Expert says taming toxic positivity at work imperative

Toxic positivity in the workplace refers to the pressure placed on employees to maintain a positive attitude, even in situations that may be challenging or difficult.

While this emotional suppression may seem harmless, it can create and exacerbate stress and prompt a myriad of other negative effects on an employee’s mental health and work performance.

And it’s pervasive. According to a Science of People study, more than half (67.8 percent) of respondents said they experienced toxic positivity from someone in the prior week, alone.

Employees may feel like they cannot express negative emotions, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

This pressure can also lead to burnout, as employees are expected to maintain a constant positive attitude regardless of their workload or other stressors.

Toxic positivity can also impact an employee’s work performance. Employees may feel like they cannot express concerns or suggest improvements, which can hinder creativity and innovation.

This pressure to maintain a positive attitude can also lead to a lack of authenticity in the workplace, as employees may feel like they have to put on a facade rather than being their true selves.

Repression of emotion has been correlated with certain mental disorders, including clinical depression.

Ultimately, toxic positivity can create a toxic work environment and culture that can negatively impact an employee’s mental and cognitive health and, consequently, their work performance—as well as that for a team, department and company at large. The opposite of creating an open listening environment in the workplace, emotional suppression and toxic positivity is a readily addressable and rectifiable circumstance that can greatly benefit from tactical intervention like active listening with trained professionals.

Organizationally, leaders need to establish and build upon a culture of authentic engagement, collaboration and trust. The kind that can only be compelled through true active listening so that employees feel they can express their true feelings, opinions, ideas and emotions and, in doing so, be heard, valued and supported. In turn, business and industry will realize an array of benefits, from increased productivity and higher staff retention rates to lower absenteeism and presenteeism exemplified by the ‘quiet quitting’ trend.