Why Toxic Positivity Is Harmful (And How To Handle It At Work)
We all know someone who says things like, “Well, it could have been worse” or “There’s a silver lining in this.” Maybe you are that person — someone who tends to look on the bright side. It’s okay to have an optimistic outlook, but it can be harmful if you are a “positive vibes only” person all the time.
Writer Sakshi Udavant says this kind of toxic positivity happens often in workplaces that expect employees to push through problems with a smile on their face. People who display toxic positivity may end up ignoring problems instead of solving them. They can also make others feel bad about themselves — like maybe they shouldn’t feel angry or upset about their circumstances. And if you power through your struggles perpetually, you’ll end up burning out, which doesn’t help anybody.
How can you handle this kind of toxic positivity at work? We share some advice from Udavant in this issue of PromoPro Daily.
Be proactive about your problems. If you’re struggling with something at work — a difficult client, a challenging coworker, an impossible quota — don’t ignore it just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Speak up using phrases like, “We need to address the issue here” or “I’m struggling with this and need your help.”
Call it like you see it. It’s hard to address toxic positivity if people don’t even know they’re doing something harmful, Udavant says. If you see someone exhibiting toxic positivity, let them know their comments aren’t helpful. Say something like, “It’s great you want to stay positive, but it would be more helpful to me if we could take a moment to talk about the issue.”
Try to be more empathetic. If you tend to be the one with a toxic positivity problem, try to practice more empathy. Pause and see things from the other person’s perspective. This can prevent you from jumping in too soon with an upbeat word of encouragement. Say something like, “I can see you’re upset right now” or “It’s understandable to feel that way.”
Create a safe space for questions and concerns. If you lead a team, let your staffers know they can come to you with their thoughts and ideas. Udvant recommends that, when possible, you use dedicated channels like shared documents or online forms to encourage feedback so no one has to bury their feelings in fear of retribution or judgment.
Share resources. Udavant suggests using and offering external resources to your colleagues, direct reports or team leaders who might be new to the concept of toxic positivity. These could be books, videos, articles or talks on the topic that give everyone the tools they need to actually tackle the problems at hand in a healthy manner.
When you spot toxic positivity in yourself or your colleagues, take steps to correct it. This can help you and your team members deal with challenges in a healthier and more productive way.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Sakshi Udavant is a content writer and freelance journalist who contributes to The Muse and many other outlets.