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Positivity vs. Toxicity

by Carol Rozwell  |  May 16, 2016  |  1 Comment

So here I am sitting in the Orlando airport (and who hasn’t been here) waiting for a flight. This time, the security lines were short and now I realize I could have caught the last talk of the conference instead of leaving to make sure I’d get to the airport on time . . . Well that’s over now.

After spending three days at a conference about brining positivity into the workplace, the airport is a pretty weird place to observe human behavior. Am I being more attentive to people’s nature than I’ve been before? And when did this start?

We all have our seminal moments when something changed us and we started to care about people we don’t know and will never see again. A sense that we are all into this – whatever this is – together. I’m sitting by a team of people who all knew to congregate in the same place as they were heading home after an event. Some had late flights, some made it on earlier ones. They were there happy to have the time to connect.

Yes, there is still the rushed business person (pseudonym alert) who must be better than all the rest of us because they have to push in line to get on the plane. Really. It can’t leave till we are all on board. But so often there are signs of kindnesses and civility that surprise me. The mother traveling alone trying to marshal children and bags to the tram when someone offers to carry her bag and the car seat onto the plane. The person for whom English is not their first language trying to read the impossible signs that’s helped by someone whose been there, done that in another country. The guy who leaves the change at the newsstand in case someone else needs a penny or two.

So why is it that into so many workplaces this civility and care for others is shelved when we get to work? Disclaimer. I work at home and my work place is exceedingly cordial. Yet I hear of the deleterious effects of the toxic workplaces were some people work. A realm of bullies unchecked. And, sadly, much of the bullying comes from the top leaders in an organization. To begin to probe this issue, I recently did a survey to uncover what colleagues thought were co-workers most irritating traits. I must have struck a nerve because the response rate was nearly 30%. We’ll share some of the results as the research continues, so for now let’s just say that there is a strong correlation between the traits of irritating co-workers and bullies.

In the next few months we’ll look into the issue of the toxic worker and see what can be done about them. A safe work on environment where people can contribute without fear of being denigrated is critical to business performance.

Category: change-management  collaboration  community  

Tags: change-management  collaboration  collaboration-dynamics  communities-of-practice  community  digital-workplace  diversity  organizational-change  social-networks  socially-centered-leadership  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Digital Workplace team. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Positivity vs. Toxicity


  1. Ed McAllister says:

    Interested in your findings! Toxicity is often, unfortunately, code, as is Positivity but interested enough to participate



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