Toxic Positivity: The Downside of Forced Optimism

Do you think there’s such a thing as being “too positive”?

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I personally don’t. But, I do believe in reading the room and recognizing when positivity is forced, insincere, or untimely and how that can impact both the individuals and workplace as a whole.

Toxic positivity is what happens when we push emotions that don’t feel as good aside and refuse to acknowledge them in a healthy way. It has the tendency to make people feel guilty and ashamed for being anxious, stressed, or frustrated when they have every right to feel those feelings.

This week I’m sharing a lesson where I talk about the importance of allowing people to express their emotions and validating those emotions with empathy. We’re all trying to make it through our work days and when one of our peers is working through a difficult time, the last thing we want to do is diminish their very valid feelings. Check it out below!

So, here’s a few ways to support team members with stress in a way that isn’t “toxic” :

🖤 Show Empathy 🖤

Instead of jumping into “fix it” mode, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and consider what they may actually be feeling. Listen attentively, validate their emotions, express your concern, and let them know you are here to support them any way that you can.

💪🏽 Offer Practical Help 💪🏽

Are they struggling to keep up with work or other responsibilities? If you have the capacity, you may offer practical help where you can. That might look like supporting them on a project, or certain tasks you know how to do, or just checking in and seeing if you can help lighten their load. This may be met with a boundary they’ve put in place, if that happens be respectful and don’t overstep.

🧘🏽 Encourage Self-Care 🧘🏽

They may need a warm reminder to take breaks, rest, and potentially take some time off if they’re struggling throughout the day. If you decide to say something, approach it from a non-judgemental place and know that everyone copes with stress in their own way. What works for you may not work for someone else and that’s okay.

Remember, having a growth mindset and the ability to overcome barriers is important, but our emotions are complex. It is completely normal to feel both positive and negative emotions and we need to make room for that personally and professionally. When we are intentional about creating a workplace that allows for that openness and empathy for the human experience, we are more likely to witness each other in vulnerable moments and create psychological safety.

We provide employee-centered training that includes conversations on Psychological Safety and team-building exercises. This training equips employees with tools to manage stress, understand the impact of their words and actions, challenge assumptions they hold about their colleagues, and redefine what it means to contribute to a psychologically safe work environment. Use the link below to inquire!