Is Toxic Positivity Killing Your DEI Efforts?

Sacha Thompson (she/her)
1 min readDec 13, 2021


“Toxic positivity imposes positive thinking as the only solution to problems, demanding that a person avoid negative thinking or expressing negative emotions.” — Medical News Today.

This term has been playing in my mind all weekend. I had the opportunity to chat with a few DEI practitioners late last week and was taken aback a bit (not shocked, though) that one stated they had been told to “put a positive spin on everything and not share all details with leadership.”

Within DEI, this tactic (another form of gaslighting) can:

👉🏾 ignore actual harm being experienced by the marginalized
👉🏾 demean the emotions of those experiencing the harm
👉🏾 cause isolation and the most marginalized to not seek help
👉🏾 create a gap in what leadership is hearing and what the most marginalized are experiencing
👉🏾 cause self-doubt

All of this runs counter to creating an inclusive work environment, especially coming from the DEI team.

Facing the challenges of DEI work can create opportunities to think creatively, dismantle and rebuild systems centered in equity, and build trust within the organization.

But that’s only if your goal is to drive real change vs. upholding the status quo.



Sacha Thompson (she/her)

Inclusive Culture Curator| Psychological Safety at Work | Host of DEI After 5 |Featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Business Insider | Seen on MSNBC & Fox Soul