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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.


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Laura Gallaher, an organizational psychologist, says that toxic positivity is when we are actively looking to suppress real, negative emotions. "It’s almost always benevolent in nature because people are looking to do the right thing; however, humans don’t respond well to this kind of positivity because it’s dismissive of reality." For instance, “if somebody is feeling upset and your response is ‘Try to be positive,’ you’re basically saying, ’You’re wrong. You’re wrong for feeling what you’re feeling,’” Gallaher said. “As human beings, we do not respond well to that at all, especially because we’re talking about someone’s subjective experience of the world. “

When toxic positivity becomes common practice in the workplace, it can create a culture in which employees can’t share how they feel with those they need to be honest with, and that in turn usually leads them to complain about the situation to everyone else instead. “That continues to erode trust, and it creates a lot of artificiality in how we are showing up. Then it ends up impacting business results. In other words, simply because now we’re not having healthy conflicts, we’re not making the best decisions we can,” Gallaher said. Here are four common ways in which toxic positivity can negatively impact productivity

1. People tell you to be positive about legitimate concerns.

When a co-worker shares a legitimate worry, telling them to be positive is dismissive. Gallaher gave the example of a client who was stressed about taking on the responsibilities of a fired colleague on top of her regular work. When the client told her leader that she was worried about being set up to fail, the leader told her, “Try to be more positive.” A more compassionate response would include the manager actually listening to the employee’s concerns with statements like “Tell me more,” or paraphrasing the problem with “It sounds like...” The goal is to make the employee feel heard and validated for feeling what they’re feeling, Gallaher said.

2. Your boss says that “everything will be fine” as the company’s future is grim and uncertain.

If the bottom line is red and layoffs loom, it is not just toxically positive for your boss to insist everything’s fine. This hands-off leadership is also the most common type of incompetent management. One 2010 study said a laissez-faire leader “may avoid decision making, show little concern for goal attainment and rarely involve themselves with their subordinates, even when this is necessary.” The boss who only shows up to offer vague encouragement is doing everyone a disservice. Instead of making false promises about employees’ futures, managers can be more helpful in times of crises when they are transparent and specific about the actions, they are taking to support the team.

3. You experience unemployment and colleagues tell you to look on the bright side.

If you’re among the millions of people who lost their job due to Covid 19, you are not alone. But although the unemployment experience is common, you still have a right to be upset. Toxically positive statements like “Look on the bright side” or “You’re going to be OK” are signaling that it’s not OK for you to be less than happy with your current job circumstance.

“‘But at least you’ve got this’ or ‘Thank goodness it’s not that’ ― that’s all well-intended,” says Patrick O'Malley, a psychologist, but it’s invalidating, minimizing to the individual’s story, because typically for many people, this is loss and fear.” What is more helpful in this instance is to listen more than talk, and to not assume that your role in the conversation is to fix this person’s unemployment. “Don’t consult unless you’re clearly asked to consult,” O’Malley said.

4. Minor diversity and equity efforts are used to silence ongoing concerns.

Social concerns such as diversity, equity, and minority rights, for instance, are pushing companies to make diversity and equity commitments. But at some point, these efforts can become toxic positivity when a colleague uses the company’s diversity initiatives to downplay or minimize calls for racial justice. “You can imagine some bosses being like, ‘Hey, at least we’re even doing something now,’ which can be extremely offensive and harmful to somebody who is from a marginalized and/or minority community,” says Cynthia Pong, a career coach. A better reframe would be to acknowledge that the effort “is something, and things are still pretty bad as far as equity or racism, inclusion, exclusion goes,” Pong concludes.