my team demands aggressive positivity … and I have a medical condition that leaves me exhausted

A reader writes:

I’m having a hard time matching my team’s energy at work. I’m not missing deadlines or turning in or sub-par work, more like a culture thing. I have a rare autoimmune disorder that leaves me drained and exhausted most days. I have a great medical team, so I have all the medical get good rest, lifestyle, and nutritional advice I need.

I worry my low energy is going to box me in professionally. My coworkers are very high energy and expect me to meet their level of enthusiasm and energy daily. It’s not the workload, it’s the attitude that is draining me. I physically can’t meet this level of enthusiasm and energy without violating our company’s drug policy.

My office culture has evolved over the last few years where everyone is WILDLY, almost manically energetic, and positive about everything. The littlest task or statement is met with unbridled enthusiasm and toxic positivity. It’s a holdover from someone in leadership who is no longer with the company. During a team meeting, I mentioned I couldn’t hand something in until my computer got a piece of hardware replaced. It’s an expensive piece and needed budget approval that my boss was fast-tracking. A team member said, “Don’t let that stop you! You can do anything, you beautiful bitch! It’s all about mindset!” It’s not a mindset issue, I’m literally waiting on a broken and expensive piece of technology to be replaced. I get a lot of “where’s your sparkle today?” or “gotta get excited, NAME” or “you can’t have a case of the Mondays today! We need to be rockstars for our clients!” I know they’re just trying to hype themselves up for the day, but I hate being spoken to like that and offer that it also feels ableist. I hope I don’t come across like the angry rolls lady, but this environment is impossible to function in.

An example of another interaction would be “NAME, do you have that out-of-this-world story board for me?” And I’ll respond in a totally normal tone, “Sure, Jim. I emailed it this morning. Let me know if you need anything or have any questions. It came out great.” Jim will pull back and do a “Woah, where’s the pep today? Why so negative?” 

I didn’t say “I hope you fall down the stairs, Jim” or “Eat dirt, Jim.” A friend of mine from another department witnessed some of these exchanges and stood up for me, saying I wasn’t being negative and Jim was being weird. Everyone laughed it off and that was it. Other departments have complained about the toxic positivity and toddler-on-espresso-like responses. My department has been told to dial it back but it doesn’t stick.

I get wonderful feedback from my clients and I’m one of the most sought-after consultants in our company. I have a waiting list, many of them are willing to wait for me despite my “rockstar” colleagues having an open calendar. Even so, I get comments from some coworkers and management that I’m not as enthusiastic and upbeat as my colleagues. My performance reviews are stellar, so my low energy hasn’t come up but I’m worried it will.

I don’t discuss my disorder with my colleagues and coworkers. In the past, it became an armchair diagnostic free-for-all with almost everyone yelling over me with advice that has no medical bearing on my condition. I know how it sounds, but I actually really love my job, have great relationships with most of my coworkers, my clients are wonderful, and I feel like I’m really making a difference. I think I should address this but I don’t know how to go about doing it. My boss is aware I have a medical condition but I opt not to share specifics. I don’t know where to start. How do I address this and is this an HR conversation or a manager conversation?

OMG, this environment. You do not sound like the angry rolls person; you sound understandably frustrated with an environment that would be a bad fit for a ton of people without a medical condition in play. Most people, I’d bet — and in fact I wonder if there’s an “Emperor’s New Clothes” thing going on here where other people are aggravated by it too but don’t feel they can speak up about it.

It’s very hard for one person to change an entire team culture, but ideally what would happen is that your manager would clearly tell your team members that they need to stop demanding pep, pointing out that it can demoralize other people, which seems to be the opposite of what they’re going for, and shut down any comments from your peers or higher-ups about you not being as upbeat as others. It sounds like a lot of people there are overdue for a talk about how different people are different and aggressively performed enthusiasm is not a necessary element of obtaining outstanding results, as your superlative work demonstrates.

So. What do you know of your boss? Is she someone who you think could pull that off with a reasonable amount of skill? If so, it’s worth talking to her and laying out what’s going on, and asking for that specifically unless she can think of better solutions.

If you can’t imagine that going well, then choose HR instead. With HR, your goal would be, at a minimum, to get something official ensuring that you’re not assessed based on upbeat energy when it clearly has no bearing on the results you get in your work … and to explore with them whether they see other solutions as well. For example, they’re probably not going to attempt to change an entire team culture from outside of it, but they could coach your manager about how and why to tone it down and could raise awareness throughout your company about the ways that this kind of belligerent positivity is non-inclusive. It’s possible that framing it in terms of inclusivity might get through where previous attempts haven’t stuck.

