Sad to Return to Work? Toxic Positivity Says You Need to Feel Blessed!

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The longer our time off work is, the more common it is to feel upset about returning. As we return to work after the long Yuletide season, our routine will start to change. Humans experience the most comfort with what is known and a routine of being at home or being away from work becomes our normal. Feeling nervous or discontent about returning to work after a break of one week or more is not necessarily concerning! It is more likely human nature.

As you enter the halls of your office, a co-worker may tell you to “bring good vibes only” or “feel blessed that you have work”. It is upsetting to hear that “be positive” remark when you know that you are having a difficult day. You are in the presence of toxic positivity at work. Toxic positivity comes when you are actively minimizing or invalidating negative emotions.

A study showed that more than 75% of respondents in a survey by Science of People said they “sometimes, often, or very often ignore their emotions in favor of being happy.” An example of toxic positivity in the workplace is being told that you need to “look at the brighter side” or to “just stay positive” despite not getting the promotion that you worked hard for. Have you experienced these? Does your workplace value positivity to the extent that it turns toxic?

Toxic positivity at its worst can negatively impact engagement and productivity, diminish trust, and damage company culture.


Toxic positive increases burnout, which is exacerbated by emotional labor. Emotional labor occurs when you are feeling obligated to express an emotion that you are not actually feeling.


Invalidating the emotions of the employees or minimizing their prowess can cause loss of trust and create an avoidant work culture.


When you cannot even name what is happening to you, you cannot start the process of analyzation. You will not be able to process your emotions. It not only affects your mental health, but also your overall well-being. Toxic positivity blocks mindfulness, because you cannot accept what is happening in the present.


If you do not feel comfortable telling each other your feelings when something is not functioning properly, you may not feel that the space is safe. Is it time to turn the culture upside down to create a new level of emotional openness?


Organizations should ask themselves the following queries to identify if toxic positivity is present:
a. Are employees allowed to change or challenge the culture?

b. Are employees allowed to express concerns or reservations during meetings?

c. Is this team allowed to play the role of devil’s advocate?

d. Are your employees expected to say yes or to agree all the time?

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Optimism is healthy. However, you need to ensure you are not being positive at the expense of the truth. Leaders should encourage openness and honesty at work. Employees will follow soon. Practice emotion-sharing exercises at meetings to foster more understanding and ignite cohesion between co-workers!

Sources: 1 & 2

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