Three Reasons Forced Positivity in the Workplace Is Damaging in the Long Run

- Motivation

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by Alex Moore

While it’s laudable that companies nowadays are trying their best to provide their employees with satisfactory conditions, it’s important to be wary of going overboard. Excessively enforcing positivity policies at the workplace can be damaging for any business, even though management strategies keep promoting this method.

The Burden of Forced Positivity

According to William Davies, author of the book The Happiness Industry, the idea that employees need to be happy to be productive has been part of management theories since the 1930s. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. People who are striving hard to complete certain tasks need to deal with their negative emotions instead of sweeping them under the rug and faking it until they make it. Here are the three main reasons why forced workplace positivity is damaging in the long run.

Forced Positivity Fail #1: People Want Different Things

Although according to the cliché working at a job you love is no work at all, people have different desires and expectations in their professional lives.

For some, having job security means working at recession-proof McDonald’s, while for others it might entail working in retail or becoming a teacher. In the same way, there are people who don’t care about workplace positivity and just want a good salary.

The main fault of forced positivity in any enterprise as a management policy is the assumption that all employees are wired in the same way. While some people adopt a positive attitude when conditioned into it, others will fully reject this approach for the mere reason that it is imposed onto them.

Anyone with a basic understanding of human nature and psychology knows the reason behind this. Each person reacts differently to stimuli and types of reinforcement. And the bigger the company is, the bigger the chances for a diverse employee base. Our differences as human beings are what bring us together in life, yet they can divide us in the workplace.

Forced Positivity Fail #2: Not All Jobs Are the Same

Even though the aforementioned cliché of happiness equals efficiency at work would have you think that all jobs function the same way, that is hardly the case. While people working in creative fields might indeed perform better when they’re satisfied with their jobs, those in other domains are more motivated by dissatisfaction.

The criteria behind this are not only field-specific, but also personal for everyone. Depending on what type of person you are, you will perform better under certain circumstances. Just like how some people are sharp under pressure and others crack, certain employees will perform better when happy, while others will fall into self-sufficiency. 

To implement a workplace wellness program that suits your entire team, you need to be aware of each person’s individual needs and find some middle ground. Provided no one in the company has an actual attitude problem, this will be hard, but not impossible.

Forced Positivity Fail #3: Feelings Cannot Be Regulated

According to Susan David, renowned psychologist and Harvard Medical School Professor, forcing yourself or others to think positively never results in actual happiness. People’s feelings and attitudes at work cannot be regulated as if they were a dress code.

The reason for this is the fact that they are something personal pertaining to each employee individually, not objective matters that management has a say in. For people that don’t react well to this type of reinforcement, it can be a nightmare to have positivity pushed on them.

On the other hand, a positivity policy can be very effective when the feeling is genuine. This piece in Forbes strongly supports the idea of creating a happy environment by honestly appreciating workers and avoiding intimidation techniques. 

Also Read: Want to be mindful? Try being negative more often

How can you promote a positivity policy without forcing it on your team?

Enforcing positivity in your firm is damaging in the long run because you can’t tell people how to feel about their path in life. It’s as simple as that. While there are a lot of things that a company can control and can regulate about their business, the emotional state of their workers is certainly not one of them.

A sign of good management is knowing where your authority stops. By learning this, you will be able to provide your team with a safe, productive and pleasant environment and the results you achieve together will be the best evidence for that.

How do you balance company goals with a positive workplace? Share your tricks to heed this advice with action below.

Photo: Micaela Parente (Unsplash)

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