In fact, you might approach both HR and your manager — and if so, I’d probably start with HR to get some of the groundwork laid and get their advice on talking to your manager first.

With both HR and your manager, you’re in an excellent position because of your high performance. There may also be people in your company whose work is more average but who have similar objections to the culture, possibly for similar reasons, and who might not be as well-positioned to address it — something for anyone working in a culture like this to think about.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 722 comments… read them below }

  1. ecnaseener*

    If my coworker called me a beautiful bitch I don’t know what I would do, holy crap.

    I do know I would be job-hunting in your shoes.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Upon reflection, one thing I would try (while job-hunting) is just cheerfully acknowledge it. (Normal amount of cheerful, not wild pep.) “You know me, Jim, I’m the mellow one!”

      1. Anonym*

        Mellow could be an effective tack to take if “negativity” comes up. Mostly it shouldn’t be necessary, and I hope OP is able to use Alison’s advice, but as a low key redirect with the colleagues this could help change the narrative.

        1. On Fire*

          I used to have this team. And the more aggressively cheerful they were, and the more they demanded performative cheer from me, the more laid-back and quiet I became. IIRC, I even warned them. Something to the effect of, the more you demand that I be over the top, the more I’m going to retreat. They finally gave up on me, because my work was above reproach. As long as OP, too, has irreproachable work — which it sounds like — I would suggest ignoring them as much as possible, and maintaining the calm, unflappable demeanor that’s bugging them. (insert smiling devil emoji)

      2. Beth*

        Ooo, good language for reframing the lower-level energy! I wish I’d had that at a certain point in my past. Making note for future need!

        1. Gan Ainm*

          I’ve used “even keeled” in this kind of situation as well, to indicate I’m calm and not overly reactionary.

          1. Green Beans*

            As a fairly high energy person, I need mellow/laid back people to balance me out, especially at work.

            Like yes it’s great that I am full of initiative and enthusiasm but ALSO you really only need one of me per every 10-15 people on a team. Balance is important.

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              YES. This. My team is full of highly technical, incredible detailed, “put your head down and do the work until everything matches” types. I am….not that. But I bring the people skills and the client-winning-over charm and the “Ooooh, you have a gap and need a presenter to talk about our very niche industry for 20 minutes? Sure, I’m free that day!” It’s a great mix, but too many people on my side of that equation and you have a sales team, not a technical team.

              (And the usual caveat that as excitable as I am – I often joke that I’m the human version of a golden retriever puppy – this office would be Way Too Much. If your excitement isn’t genuine, I don’t want it and I’m not going to perform it when mine isn’t. Otherwise how can you ever trust it?)

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Mellow laid-back people also have initiative. They just demonstrate it in a mellow laid-back way.

      3. KayDeeAye*

        Ooh, “mellow” – I like it.

        In contrast to most of the people in this department. I am a pretty cheerful person, but just reading about it makes me want to go around with a sharp stick and poke people in the eye with it.

        The poor OP is blaming their medical condition on their lack of “pep” (ugh!), but it sounds to me as though the OP is the normal one and all these relentlessly, aggressively peppy people are the outliers.

        1. Elenna*

          This! Maybe OP would be better able to fake it if they didn’t have their medical condition, or maybe not, but regardless this amount of energy is absolutely not normal even for 100% healthy people.

          1. Zelda*

            I am usually Team “Normal Ain’t Nothin but a Setting on the Dryer,” but reading the examples, I found myself gritting my teeth and muttering, “Why can’t these people just be *normal*?” Sheesh.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Hey, it’s also a statistical distribution! …and it sounds like this team’s distribution of energy/pep/whatever levels are left-skewed, not normally distributed.

              1. Lizzo*

                Makes you wonder what the hiring process was that brought all these SUPER HIGH ENERGY PEOPLE to the same team…

                1. PeanutButter*

                  @Zelda – I feel like it might be an “Eleventh Voyage” from Lem’s Star Diaries kind of situation!

                2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  “Thank you for coming in. Could we offer you a triple espresso before we get started?”

