Toxic positivity could be a problem in your workplace

What it means and how to foster an emotionally healthy workforce

Toxic positivity could be a problem in your workplace

It’s not too often the words ‘toxic’ and ‘positivity’ find themselves side by side. But one emotional intelligence expert argues that not only do they belong together, but the combo is finding its way into workplaces, potentially making them less healthy and less safe.

"Toxic positivity manifests in various forms within workplaces," explains Joshua Freedman, CEO and co-founder of Six Seconds, a global think tank dedicated to leveraging emotional intelligence. "We often attempt to motivate people by urging them to maintain a positive outlook, yet workplaces frequently struggle to acknowledge emotions authentically."

Freedman says health and safety professionals, pivotal in fostering safe and supportive work environments, can benefit significantly from understanding and addressing this phenomenon. He elucidates toxic positivity as the denial of difficult or unpleasant feelings, which inadvertently conveys the message that experiencing normal human emotions is somehow wrong.

Recent statistics underscore the gravity of the issue. A survey found that 48% of employees report lying awake at night due to work-related stress, with toxic positivity contributing significantly to this distress. "When genuine concerns are dismissed in favor of an unrealistic positive outlook, it can exacerbate stress and negatively impact mental health," says Freedman.

Discussing the implications for health and safety leaders, Freedman says it is important to normalize discussions around emotions as valuable signals. "In the realm of health and safety, acknowledging discomfort or apprehension can serve as crucial warning signs of potential risks or violations," suggests Freedman.

Eliminating toxic positivity from workplaces, claims Freedman, begins with normalizing discussions about reality and fostering authenticity and openness. "Leaders can lead by example, sharing their own feelings authentically and creating space for others to do the same," he advises.

Freedman challenges health and safety professionals to think of emotions as potential data points. "Understanding emotions as valuable data points enables leaders to design systems and practices that prioritize employee well-being and safety."

As health and safety professionals navigate their roles, Freedman's insights offer a valuable perspective on addressing toxic positivity and embracing emotional intelligence in the workplace. By fostering a culture that values authenticity and acknowledges the full range of human emotions, organizations can create safer, healthier, and more productive environments for their employees.

Addressing toxic positivity is paramount for promoting employee well-being and safety. Integrating emotional intelligence into organizational practices can facilitate this process, ultimately leading to healthier and more resilient workplaces.