Is there such thing as too much positivity in leadership?

Everyone wants to have a job that makes it easy to get out of bed in the morning; we all want to come to work with a smile on our face! Having a positive work culture is important and desired by many people but is it possible for leadership teams to take the positivity too far? Can too much positivity be a bad thing for your team?

Beware the blinkers

Being positive all the time might seem nice but it’s not all that realistic, or sustainable. There will always be issues and problems that pop up from time to time and ignoring them is not good for leaders and the teams that they lead. Putting a positive spin on the negative occurrences can be good for many people – problems can be seen as challenges to overcome, while mistakes can be seen as opportunities to grow – but ignoring anything negative that might happen in the average day or week can lead to a false sense of security and a blinkered view of what the future may hold.

Feedback is effective

Teams that have been founded on an ‘all-positive-all-the-time’ attitude can also forget how crucial feedback can be. Of course, positive feedback is important but there will be times when negative or constructive feedback will be needed – if a leader is focused solely on keeping the culture positive, they may avoid the sometimes uncomfortable act of giving feedback, robbing their team of an opportunity to learn, grow and do better.

Ignoring the need for feedback is a huge mistake for any leader. According to a Gallup Study, employees receiving negative feedback from their managers were 20 times more likely to be actively engaged than those who received no feedback at all. Giving constructive feedback is not an intrinsically negative act – it can lead to positive outcomes and it’s important for leaders to remember this.

More hindrance than help

Have you ever been told to cheer up when you weren’t feeling all that great? Did the words ‘Cheer up’ make you feel better or worse? A study from the American Psychological Association shows that “the more people hold beliefs that other people expect them not to experience negative emotions, the more frequently and intensely they are likely to experience those emotions”. What’s more is that when the culture communicates “the acceptability of these emotions, people’s experience of these emotions appear to be dampened”. It’s in a leader’s best interest to be encouraging their team to experience (and display) both negative and positive emotions.

To expect your team to be positive day in, day out is to drive them to feel scared of expressing negative emotions. This can lead to them suppressing their anger, sadness or frustration and they may even exert a lot of energy on plastering a fake smile on their face for the whole day. This in itself is draining and can lead to emotional exhaustion or burnout.

At the end of the day, none of us are positive all the time. There are ups and downs both in life and in the workplace and to ignore the variety of emotions that your team can feel is to ignore their need to respond appropriately to what they are experiencing. In the long run, suppressing negative emotions in favour of relentless positivity is doing your team more harm than good.

Are you ready to see how a well-rounded emotional culture can have positive outcomes for your team? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.