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Toxic positivity

William Liao


Over the last year or so, many of my friends, family, and colleagues have heard the following remarks at work:

“Why can’t you be more positive? “

“Can you show your face please?”

And my favorite: “why aren’t you smiling more?”

There’s this strange phenomenon going on where some companies and team members expect their employees and team mates to curate and offer up only the happiest and most positive parts of ourselves.

And it’s exhausting.

Here’s the thing: we are not happy all the time. We are not positive all the time.

This doesn’t mean we’re bad or damaged, it just means that we’re human.

If you’re in a headspace where you can be positive and smile, that’s great!

If you’re not — that’s perfectly okay to and there’s no reason to force yourself to behave otherwise.

You don’t owe anyone a smile.

You don’t owe anyone a positive remark.

There is no shame — I repeat, no shame — in not being in the mood to do either.

Reality check: we bring our whole selves to work.

The sooner this is understood, the better off our culture, our teams, our companies, and our work will be.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)