When Positivity Can Become Toxic In The Workplace
It must have happened to you already. You feel miserable, you are anxious, you are afraid of what will happen, you feel hopeless. And people keep on telling you: "Be positive", or "Look at it from the positive side!".
People who tell you these words in fact believe that they are helping you. They do not realize at all that instead of comforting, on the contrary, they can burden you. It often feels like they don't respect your feelings, they don't listen to you, and they simply want you to deny what you're feeling. Their behavior suggests that if you were just a little more positive, the problems would disappear - and as you know - it could be worse. So why complain.
Being positive at all cost
Of course, positive thinking alone is not harmful. On the contrary. Seeing opportunities in negative things can help us overcome difficulties. Even doctors often see that their patients have not been cured as much by their medication, but rather their will to live and the fact that they had not given up.
In reality, it is not always possible to take things positively, and also, not everyone can do it naturally. Moreover, the belief that something will turn out well will not in itself ensure a good ending. Usually, it takes effort, and the ability to first name & understand and then comprehend & overcome related obstacles.
Moreover, suppressing emotions does nothing good either. It will not help with the solution, and in addition, it can harm your mental - and ultimately - your physical health as suppressed emotions tend to erupt again when you least expect it.
When does positivity become toxic?
We can talk about toxic positivity when encouragement itself and positivity become a duty. That is, when negative things are ignored or suppressed, and when it is wrong and undesirable to feel or say anything negative.
In a corporate culture that over-emphasizes positivity, negative feelings may appear inappropriate, unacceptable, and undesirable. This then leads to unrealistic expectations and hopes. They lose faith in the company and its strategy. They experience similar feelings as in a fairy tale, where everyone saw the emperor naked, but no one dared to say it.
On a personal level, toxic positivity leads people to behave inauthentically and to transform and hide their feelings. As a result, mutual trust suffers, and people perceive the environment as non-transparent. In such an environment, motivation and loyalty soon perish.
Quite logically, this has an impact on both the people themselves and the organization. In a company that worships positive thinking, problems or risks are often overlooked or not addressed. The word problem is taboo. This soon leads to people not wanting to take personal responsibility. They would rather sweep problems under the rug than be labeled as troublemakers. The company stagnates, does not learn from its own mistakes, does not innovate and develop, and fails to respond promptly to market needs for that matter. And still, everything is rainbows and sunshine.
How to prevent toxic positivity
The best way is to encourage interest in others underpinned by continuous feedback culture. Instead of empty encouragement, start listening to understand, offering support where relevant.
Ask your people continuously how and with what they are satisfied or dissatisfied with. Talk about things that don't work properly and look for solutions together. Appreciate the courage to draw attention to sensitive topics and share opinions other than the ones of the majority. Promote diversity that respects not only different ages and genders but also different opinions and emotional settings.