Positive Mindset - Toxic or Helpful?

By Melissa McFarlane


For years we have read about being positive. We have taken courses, we have been inundated with podcasts, tv shows, and articles on how to be “positive," yet, the question remains: Was it helpful or hurtful to our work environments, leadership, and cultures?



Let’s talk about our work environments first; I have so many thoughts on how this “positivity” was going to play out. Are we wired to be positive all the time? Is it realistic? What happens to all the other feelings that we may experience? Do they go away?


Is telling people in our work environments to be positive helping that person grow and develop? Do they feel heard? This concept never made sense to me, but it is an easy way to shame people and make them feel terrible for being human. So why as a society did we buy into this idea so rapidly? Yet, even today, I hear this consistently, and I see people become even more confused and shut down.


What is the right environment if it is not “positivity?” Let’s start with the basics. Demand for a healthy work environment is more prevalent today than ever. Each industry may set a foundation that differs from the other. Here are a few of the basics that I believe need to exist to promote a culture people want to work at.


  • Clear expectations

  • Empathetic conversations

  • Training /Education

  • Accountability

  • Love / Compassion

“Leadership became cheerleading for positivity instead of leading, making people wrong for having any other feelings besides positive ones; conversations were superficial and not helpful.”

We shamed others for not being positive like somehow there was something wrong with them, and suddenly they weren’t being team players? The inability of leaders to see the complexity of human emotions and taking every other emotion and ignoring it or shutting it down can not possibly have a positive effect on us personally and professionally.


I challenge my clients every day to build a better relationship with their emotions instead of “just be positive or just be grateful,” and everything will miraculously be great for you? When you think about it so simply like this, does it sounds crazy? I mean, how does that even work? Do I keep repeating that statement, and all my other feelings and problems just go away? The answer is no.



Do the work

Feelings, whether positive, negative, angry, or sad, communicate something to us that we need to address in a mature humanistic way.


Our fellow humans need more than a catchy phrase and a false sense of euphoria; we deserve more; we can not manifest things from nothing, we must put in the work and take action.



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