        2. Fugnuggets*

          This is a good excuse to keep one of those small “pvc pipe and balloon membrane” glitter cannons on your desk. Then whenever you get asked where the sparkle is, you can just deadpan pick up the cannon, pull back the membrane, and shower them with all the sparkle they could ever desire.

          1. anne of mean gables*

            This, but carry it with you and do it in their office. Last thing OP needs is glitter embedded in her office-grade short-pile grey carpet for the next decade.

          2. NervousNellie*

            For a less aggressive approach, OP could keep a fancy little jar of glitter on her desk, labeled “Sparkle” and smile and shake it when she gets comments like that.

            1. BarnacleSally*

              Or have a very clearly marked “shopping list” on her desk and add “sparkles” to it when they ask!

              1. Cringing 24/7*

                Due to supply chain issues, Sparkle is currently on backorder. Please be patient as we continue to adjust to the current climate. In the meantime, please feel free to browse through our substitutes: Glimmer, Flicker, and Twinkle, which are currently trending.

            2. Selina Luna*

              Somewhat hilariously, I actually have a “calming jar” for my two-year-old that consists of oil, water, food coloring, and a TON of glittery substance. When he’s super frustrated, I have him shake up the jar and watch it. Once it’s all settled out again, he’s usually calm enough to help me understand what’s going on.

                1. Anonny*

                  You can make them at home, you just need an old clear glass jar or bottle (and a very sealable lid!), some glue, water, glitter and food colouring.

              1. Yet Another Office Manager*

                Glitter jars are the best! And exactly suited if the OP wants to take a humorous approach.

            3. laowai_gaijin*

              Carry it to meetings, and whenever anyone acts like she should be more enthusiastic, pull it out, pinch out a bit of glitter, and throw it while saying a very bland “Whee.”

          3. LikesToSwear*

            I love this. I was giggling for a good 5 minutes… good thing no one else is in the office today!

        3. anonymouse for this*

          Yes – I don’t know how you’re staying sane OP – I’d be at BEC level in that type of “we’re all freakin awesome rockstars” atmosphere. You can’t be the only employee that feels that way so hopefully if enough of you complain to HR something will be done.

        4. quill*

          Mellow sounds like a good reframing for this! But TBH, I think most people no matter how well they are would be worn down by the insistence on spending all your energy performing positivity.

          1. Salymander*

            I feel tired just reading about these people. Good grief.

            I mean, if folks are this over the top energetic by nature then great for them, but we can’t all be like that or the world would probably explode into a giant, whirling vortex of glitter. We mellow folks are essential because we must maintain balance in the universe.

            I have nothing useful to say, I just feel bad for the OP and hope they are able to find someone in authority at work who can get people to relax with the toxic forced happiness. Being aggressively happy at people in order to shame or control them seems really weird to me. And a bit creepy, really.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’m also a naturally cheerful and energetic person, and I’m so annoyed with OP’s employees! This is not a middle school volleyball game, and we do not need a pep squad to shout encouragements.

          The coworker’s reaction in the broken computer incident was being especially weird. “Don’t let that stop you” is a really off the wall reaction to being told your coworker’s work will be delayed while their computer is being repaired. On top of everything else going on, it seems like people aren’t even listening to anything that’s not said in a Peloton Instructor Motivation Voice, and that’s an extremely big problem.

          1. Salymander*

            Yeah that was one of the weirdest parts of this. What was OP supposed to do? Magic up a new part for the computer out of thin air? It will manifest into being in a puff of glitter and happy thoughts? The computer was broken, it wasn’t lost in the swamps of sadness.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Right? You can’t just positive-think your way into a new part. OP’s coworkers would be getting some, “Wow, Jeff. Maybe you shouldn’t have had that third espresso this morning” or a calm but sarcastic “I’m already fast-tracking this expensive required piece of hardware that is required before I can proceed. I find it strange that you think I should be doing anything else.” Or a flat “I have a backlog of happy clients so I think I’m good, thanks.” I would be slowly going insane.

              I have to wonder if OP is not just good at their job but also appreciated by clients who don’t want the over the topness of the other people. If that artificial sweetener spills into client relationships, that might be an angle OP can use. It’s great that OP is sought-after but might be interesting to find out if there’s a personality aspect to it.

              I do, however, love the idea of carrying glitter and sprinkling it with a lackluster “whee” at meetings. This amused me far more than it probably should have.

      4. For the Moment*

        Absolutely this.

