Open Door or Toxic Positivity
"We have an open door policy at work, so people can open up freely"
Really, just because the door is open does not mean people will feel safe to enter or that those with the open door understand how to provide appropriate support.
Convincing ourselves and others to constantly remain positive can be harmful to our health and wellbeing along with our workplace culture.
How many times have you heard a manager say "don't worry its not as bad as it seems" or "thinking negatively wont help" "you will get over it, just stay positive and get back to work"
Well the reality is that if the person you are trying to support is experiencing mental health distress, potentially even an undiagnosed mental health illness, they will not be able to simply focus on work, they most certainly will not be able to stop negative thoughts and worry will be all consuming for them, its part of the symptoms of a mental health condition or illness. This toxic positivity simply reenforces the deep concerns the individual holds about themselves, such as "I am weak" "why cant I just be positive". We don't do this with the intent of minimising the individual's experience but this is the result
We need to learn optimistic inclusive care skills. "You are not alone, everyone has mental health and we are here to support you" "its important to let these feelings out, what can i do to help you with this" language that allows the individual to validate the experience and does not diminish the distress.
As human beings when we experience mental health impacts in social settings, we try to camouflage these, we tend to reflect the types predominant behaviours in that social environment. If your workplace has a toxic positivity culture then your workforce will reflect it. this is known as the Chameleon Effect, the nonconscious mimicry of mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviours of one’s interaction partners or culture.
So, what would this look like at work in terms of mental health harm? In an environment where the management team say "the door is always open" but minimise the experience of employees by saying things such as "its not a big deal, get a good sleep and be positive" what we have is an open door and toxic positivity
To talk more about this subject, get in touch with our team