Are workplaces becoming 'too nice'?

Can creating a relentlessly positive culture actually be toxic? Is the 'tyranny of niceness' undermining constructive conflict?

by Peter Crush

To those of a certain generation, being ‘cruel to be kind’ was perfectly justifiable. Social norms have changed thankfully, and workplaces have filtered out those managers for whom this phrase was a personal motto.

But has office life been replaced by the tyranny of niceness? Are people being relentlessly upbeat and overly optimistic, while shying away from the grittiness of errors, poor performance and failure to press for uncomfortable answers?

At social media management company, The Social Element, its boss Tamara Littleton thinks so. It was only after a doomed attempt to set up an Australian office, that she learned the rest of her team had never been behind it. But in a culture of positivity no-one felt empowered to share their misgivings. She says: “I created a cordial culture where everyone agreed to a bad decision. The ethos was too nice. We’d bred ‘toxic positivity'.”

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