        I’m a relatively relentlessly positive person. Keen eyed optimism is one of my hallmarks. But calmly, more in the sense that “all of these problems have solutions and we will work through them as a team.” Not in some hyperactive ideal of completely ignoring actual constraints.

        Mellow and competent is a good brand.

    2. LMB*

      If someone asked me where my sparkle was, there’s a good chance violence would ensue. It’s not a beauty pageant, it’s work.

      1. QuinleyThorne*

        “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”
        -Jim, probably

        Though, OP, on a day you can muster it, you could just frame your low-energy as an act of rigorous self discipline on your part. Then if they press you to “let loose,” just recite Galadriel’s “You Would Have a Queen” speech at full volume. Get real into it, perform that thing, leave not an inch of scenery un-chewed.

        Of course, this may also backfire spectacularly if their response is anything but unbridled terror, so I’d save this as a las resort.

        1. Marco Diaz's Red Hoodie*

          This is truly inspired advice XD I would love to see this happen… maybe not in my actual worklife, but as a scene in an office comedy!

      2. Batgirl*

        “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

        1. DryEraseAficionado*

          I just realized that while I was reading your comment the ad directly below it was TGI Fridays. LOL!

      3. Anon Supervisor*

        “Where’s your sparkle?”
        –It’s in my other pants
        –I sent it out for maintenance
        –My default setting is a subtle glow, the sparkle upgrade isn’t available yet.

        1. QuinleyThorne*

          -Sparkle upgrade is post-game content
          -Sparkle upgrade is unlocked only after completing all the achievements to obtain the Platinum Trophy
          -Sparkle upgrade was released as timed DLC for a limited event X years ago and is no longer available. As the upgrade was purely cosmetic and added no additional stat-boosts, I opted to pass on it

          1. Kal*

            I love that the last one has the subtext that their aggressive positivity is not actually improving their work performance (which is absolutely true! if anything, its degrading it)

      1. Selina Luna*

        Leslie Knope would SUCK to have as a boss. I loved Parks and Rec and I tend to agree more with Leslie’s politics than Ron’s, but I vastly prefer Ron as a boss.

    3. justpeachy86*

      This totally stood out to me. I would have laughed out loud, in their face, and said “Yeah, so you’ll have that once IT is done….”

      But literally would burn it down…. This sucks OP. As much as possible I would just respond evenly “Ok”, “I’ll take that into consideration”, “Thanks”

    4. Sariel*

      That also caught my attention. “You can do anything, you beautiful bitch!” Uh, where I’ve worked, saying that to someone would be cause for a conversation about appropriate language. If someone said that to me, I don’t know if I’d burst out laughing or just stay silent and raise an eyebrow.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Having been called a bitch (in a “teasing” way) at work, I can say that my answer is stunned silence. I wish I could have snapped back with a witty comment but in actuality, it’s so out of place that I just laughed awkwardly.

      1. Green Beans*

        I use this term in very specific contexts with my friends – usually if I’m venting about a person and then it’s a “b*_+# please” kind of thing (and it’s to refer to people across the gender spectrum.)

        I have ASKED friends if we’re the type of friends who can say, “b#&@+$ pick me up some cheese!!!!” in a very joking way.

        I can’t imagine using it at work in any context or using it in spaces where I didn’t know how the other women felt about it (I don’t use it around men.)

        1. The Magpie*

          I have friends who use “b***”, “s***”, and “c***” in joking ways – I’m okay with the former if we are good friends but never the latter two. No big deal, people know and just don’t use the latter two toward me.

          I’d be stunned if someone said it to me at work, even a work friend. Not appropriate at all. One of my friends who uses them jokingly is actually my colleague, and she keeps those words strictly to off the clock talk. She’d never call me a “b****” at work, even teasingly.

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I know my response (dealt with something similar in the past unfortunately): stare dumbfounded at the person who called me that and then ask who in the world the person who called me that was talking to.

      1. Spaceball One*

        One day when a (female) officemate snapped at me, “Are you on your period?” I asked her, “Do you want to repeat that in front of (manager)?” She clammed up real quick.

        1. sofar*

          My favorite manager I’ve ever worked for once said: “If you’re unsure whether something is appropriate to say to your coworker, come into my office and say it to me first. If you don’t want to do that, don’t say it to your coworker.”

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      I think I would like “beautiful bitch”. However, the rest of it makes me want to run screaming for the hills.

