4 Signs Your Boss Leads With Toxic Positivity — And Avoids Real Problems

Leading with "good vibes only" ignores how complex the workplace can be.

woman standing at conference table RDNE Stock Project / Pexels 

The workplace environment depends on upper management’s approach and style. Bosses don’t only set professional expectations, they also set the tone for how co-workers interact, which influences office culture.

Amber Lord, a content creator who offers “Millennial Hot Takes” on work, pointed out that most people experience at least one toxic boss during the course of their career. We all know the boss who says the company is “like family” but won’t give you time off or the boss who takes all the credit for their team’s work. 


However, there’s one type of toxic boss that seems harmless enough and flies under the radar of being considered "bad" when, in reality, their attitude hides how problematic they really are — the boss that leads with toxic positivity.



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Here are 4 signs your boss leads with toxic positivity:  

1. They pretend everything’s fine when it’s not

Lord described the various ways that a boss who “goes around sprinkling toxic positivity everywhere” actually creates a negative experience for their team.

She explained that while their “good vibes only” mentality is meant to inspire a positive, cheerful environment, it actually does the opposite, especially when they purposefully gloss over problems.

As Lord said, “You will bring a very real problem to your boss and they will try to cover it up — not deal with it — and cover it up with toxic positivity.”

4 Signs Your Boss Leads With Toxic Positivity Photo: nortonrsx / Canva Pro


If a boss willfully ignores their employees’ problems, it’s almost guaranteed that those problems will grow bigger and bigger until they explode under pressure. 

Instead of dealing with things head-on, a boss who leads with toxic positivity will sugar-coat issues so that everything seems okay, even when it’s not.

2. They refuse to talk about anything negative

Another sign that your boss leads with toxic positivity is “minimizing or completely ignoring the things that are negative that you bring to them, like problems that need to be solved.”

When a boss wields toxic positivity as a defense mechanism, they avoid discussing challenges or addressing any growth points present in the workplace, which means that they don’t offer solutions to problems, if they even acknowledge that a problem exists




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If you bring up a topic of conversation that they consider negative, they’ll flip the situation to frame you as having a bad attitude or complaining too much. 

These kinds of bosses operate from a place where nothing could possibly be wrong, turning you into the problem instead of their head-in-the-sand leadership style.


3. They ignore your emotions

Another problematic aspect of a boss who weaponizes toxic positivity is the way they invalidate their employees’ emotions and opinions. 

They’ll disregard any warning signs that their team members are struggling. If an employee does express themselves, they can only show their boss the good parts because everything else is downplayed or minimized. 

If a worker mentions feeling anything other than fulfilled and happy, their boss basically gaslights them about their own emotions.

4 Signs Your Boss Leads With Toxic Positivity  Photo : Gustavo Fring / Pexels 


When a boss behaves this way, they reinforce a truly negative mindset, as “It makes people more closed off to actually sharing things when they need to share them.”

4. They don’t take your concerns into consideration 

These kinds of toxic bosses don’t accept or acknowledge when you have concerns, choosing instead to brush everything under the rug and move.

If you bring up a valid issue with your boss, and they label you as negative for doing so, they’re leading with toxic positivity. 


While a boss with strong leadership skills would be able to hear you and hold what you’re saying without feeling personally affronted, a boss who leads with toxic positivity interprets critique as their workers having bad attitudes. 

Lord explained, “This will make you lose trust in your boss and in leadership to actually effectively deal with things.”

Toxic positivity is an inauthentic way to show up in the world.

In work, as in the rest of life, things go wrong and people navigate hard feelings.

Using toxic positivity as a leadership tool just makes workers not want to approach their boss when they’re struggling, which makes their struggle feel bigger and more isolating than it needs to be.


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture and all things to do with the entertainment industry.