Want to Be Happy at Work? Better Not Think Too Positive!
Posted by Kimberly Jones, Unknown, KNJ HR Solutions on 8/1/2014

I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “fake it till you make it.”  I always viewed this phrase as a nonchalant way of dealing with issues or situations I really didn’t want to, but had to.  In other words, try to make the best out of a bad situation.

Having a positive attitude, as opposed to a negative attitude, is a choice to most people.  I personally prefer to have a more positive outlook in my personal and professional life.  However, ironically forcing positive thinking when a particular situation isn’t that positive, can cause very negative effects.

Positive thinking suggests that in every situation you choose your own mood and reactions.  No matter what’s happening to you, you just look for the silver lining in all of it.  This is true of some situations for example, if your flight gets delayed four hours and you’re stuck at an airport, instead of getting frustrated you might decide to take a more positive approach and decide to finish up a report for work that isn’t due for another few days, or you might decide to treat yourself to a nice dinner, then read a book or watch television. 

However, it’s very difficult to choose to be happy in every situation.  Below are five ways positive thinking can negatively impact your workplace:

  1. Faking emotions at work is stressful.  One of the most stressful things to have to deal with is rude members.  But even more stressful than that is having to fake being positive as it all happens, especially when you’re trained that the “customer” is always right.  When this happens, be sure to give your employees the proper recognition and appreciation for their work.


  1. Positive thinking makes it even worse for people who are unhappy at work.  Have you ever thought about why some people are unhappy with their job?  Most of the time, we believe that if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault…you control that.  However, someone may be unhappy because their boss is a jerk; maybe they’re being bullied or harassed, or your workplace culture is completely toxic.  However, some employers believe employees should still just have a positive attitude and be happy they have a job.  So in other words, it’s all their fault that they’re miserable.


  1. Negative emotions are a natural part of work.  Negative emotions are not called that because they’re necessarily wrong, but because they are unpleasant. However, sometimes negative emotion is exactly the right emotion and what’s needed to elicit the proper change or result.  If you’re always forced to be positive, you can sometimes be both less authentic and less effective.


  1. Positive thinking can contribute to the ignoring of problems in the workplace.  No workplace is perfect.  No job is without problems or challenges.  By consistently marginalizing and criticizing unhappy employees by telling them to just be more positive, you may be choosing to ignore the real problems and challenges that may be causing the unhappiness.  You may also find that you are losing an opportunity to hear valuable concepts and viewpoints in your organization.


  1. Trying to force yourself to be positive makes you unhappy.  Simply put, if you expect to be happy all the time at work, then you are bound to be disappointed.  We are humans…we all have various emotions, lifestyles, backgrounds, and personalities.  Sometimes exploring the source of negativity can lead to a more productive workplace then simply acting as though it doesn’t exist. 

When your circumstances are bad, sometimes the only emotion you feel is unhappiness, it’s natural.  The source of that unhappiness or negative emotions can be either internally or externally motivated.  I’ve found that if the source of negativity is internally motivated, that’s typically something that someone has to sort through on their own. However, if negative thinking is being externally driven by certain aspects of the workplace, employers have to ask is there something within my organization that could be leading to feelings of negativity among my staff?  By investigating and resolving any issues or problems that might exist, a negative can quickly be turned into a positive.   

Categories: Human Resources
Comments (1)
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Posted by Jane Fitzgerald on 8/4/2014 1:46 PM:
Excellent article, Kim, especially #2 and #4. "Smile, be glad you even have a job" and "Smile, we didn't ask for your opinion" are real heart and soul killers.
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