Since the predictable event of Covid-19 (those businesses who had an upto date Pandemic Management Plan / Crisis Management Plan & Business Continuity Plan will probably agree) there seems to be more and more Toxic Positivity creeping in to our everyday lives.
In late December 2019 and early January 2020, not many of use would have predicted the scale and impact that Covid-19 would have had on the world. Yes granted that a "Pandemic" can have this type of long term impact on society, but it could be fair to say that if specific countries, regions and demographics had just followed basic rules they would not have needed so many lockdowns and re-lockdowns. Add to the fact that there seems to be limited use of face coverings and personal hygiene (STILL), should we be surprised to see the outpouring of Toxic Positivity on social media?
For those who are not familiar with the relatively new term it can be explained as "the excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations" (sounds familiar) and yes its rife across LinkedIn and it all probably started with Simon Sinek (OK, you may think that is a little harsh, but you are not me)
Sinek, originally a "Marketer" (also know as a Master of the Dark Arts, like Witchcraft but more sinister) is most famous for "start with why" and millennialising millennials, single-handedly attempted to try and tell us that these individuals have more of a moral compass than anyone else and how "ethical" and "Socially Responsible" they are, fighting climate change - whilst protesting for change and equality and so on.
Sinek (in my opinion) tapped into his former life as a marketer and utilised the lowest common denominator, however Sinek appears to have missed the boat somewhat in my opinion and this is evident by a Food Network article that states "Millennials now account for 44 percent of total U.S. coffee consumption." which is impressive when you consider a business like Starbucks, has some form of "Purpose" wanting "to inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time." whilst doing its best to minimise their tax (just saying that a lot of coffee bought and drank in Starbucks by Millennials! Obviously they are really concerned about this.)
The brutal fact is, that individual like Sinek and that other bloke Vaynerchuk have made it almost impossible for individuals to hold their hand up and say "Hey, this is F**Ked!, I need help!" or complain about how bad something is, without the juggernaut of LinkedIn and wider society leaping all over it with some deluded and idiotic post or comment saying their are being negative or should not complain.
One of the most stupid things that I have ever heard was by a General Manager who had delusions of being a CEO here in Australia that said "Leaders don't complain!" which is probably the stock standard guff they have been teaching in Universities since the dawn of time and is absolute rubbish! I can remember when I was going through my basic training, I was told "Complaints have a relative place in any form of organisation, from the highest ranked officer to the newest recruit, just remember for every complaint, you should have a solution" something that I have taken with me (and for those who actually know me) I have a few solutions!
Now I will say this, honestly I would probably not recognise either Sinek or Vaynerchuk if I passed them in the street (however I am aware of them due to the re-dross that is shared across LinkedIn and that we are exposed to EVERY DAY), I have nothing against them, I wouldn't feel the need to go out and have a beer with them, they probably wouldn't want to have a beer with me and that's fine, I just think they are wrong and the platforms they have, may have not had the desired positive effect they thought they were achieving, a bit like Safety Differently and 1 Percent Safer (PALM PLANT ON FOREHEAD!) Oh the power of Marketing....
The idea that Toxic Positivity is socially rife can be seen just by scrolling through any LinkedIn feed, the motivational and over optimistic voodoo that filling ones feed not only becomes tiresome but annoying as well, but it would be interesting to see what the impacts on mental health these posts have on individuals, a job for someone far more intelligent that myself!
As someone who has spend the last decade in Australia working in Safety and Risk Management I have found it interesting the lack of action around the idea of "Toxic Positivity" within the workplace, let alone anywhere else. Australia is built on a "She'll be right" attitude and still it is only really acceptable to openly speak about Mental Health once or twice a year, when businesses roll out the "RU OK DAY" promotional materials, some very expensive RU OK materials, to compliment the free print at home stuff you can download off their website (and whilst I completely get what this day is trying to achieve, personally its not for me, again its been marketed well!).
The fact that RU OK Day conveniently falls on World Suicide Prevention Day is no coincidence, however why Australia went down it own route is anyone's guess and for me World Suicide Prevention Day is a global intuitive that I can/and do get behind.
The RU OK DAY tag line is "A conversation could change a life" and I have no issue with that or the principal of the day, however, if you are going to be open and honest about Mental Health as a business get this on your Risk Register, don't roll this out once a year pretending that your business care, I have seen and heard way too many organisations "What are we doing for RU OK DAY, we can get some really good photos and images for social media."
Mental Health is an issue until it is no longer an issue, so businesses need to be proactive more than once a year! Time and time again we see the infringement of "Toxic Positivity" creeping in to Mental Health Conversations, the amount of people that I have heard saying to people who have a Mental Health condition "Never give up" or "you just need to focus on the good in something, anything" or "you are not alone" astounds me, it would be like telling someone with a substance addition that they will be fine if I leave this bottle of scotch sitting their in front of them!
The World Health Organisation back in 2001 believed that one in four people would suffer from some form of "Mental Health Disorder" (and outdated term yes, but relevant) and given that we are still mid pandemic as we head towards December, it would be interesting to understand how much "Toxic Positivity" has fanned the flames?
I will say this, (and I am no psychologist /mental heath expert) that while it’s healthy to feel hopeful & to have faith/belief, to reframe challenges in a way that lets us see personal learnings and to experience gratitude and so on, it’s completely unhealthy if we refuse to accept that we can and do feel scared, anxious & worried about stuff or a situation if things don’t work out, go A over T and it completely hits the fan.
We need to get out of this space where we can no longer be brutally honest and call it as it is. There is nothing wrong with having a complain or a moan, calling a spade a spade in fact my personal preference is that I would rather work with these people, the realist, the open and honest individuals than the "Lego" society that we currently are pinned in where "Everything is Awesome" its not and that is completely fine as well.
In Part Two, I will give you my 10 pence worth on the other big issue we have right now with LinkedIn, job advertisements not having salary banding on them.
It's Tuesday, you are still working from home, so kick back put kettle on and give yourself 10 minutes. Here's my take on #toxicpositivity