unemployment concerns are very genuine and should be treated as such. Thankfully, the worst of our unemployment worries surrounding the pandemic is over. But it just goes to show that unprecedented circumstances can affect almost anyone and cause legitimate unemployment concerns. Dismissing these concerns and encouraging an employee to see the Brightside or just not worry is a sign of toxic positivity in the workplace. Any worries about losing a job are entirely justifiable. It’s scary to think that you could lose your job at any time! Furthermore, if a company is struggling or falling upon hard times in any way, be wary of leadership that doesn’t disclose such situations to employees. If your workforce is looking for guidance regarding the future of your company or their jobs, it’s best to be as transparent as possible without instilling unnecessary fear. All too often, such concerns are disregarded, which only adds to overall worry and does nothing for workplace culture.
Toxic positivity can have very negative effects on a workforce. Moreover, it’s actually far more common in the workplace than one might initially think. The signs of toxic positivity are everywhere, and if it’s noticed, human resources or leadership should step in to do what they can to address the issue. Often, dismissal of genuine negative emotions or concerns can lead to negative outcomes amongst your workforces. It’s all too common for leaders to be so preoccupied with nipping negativity in the bud that they forget to look out for toxic positivity all together. Both circumstances are harmful, so make sure that your organization doesn’t succumb to the pitfalls of toxic positivity in the workplace.