How toxic positivity
can negatively affect your team

When working towards a winning mindset, a positive outlook is expected from your leaders. A word that’s been bounced around amongst teams for decades, you might be surprised to hear that ‘positivity’ isn’t always a positive. Like with most good things, too much can have an adverse effect and, when it isn’t authentic, positivity quickly becomes toxic. 


leadership circle graphic
leadership circle graphic

Where does toxic
positivity come from?

In our experience, toxic positivity usually stems from a leader’s lack of confidence in themselves. Choosing to stay in a safe place of constant positivity suggests insecurity in their own leadership ability.  

With a wall of positivity to hide behind, leaders don’t need to deal with anyone’s issues or concerns, and don’t have to reflect on how well they are doing and their performance as a leader. But forcing positivity doesn’t bode well: an overly positive tone is not an authentic one and your team will soon pick up on this. 

The impact of toxic
positivity on your team

If your leaders aren’t prepared to acknowledge any sort of negativity, your team will quickly start to lose trust in them. Being too positive suggests that leaders haven’t noticed the areas that need work, or that they’re not prepared to talk about these.  

This adamant belief that everyone needs to be positive all of the time, rather than accepting reality and addressing concerns, is not a healthy one. A blanket of positivity will stifle progress as problems, worries and anxieties are swept aside. As your team sees what’s happening, they’ll lose confidence in your leaders and your organisation. 

Toxic positivity is transferred from a leader to the rest of the team. When we see leaders who belief that ‘everyone needs to be as positive as I am’ and ‘if you’re not, then you’re the problem’, we see a red flag. 

Positivity should never feel forced. Disingenuous optimism will negatively impact the team and create an environment of distrust and, ultimately, disillusion. 

There’s a place for pessimism 

Your leaders are responsible for setting the tone, but not for suppressing negativity. A tone of relentless optimism will not feel authentic, and the pessimistic voices need to be heard. We need someone to pre-empt the things that could go wrong, to say ‘hang on’ and ‘let’s think about how we’re actually going to do this’.  

Welcome the warnings and listen to those voices rather than suppress a minority who don’t align with the tone you’re setting. 

It’s all about finding a balance between optimism and realism so that your leaders feel comfortable accepting and addressing concerns. Take ownership of issues that arise, question constant positivity and let pessimism have its place. 

To identify and overcome toxic positivity within your team, take a look at how our leadership coaching can help. Otherwise get in touch to chat with Katherine and David. 

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