Preventing Toxic Productivity and Toxic Positivity

February 2024 | By ALULA

Recent global increases in employee engagement have been music to the ears of hard-working, mindful leaders. But here’s the thing about a good thing – it merits vigilance. 

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Teams with high engagement reap the rewards of two common strengths: productivity and positivity. And while it might seem like a no-brainer to consistently encourage highly engaged teams to flex these strengths to the max, there is a risk to keep in mind. 

What we’re talking about is “toxic productivity,” and its better-known counterpart, “toxic positivity.”  

On the one hand, toxic productivity accounts for the team impulse to be constantly productive no matter the impact to individual and collective well-being, relationships across the organization, or even the practical limits imposed by tech or environmental constraints.  

It’s what happens when company culture allows team hustle to override team alignment. Sometimes the intent is good and there’s a short-term benefit, but the inevitable consequences can include burnout, injury (verbal or physical), and broad distrust. 

On the other hand, toxic positivity refers to the spoken and unspoken pressure to channel positivity at the expense of honesty, authenticity, and often reality itself.  

If toxic positivity becomes the status quo, teams will find themselves in a funk – resistant to learning and responsibility when mistakes are made and more disingenuous than inclusive. Why? People cannot be unanimously positive about everything all the time.  

How do you ensure that employee engagement wins benefit meaningful (not toxic) productivity and positivity? Consider the power of feedback. Delivered the right way, you can be certain about the outcome – predictable success that doesn't get complicated by good things going bad. 

Every day, we see leaders delivering the kind of feedback that helps employees become the best versions of themselves, and in turn, their engagement remains a source of comradery, innovation, and genuine care for both each other and the business. 

Gain more confidence in the positive impact of your feedback with the simple five steps in our guide below.

Topics: Leadership, Team Building, Team Culture, Workplace Health


Written by ALULA