It can be a challenge to come up with the right words at the right time to demonstrate that you support team members and meet them where they are.
Leaders mean well when they try to be positive. But they often simply don’t have the vocabulary
to say the right thing at the right time, and resort to feel good aphorisms that prevent them from
truly comforting those who need it. Whitney Goodman, a licensed therapist and author of Toxic
Positivity, offers some suggestions to help understand the difference between toxic positivity and
offering validation and support.
|Toxic Positivity||Validation and Support|
|“You’ll get over it!”||“This is hard. We’ll get through it
|“Just be positive!”||“Do you want to talk about it?”|
|“Good vibes only!”||“It’s pretty normal to have some negative
thoughts in this situation.”
|“Stop being so negative!”||“It’s probably hard to be positive right
|“Think happy thoughts!”||“Do you want to talk about your
|“Never give up!”||“It sucks to feel like this. Do you want to
do something together today?”
|“Just be happy!”||“It’s probably really hard to see any good
in this situation.”
|“It could be worse!”||“I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense
|“Everything happens for a reason!”||“I’m here for you.”|
|“Be grateful it isn’t worse!”||“I’m not going anywhere.”|
|“This isn’t easy, and you don’t have to
pretend like it is.”
If you’re serious about retaining the people on your team (as you should be), consider conducting
“stay” interviews. These are discussions where you ask loyal employees key questions to
understand how engaged they are. The information you gather can help you tackle common
retention issues. Here are four questions to try:
|What is your frame of mind today?
No matter what the response is — positive or negative — don’t negate their
|Who do you feel connected to at work?
Based on their response, explore what you can do to help them deepen those
|What do you want to learn that will excite you and help you grow?
This question signals that you care about their development and want to help
|What barriers can I remove for you to help you do a better job?
Then brainstorm with your colleague how you can be most helpful. Ensuring
This resource is adapted from “What Stops People on Your Team from Leaving?,” by Sabina Nawaz