    8. AD*

      That line left me with my jaw on the floor. That’s not “toxic positivity” it’s just straight up immature.

    9. marvin*

      I suspect part of the reason the LW is so in demand with clients is that they don’t want to deal with this onslaught either. I don’t know what kind of service they provide but I don’t really want my financial advisor to call me a beautiful bitch.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was thinking this too. Clients probably prefer LW’s mellow, down-to-earth style not least of which because she’s not wasting time and energy on all the unnecessary (and toxic!) positivity that the coworkers exhibit. Not to mention clients probably also find it annoying.

        1. Sharpie*

          Also it’s entirely possible that the colleagues are living in denial that some things just aren’t actually possible on the timetable they’ve been given (as in the point made where LW can’t do something without a very necessary and expensive repair). Toxic positivity frequently doesn’t encourage actual honesty in conversation, after all.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yeah. I’m thinking they are so damn positive that no one wants to actually work with them. Because they only talk positive stuff that does not actually match the real world and solve the real world problem. Meanwhile, Op calmly does what needs to be done without all the freaking hype.

        OP, they’ve been told to dial it back. That right there tells you this is NOT normal. You are the one doing it right here, not them. You will NOT be boxed in career by not being a toddler on expresso (I LOVE THAT comparison). They will be. No one wants to hire a manic pixie in the real world.

      3. Introverted Type-A Employee*

        This was my thought as well. I know I would wait any amount of time to use OP’s services and avoid those colleagues. Heck, there’s a coffee chain in town that has tasty drinks and are accessible right next to my office. However, I refuse to go there because they train and expect their employees to exude this MANIC level of hyper positivity and interaction with you at the window and I just… CAN’T. Especially if I’m in “NEED COFFEE” mode!

        1. Le Sigh*

          Coffee is one of my favorite things in the world but I don’t know that I could handle that. I have avoided Coldstone Creamery for years because when people put money in the tip jar they are required to sing. I find it both depressing and unnerving. I just wanted some overpriced ice cream,

            1. Le Sigh*

              My friends took me to a Coldstone in the mid-2000s, when it was a little newer in my area. When they started singing, I jumped like a cat seeing a cucumber on tik tok. I don’t know if they still make them sing because I have never gone back.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Make them sing? That’s incredibly toxic!
            … so everyone who’s too shy/self-conscious/introverted to sing won’t tip…

      4. HB*

        Agreed. This reminds me of when I was younger and working in student services at a university. Everyone was all about the hype, I remember them taking training tips from Disney’s training for costumed characters for our own office. I was worried I was in the total wrong field and honestly I didn’t fit in well with that team, being a somewhat sarcastic introvert. But what I found over time was that the students still loved me – not every student is going to want an extrovert on caffeine in their face, many students are also introverts, or nervous, or need someone to sit and listen to them, and that my style was perfectly appropriate.

        I’m wondering if OP can rely heavily on client feedback and demand to show what’s actually, truly effective in working with clients. If there’s some sort of feedback form or way they receive data on success in projects, some actual data-driven research could help in pushing back on this overarching attitude.

      5. EmmaPoet*

        Same. I want my financial advisor/technical consultant/lawyer/tax preparer to be moderately friendly, but this is a level of informality I would not be OK with at all.

      6. Observer*

        I don’t really want my financial advisor to call me a beautiful bitch.

        Gee. I can’t imagine why not! /sarc

        I also don’t want a financial adviser who thinks you should just do whatever even if you don’t have the tools because it’s all in the “mindset”. If I want to gamble, I can do that without a financial adviser.

    10. Sara without an H*

      My response would probably involve flipping the nearest piece of furniture.

      I don’t actually recommend that, but it would be tempting.

    11. Laney Boggs*

      I superrrr agree with this. I’m a swearer, and I call female (& gay male*) friends bitch quite cheerfully and they say it back.

      From a coworker, though? That would immediately get a very frosty “I don’t appreciate being called that at work.”

      *yes, I specified gay male friends. I have a real problem when straight men call me bitch, and it doesn’t extend to dudes who have never, will never, and in fact have no interest in getting into my pants

    12. Meep*

      I think it depends on how friendly we are outside of work. I would not call OP a beautiful bitch, because we clearly do not have that report.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Even so, it would be over Slack/Teams/email, NOT out loud in a meeting with others! (I did have a coworker with whom this would NOT be an issue, but it would be over private channels, not out loud!)

