Let's Stop With Toxic Positivity In The Workplace

In the middle of the pandemic, I had been made redundant and like so many other people at the time, was struggling to find a job. I was low on funds, depressed and stressed.

I couldn’t tell you how many emails during that time started with “unfortunately your application has not been accepted.”

Meanwhile, I was dating a very swanky tech guy who also started looking for a new job. The difference? He had job offers left, right, and centre. Obviously, I was upset about the situation I found myself in and felt quite down. Instead of him encouraging me, he dumped me because I wasn’t happy enough.

He said I was, quote, “was too negative” for him.

I should just be happy and focus on the positives because life is always a bunch of roses! That was my first encounter with toxic positivity.

It’s the idea that you should completely ignore how difficult or stressful a situation is and just focus on all the positives and unfortunately, it’s ruining our working lives as much as our personal ones.

You tell your friend you have a passive-aggressive manager who makes you anxious and they respond by telling you to ignore it because at least you have a job. You have a salary so how bad can it truly be?

If your colleagues feel like work is making their life hell, don’t tell them to suffer in the name of positive thinking. Here are some ways you can combat toxic positivity in the workplace.

1. By Listening

Don’t you just love complaining about work? Complaining about anything feels like free therapy. But unlike therapy, not everyone wants advice when speaking about their work concerns. Sometimes people just want someone else to rant to. People don’t always need a solution or answers they just want a listening ear. Let people spend their time speaking about their experiences with you. Just listen.

2. Stop with the generic positive advice 

Don’t say things like ’life is full of seasons” or “practice gratitude” – this isn’t going to change the fact that someone’s boss is overworking them. If you don’t have anything useful to say, refer back to the first piece of advice: listen.

Some people feel the need to rush and say the first thing that pops into their head, don’t do that. Think of more practical things to say.

3. Offer support

When the time is right and you’ve heard everything they need to say, speak up ad offer support. Tell them you’re sorry that their work situation is causing them stress and ask them if you can help in any way.

We all want to be helped in different ways. Some might want you to help them write an email to their manager. Others might want to meet for coffee to speak about their work worries.

Be intentional and remember to ditch toxic positivity.