Three strategies for dealing with toxic positivity in the workplace

Nov 15, 2023

2 min

Jill Panté


Every workplace needs its cheerleaders who work lift their teammates up when the chips are down. But sometimes things really are that bad, and according to UD career expert Jill Gugino Panté, if that’s not acknowledged and dealt with, the situation will go further south.


Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware, offered three tips for dealing with what is known as “toxic positivity.”


Don’t force it. One example of toxic positivity in the workplace is always having to display and present positive emotions even when you might be feeling the opposite. So, feelings of frustration, anger or sadness are not acceptable on any given day. Forcing this type of toxic positivity can actually do the opposite and create feelings of resentment and burnout.


Share with your supervisor. As an employee in this environment where toxic positivity runs rampant, you may want to have a one-on-one conversation with your supervisor to discuss the culture and ramifications of not being able to display authentic emotions. Perhaps letting your supervisor know that there are negative feelings festering under the “positive outside” that should be addressed. If you don’t feel comfortable going to your supervisor, find an advocate within the organization. And if you feel brave enough, try playing devil’s advocate in a meeting and state that discussing all angles could be helpful in problem solving.


Be proactive with direct reports. Another example of toxic positivity is that everything, no matter the situation, is going to be alright. Sometimes situations are not going to turn out for the better. Sometimes situations are awful and horrible and people need to be allowed to feel that way. This constant “look on the bright side” can diminish a person’s experiences and feelings. It silences those who want to be able to express outrage, anger or sadness and doesn’t provide a supportive workplace. Eliminating this behavior starts at the top with creating an environment where people feel safe to express dissenting opinions or feelings.


Panté is available for interviews. To set one up, simply click on her profile.



Connect with:
Jill Panté

Jill Panté

Director, Lerner College Career Services Center

Prof. Panté can comment on workplace issues such as hiring, professional etiquette, personal branding, interviewing, and job search.

Job SearchLinkedinRecruitmentHiringResume

You might also like...

Check out some other posts from University of Delaware

1 min

Researchers find ‘narrow’ depictions of fatherhood in children’s literature

When children read picture books, they are often greeted with depictions of family and life lessons their young minds soak up. What happens then, when those depictions don’t offer a thoughtful image of gender or family as they have changed over the years? That is one of the questions University of Delaware Professor Bill Lewis and Social Science Research Analyst and UD alumna Laura Cutler explored in their recent paper, published in the quarterly journal Children's Literature in Education. In “Portraits of Fatherhood: Depictions of Fathers and Father–Child Relationships in Award-Winning Children’s Literature,” Lewis and Cutler looked at more than 80 children’s books to analyze how authors and publishers depicted fathers and fatherhood. What they found was that over a span of nearly 20 years, from 2001 to 2020, these books presented "a narrow view of fatherhood," both in what roles fathers have in familial units and which types of fathers are presented. They also noted that these portrayals have remained relatively static over the last two decades. Lewis, a professor in the College of Education and Human Development’s School of Education, broke down what spurred the research and what he and Cutler hope changes as a result of the research in a new Q&A. Contact mediarelations@udel.edu to set up an interview with Lewis.

1 min

Professors address students' climate anxiety

Professors at the University of Delaware preparing students for careers working on climate change are making sure to consider mental health issues as they send them out into the world. UD's Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, led by director A.R. Siders, is starting a series of initiatives – on campus and in the region – to tackle the challenge of what is known as climate anxiety. This involves traditional trainings but also innovations with creativity, art, video games and play. "Learning about and working on climate change causes climate anxiety, ecogrief, solastalgia – there’s a whole new set of terms being created just to describe the problem," said Siders, also an associate professor in UD's Disaster Research Center and Biden School of Public Policy and Administration. "This is a real mental health concern." This new way of approaching climate education has become even more critical as universities expand climate education – such as new climate schools, degrees, courses and even embedding it in general education courses, Siders said. The U.S. government is supporting a growing climate workforce, and it is expected that more people will work in climate-related careers. To reach Siders and set up an interview, visit her profile and click on the "contact" link. This will automatically send an email directly to her.

1 min

Those flying spiders are harmless; don't tell that to arachnophobes

A breed of flying arachnids known as Joro spiders are headed to the northeast this summer, specifically Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Experts say there's nothing to fear, but that doesn't make them any less scary to those who have an issue with the eight-legged bug eaters. Two University of Delaware experts can provide insight and (some) comfort regarding any potential risk to humans. Brian Kunkel, an expert in landscape and household insects and entomology for ornamentals with UD's Cooperative Extension, confirmed the yellow and black spider will be making its arrival in the Tri-State area but said it isn't likely to be noticed until the fall, when it grows to visible size. Regardless, there is no need to be concerned. In the unlikely event that it bites, you would feel something akin to a bee sting, Kunkel said. Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, confirmed the spiders are on the way but echoed Kunkel's assessment that there is nothing to be worried about. To set up an interview with Kunkel, send an email to mediarelations@udel.edu. If interested in an interview with Tallamy, visit his profile and click on the contact button.

View all posts