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The Effects Of Toxic Positivity In The Workplace

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Toxic positivity is the masking of ongoing negative experiences, this is an extremely harmful occurrence as they are shoving a persons problems to the side and forcing a positive front which can cause the issues to grow over time. By avoiding issues you not only avoid gaining a good solution but it is possible by doing so that the person suffering may begin to feel invalidated which leads to many more issues mentally. It may be difficult to understand how positivity could turn toxic, but phrases such as “it could be worse” “everything happens for a reason” or “think happy thoughts” can do far more damage than good during a bad situation, learn about spotting toxic positivity Here. More often than not, the workplace puts great emphasis on keeping a happy and positive establishment and negativity is shunned to the side or hidden completely. A workplace that promotes such a culture will only be causing their employees to feel uncomfortable opening up about anything negative, work or home-related. Why is this important? The lack of unjudged self-expression in any way, including being able to talk about troubling issues, means that there is a lack of psychological safety in the workplace. Psychological safety is becoming a more talked about topic in the working world and it has many layers to it, but toxic positivity is a perfect example of a workplace lacking in this department. When pushing others to hide their true emotions or thoughts towards a certain event, topic, etc, then you are essentially promoting an environment where you do not wish your employees to self-express. With this, comes unhappy employees as they begin to feel unseen, unheard and perhaps even feel like an outcast when they cannot voice their true opinions. Feeling unsafe to speak your mind on one topic will raise more trust issues in other sectors, all eventually leading to a dishonest (sugar coating), reserved employee who does not contribute valuable ideas or opinions. Not only that but their own mental health will be affected by the daily lack of psychological safety which can lead to burnout, low performance or even leading them to quit their job. It is important to realise that although toxic positivity is very harmful, in most cases the person attempting to be positive likely has no ill intentions and may not be aware that they have slipped into a toxic mindset with positivity. When keeping this in mind it may be easier to ignore the shove of positivity and continue as if it hadn't happened, although it is rarely so easy. This is because of the nature of everyone’s self-esteem, It is not uncommon to fall into over-valuing other peoples opinions to fill the lack of self-esteem we may suffer from, with spiking numbers in mental health, anxiety, depression and stress it is safe to assume that our current generations suffer greatly from low self-esteem for a multitude of reasons. But what this means in the workplace is that small comments such as “cheer up!” can be taken far more deeply when likely intended lightly. When we over-value another's opinion, their thoughts alter a very basic mechanism of the human brain that reflects an immediate change in our values, as social creatures, we will always see value in how others perceive us or our thoughts but this increases drastically with low self-esteem. This is where toxic positivity can dangerously affect ones mental and although the workplace tends to be a professional environment where only business should be discussed, you cannot forget that humans tend to thrive on emotion, it affects our mood, motivation and even our way of thinking. So steer away from saying “let's focus on our goals, not our at-home lives” and welcome open conversation in both business and personal matters, no matter if it's negative or positive. If you fear you may accidentally contribute to toxic positivity or are unaware of what to say during these types of conversations, here is a short list of ideas on what to say; “Your feelings make sense. What can I do to help support you through this?”

“It’s normal and okay to feel overwhelmed/tired/angry, etc. Listen to yourself and your feelings. You know yourself best.” “I know things are hard for you right now. I’m sorry you’re going through this.” “Do you want to find a solution together that could help you?”

“I am here for you.” “Do you want to talk about it?” “I am glad you are talking to me”


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