Toxic Positivity in the Workplace: How to Avoid It

January 4, 2023


A man smiles at the camera, many of his coworkers behind him, smiling too.
Toxic positivity can be as distracting and unhelpful as negativity.

Toxic positivity sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. It’s a real thing that can be a real problem in the workplace. There are definitely benefits to optimistic thinking, but disregarding negative feelings entirely is unhealthy and can lead to serious issues. Let’s take a closer look at how to recognize toxic positivity and how to avoid it in the workplace. 

What is Toxic Positivity?

So, what is toxic positivity? Toxic positivity is the attempt to maintain a positive attitude no matter how difficult or painful a situation is. Unlike healthy positive thinking that acknowledges painful emotions, toxic positivity rejects any difficult feelings. It is a false veneer of positivity and cheer, stuffing down and ignoring any negative emotion. 

There is nothing wrong with trying to find the bright side of bad situations. In fact, having a positive outlook on life is good for your mental health. The thing is, life isn’t always fantastic. Bad experiences and painful emotions are going to happen whether or not you want them to. While these circumstances are unpleasant, you have to let yourself feel them and deal with them. 

Toxic positivity blows the idea of a positive attitude out of proportion. It minimizes and outright denies the presence of any emotions that aren’t part of a cheery facade. It denies you and others the ability to get the support you need to cope with what you are feeling. People practice toxic positivity not only on themselves, but on other people as well. The attitude leaves people feeling as though their emotions are being ignored and invalidated. 

Everyone should know the signs of toxic positivity in others and in themselves. It will help you identify the behavior and put a stop to it before it causes more damage than it already has. 

Signs of toxic positivity in yourself include:

  • Choosing to brush off problems instead of dealing with them
  • Hiding feelings behind socially acceptable “feel-good” quotes
  • Minimizing or ignoring people’s feelings because they make you uncomfortable
  • Trying to shame other people for the lack of a positive attitude

Signs someone is using toxic positivity on you include:

  • Being made to feel guilty for feeling sad, angry, or disappointed
  • Feeling like you have to hide how you really feel
  • Trying to get over painful emotions instead of letting yourself feel them 

Avoiding Toxic Positivity with a Healthy, Positive Attitude

Do you recognize some of the warning signs in yourself or in others? If so, it’s important to know how to cultivate a more healthy attitude in the workplace. Here are some things that will help you avoid toxic positivity. 

  • A positive attitude still accepts that it is “okay to not be okay” sometimes. Instead of completely rejecting all negative feelings, accept that they are a part of life. It’s perfectly acceptable to not feel okay. You need to let yourself process those feelings before you can heal.
  • A positive attitude manages negative emotions, it doesn’t deny them. When left unchecked, negative emotions can wreak havoc on your mental health.  Listen to those negative emotions. They might be indicating that you need to make a few changes in your life. Make healthy changes in your habits so that you aren’t inadvertently causing yourself more stress and negative emotion. 
  • Listen to what others are feeling and support them. Don’t brush people off or dismiss them when they express a difficult emotion. Let them know that they are perfectly normal for feeling that way and that you are here to support them. 

Learn more about Cultivating a Positive Mental Attitude with ASAP

The American Society of Administrative Professionals has a wide range of resources for admins looking to improve their craft. Listen to our on-demand webinar on positive and negative attitudes in the workplace. We offer articles, webinars, events, and more to help you stay current in the ever-changing professional world. Become a member today and get free weekly resources.

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