Skip to main content

Is Too Much Positivity Ruining Your Workplace?

Is is time to take down all the motivational posters at work? It's a real question, but you don't want to look like a wet blanket for bringing it up. Let's live, laugh, love our way to curmudgeonly self-actualization!

A column in today's Chicago Tribune points out something I've been thinking for years but didn't want to say out loud lest I ruin our collective sense of workplace zen by practicing random acts of cynicism and senseless sarcasm. As columnist Rex Huppke writes:

To distill this down to my own lowbrow level of thinking: Keep it real. Don't see that I made a mistake and then tell me that mistake was brilliantly executed. Don't address my conflict with a co-worker as a chance to come together and embrace. Tell me who's right or wrong and tell us both to knock it off!

If I do something well, tell me. If the team's doing great, tell us.

But take down that ridiculous poster with the soaring eagle — before I actualize my inner demons and do it for you.

Amen, brother.

Trending toward positivity at work is always more desirable than sliding into outright negativity, of course, but the power of positive thinking can go too far when the boss becomes a walking, talking repository of empty self-help passages, hangs up too many sappy posters, and tells you to read Chapter 7 of the latest trite business book because life isn't a dress rehearsal, or something like that. Instead of pondering whether or not it's possible to teach a kid to ride a bike at a seminar, you're standing there thinking, you don't seem to realize that my life, for the most part, is good!

The most detrimental aspect of too much rah-rah in the workplace, however, is that it can make employees loathe to bring up the broken coffee pot, much less the flaws in a new product currently undergoing beta testing. Saying something even remotely non-positive could ruin the relentlessly upbeat mood and unravel management's finely-spun cocoon wrapped around the company's "whether you think you can or can't, you're right" mindset. Employees might feel like they're going a little bit mad amid the business's never-ending bliss, but to quote the philosopher Seal, we're never gonna survive unless we go a little bit crazy.

Employees might also begin to notice the wide gulf between the company's words and actions. Workplace artwork is a booming business these days. But what if the wall posters and the mission statement are unflinchingly Kumbaya when all the bluster and jockeying for position seem more Kid Rock with each passing day? The dissonance can become a quiet joke among employees for whom life has no limitations, except the ones they make.

Americans, and U.S. employers, spend millions each year on self-help motivational babble that critics contend is completely wrong or largely unsubstantiated. But if you dream it you can be it, right? All you need is positivity!

Put me on the record as believing change comes from within, not from a wall poster boasting pithy quotes about attitude and teamwork beckoning you from the clearance rack at Kohl's or Target. The writing is on the wall, but maybe it doesn't need to be there? Trying hanging a pretty watercolor instead, or some modern artwork that looks like it was finger painted by a five-year-old. After all, you become what you think about, and today is the tomorrow you put off until yesterday, so work like you don't need the money, dance like nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt, and sing like nobody's listening.

Actually, DO NOT sing at work. Ever. Now go put some sweat equity into it, because 80% of success is showing up.


Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…