How To Avoid Toxic Positivity in The Workplace


Workplace positivity is vital to any company. From boosting employee motivation and performance to reducing staff turnover rates, having a positive working environment holds many vital benefits. On the other hand, negative workplace environments can do just the opposite – reduce employee happiness and wellbeing, increase stress, decrease productivity and motivation, and increase the rates at which you’ll see staff turnover. In fact, research highlights that workplace stress can lead to an increase in voluntary staff turnover of around 50%. So, it’s vital that your business promotes a healthy and happy workplace culture. But can a business be too positive? So much so that it becomes toxic? 

Toxic Positivity: What is it? 

Toxic positivity in the workplace is when any negative, issue, or concern is denied. These things are ignored to keep up positive appearances, when in fact, they are incredibly negative. A positive culture at work has recently become far more important, and its prioritization was seriously sped up by the coronavirus and the adaptations we had to make to work well and positively from home, whilst ensuring our wellbeing.  If you’re trying to identify toxic positivity, look out for signs such as: 

  • An “It’ll be fine” or a “It could be worse” culture. 
  • A lack of active listening. 
  • Dismissal of issues as “complaints”. 
  • A lack of transparency, trust, and openness.
  • Denial.

Why is Toxic Positivity detrimental?

Toxic positivity can seriously invalidate employee experiences, feelings, and challenges in the office. This invalidation can make employees feel as though they aren’t appreciated or respected, leading to a decline in engagement and motivation, and decreasing productivity and performance. A toxic working environment like this can also increase distrust and lead to huge increases in staff turnover, as we’ve already identified. With toxic positivity, negative emotions are seen as fundamentally bad, and so it forces people to sit on their emotions, put on a ‘brave face’, and ignore any cracks that begin to show. But really, humans need support, no matter how small their issue or concern is, and as an employee they should be provided with this support. You need them as much as they need you! 

So, how can you avoid Toxic Positivity? 

Now that we’ve established a toxic positive working environment can be just as detrimental to your business as an outright negative one, let’s take a look at some tips on how to avoid toxic positivity in the workplace

  1. Actively listen to your employees & continuously ask for feedback.
  2. Strive for a transparent and open environment. 
  3. Ensure your leaders are being held accountable. 
  4. Recognize and reward your employees when necessary – avoiding toxic positivity doesn’t mean avoiding positivity altogether!
  5. Always provide support, but don’t force your advice. 
  6. Remove toxic positive sayings like “be grateful for what you have” or “things could always be worse”. 
  7. Build a coaching culture. 

Positivity in the workplace is key to success. But equally, there are certainly times when negativity needs to be addressed and overcome to avoid a toxic positive workplace.

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