The Downside of Positivity in the Workplace

We all have heard it at one time or another if not in our professional lives then in our personal lives, “you need to be more positive” or “you are being negative.” The downside of positivity in the workplace leaves many of us grinning when we don’t want to. I believe this buzzword of positivity gets thrown around way too often.

We are expected to walk around work with a sort of rictus grin on at all times and figure out a way to dance around issues. If there is a problem to me it’s much easier to take the problem on head on and not have to sugar coat everything.

Besides problem solving there is the general air of positivity that is requested in the workplace. I don’t know about you but sometimes when I get that toothy grin and over enthusiastic greeting from a co-worker at 7:00 am some questionable thoughts run through my head. It’s always interesting to me in our culture we have so many outlets in books, movies, television, and music that can focus on “negative” scenarios or content but we try so hard to eliminate any of those emotions from the workplace.

How can we allow negativity and other emotions fit in the workplace?

There was a method I was introduced to called the six thinking hats which is designed to force people to think of things in a variety of ways. Even with this method there are several hats that can be considered “negative.” We have to think about things from every angle to come up with a solution and sometimes that includes negative emotions.

Used successfully by thousands of business managers, educators, and government leaders around the world, Six Thinking Hats offers a practical and uniquely positive approach to making decisions and exploring new ideas.

Try Using the Six Thinking Hat Method

You can use them in a way to use parallel thinking or lateral thinking so that the group is staying focused while solving a problem. Eliminating the need for everyone to remain positive. Try having everyone wear the same thinking hat and come up with ideas, and then all change to a new thinking hat together. You can also have everyone in group wear a different hat and this will bring out other point of views.

  • Blue Hat – Managing: what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal? Can look at the big picture.
  • White Hat – Information: considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Red Hat – Emotions: intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification).
  • Black Hat – Discernment: Logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative. Practical, realistic.
  • Yellow Hat – Optimistic response: logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony. Sees the brighter, sunny side of situations.
  • Green Hat – Creativity: statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. Thinks creatively, outside the box.

Be sure to check out Edward de Bono’s book Six Thinking Hats for a deeper dive into this method!

What does this all mean?

Let’s be ok with just being ok and sometimes presenting the downsides of things. If everyone is so focused on the positive we can miss out on some serious concerns around an issue. We don’t all have to be a shining example of being a high energy beaming ray of sunshine at all times.

If positivity in your current workplace is getting to you and your exploring new career choices or want access to information about prior, current, or future bosses grade your boss or search for bosses here on Boss Report Card.

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