Signs of Toxic Positivity at Work

NO, it’s not OK to please the boss (or the colleagues, for that matter) all day every day. It stops the progress and turns the workplace into a place full of self-satisfied lazy chairs. Here: we said it. Oh, and, to be clear, we don’t mean constant tiring change or a rebellious attitude are better. But that is a discussion for another day. That being said, below are some major red flags that indicate toxic positivity at work.

High Hopes

At work (and in life, for that matter) everything should be measured. And the benchmark has to be agreed upon by all parties involved. Sounds simple, but a surprising number of workplace problems still come from projecting unrealistic expectations on one another. “By default” is one of the deadly diseases of teamwork and company culture as a whole. Because it puts a veil on the bride one marries. Now that we’ve put it that way, do you see the importance of getting rid of high hopes at work? Go for measured agreements instead.

No Questions Asked

Obedience is a virtue, we hear. And it is. But not all day every day. In fact, if one’s command (or request) is not followed up with any questions, it’s a major red flag of toxic positivity at work. Unquestioning attitudes kill creativity and - eventually - employee interest in work. So, dear decision-makers, you better start encouraging those questions right away. Even if you love your ideas.

Too Many Yess’es

This one is even worse than the previous one. It’s bad enough not to question anything at work, it’s even worse to agree with everything at work. The ugly truth to the Yess’es are the validation-hungry asses at work. What a pun! The fastest solution to this workplace dysfunction is simply forbidding the word “Yes” in the workplace altogether. Good news is, employees will still have to say something. And that something - surprisingly - will be so much better. You should try.

Paid Soldier Mentality

Let’s be clear: monetary motivation is a necessity at work, not a motivator. Unless salaries have no limits and will continue to grow until the end of time. What nonsense, right!? To eliminate the paid soldier mentality at work means to know and address the real employee motivators. Be it personal growth in the position or the ability to simply have a simple balanced life. There’s no one-size-fits-all employee motivators, but the fact is this: it’s not (just) money.

Zero Criticism

Criticism is neither positive nor negative in and of itself. It’s a bit like zucchini: its function is to absorb the flavors and to help those flavors spread into all the right (work)places. The positive or negative effect of criticism thus depends on other ingredients in the workplace (dish). So, you want more cooperation? Add zucchini criticism, stir it around and let it blend in. You want to stop rivalry? Add zucchini criticism, stir it around, and toss it out of the (team)plate. And, if there’s no zucchini criticism in the workplace, hem, how do the flavors spread?


We’ve seen it before: employees read 2 books on psychology and then start mirroring their superiors to elevate themselves up the corporate ladder. And they might as well! But boy does it damage the overall company culture! Thus the advice: the minute you spot mirroring at work, do something funny to eliminate the matter once and for all. Not only does mirroring create self-righteousness in the workplace, but it also stops the flow of ideas, opinions, and eventually employee satisfaction. Which makes it a very short-lived means to good employee teamwork.

Mental Fragility

This is a big sign of toxic positivity at work. Mental fragility is a sign that employees do not feel safe enough to speak their minds, and this makes them feel undervalued and unsafe. Which denies them of the basic needs in the workplace. A good cure to MF in the workplace is brainstorming sessions where every idea needs to be proven right. And we mean every. This loosens up employees and slowly builds mental stamina, which is the opposite of mental fragility in the workplace.

Emotional Tension

Not all tension is good for advancement at work. Let’s repeat that: not all tension helps employees advance. In fact, one type of tension has the opposite effect. And by that we mean emotional tension. It is rather productive to put employees through cycles of function-related tension. It is never productive to put them through emotional tension.

Care to hear more about employee psychology and how it influences HR analytics at work? Let’s discuss Corporate Therapy for the workplace:!