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, and even then, it’s risky to assume that any company-owned communications channels are truly private.

    13. Nina*

      I’m in a male-dominated workplace and I do a fine line in deadpan ‘please don’t use gendered slurs’.

    14. Satisfied*

      That word fills me with fire. I would curtly inform them I hate that word, even joking around, and if I hear it again my next stop is HR. Not comment grandstanding – I have done this.

      I also went off in a very unhinged way on a cook who said that to me claiming “that’s just how I refer to women.” Being the restaurant business I was seen as the unreasonable one.

    15. Database Developer Dude*

      If my co-worker called me a beautiful bitch, I’d probably be on a PIP for telling them to eff off.

    16. Anonymous4*

      If my coworker called me a “beautiful bitch,” I know what my first remark would be, and it’s pronounced: “I BEG your pardon??”

  2. RKMK*

    I do not have a medical issue and I might simply be driven to homicide with a department that operated like this.

      1. Hazel*

        I struggle with low energy at times, and I would be so angry at this sort of pressure to be like a game show host at all times, ESPECIALLY since it is not required for the job. In fact, game show host is one of the few jobs where this sort of nonsense probably IS part of the job.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – the environment there would have me running for the exits as fast as possible. Positive is one thing – but this is past positive to toxicity.

        1. allathian*

          Definitely. If the positivity is so relentless that it doesn’t leave any room for talking about issues that need improvement, it’s just as bad as working with a bunch of relentless pessimists who never see anything good in anything or anyone.

      3. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        This sounds unbearable. If I worked there, I would hope they either like or couldn’t detect sarcasm.

      4. Anne Elliot*

        I think this bears emphasizing. The LW’s medical condition is actually irrelevant. She may be a competitive cheerleader in her spare time with a side gig crowd hyping at boxing matches. That doesn’t mean that she needs to sign on to ride the WOOHOO!! train at work, where it is neither necessary nor (arguably) appropriate, and it makes her uncomfortable.

        For marginally relevant fun, check out the Spartan Cheerleaders at the chess tournament (SNL skit).

        1. Le Sigh*

          I’d say LW’s medical condition is irrelevant in that sense (because I would quit in less than a week over this crap), but I do think LW having a medical condition highlights how quickly this stuff teeters into ableism in the workplace. Folks like this often think people can will themselves better with the right mindset or are oblivious to how their decisions exclude coworkers with a variety of conditions. The company should tamp down on this regardless, but that should provide extra motivation to deal with it.

        2. Anonymous4*

          I think that LW’s stellar job performance and long list of happy clients demonstrates that NO ONE ELSE likes that toddler-mainlining-espresso effect either. It looks like the clients have the choice of someone who’s (1) pleasant, knowledgeable, a good listener, and gets them what they need/want, or someone who’s (2) bouncing off the walls and too busy spewing “positivity” like Vesuvius to pay attention to the clients’ actual concerns.

          I’m really surprised the manager hasn’t picked up on this, and shut the Yeehaw Chorus down.

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        Seriously. I’m an introvert. Yes, I can be positive, loud and boisterous – for maybe an hour a day. In the workplace I tend to be a cynical realist, but try to temper it to be a mellow, consistent, realist.

        The “positivity” thing in pop psychology that has been in your face for the last couple decades drives me nuts. It’s so fake it makes my skin crawl. Even if these people “believe” it, deep inside they know it’s BS. “Positivity coaches” come into companies, sprinkle fairy dust and unicorn farts around and pretend they’ve “improved” morale. It’s total nonsense.

        IMO, your results speak for themselves. If some twit comes at you with “Where’s your sparkle?”, you can clap back with something like “I save it for my clients, which is why I’ve done Z compared to your X.”

        As a customer, I get turned off by the fake positivity. I want someone on an even keel, competent, and professional. Acting like a high school cheerleader on crack is none of those things. If a thing is bad, tell me. If a thing is good, tell me why, don’t do the marketing BS spin with lots of “positive power words” or some such. IMO your colleagues are shooting themselves in the foot with all of the toxic positivity.

        Not being “positive” and “upbeat” is not the same as “gloomy” and “negative”. There’s a happy middle of calm competence that most clients like. Cheerleaders on crack are not viewed as competent, IME.

        Stick to your guns. Perhaps ask your manager/HR to help tone down the toxic positivity. Clients will probably appreciate it.

        1. Bridget*

          All of this! I’m in hospitality sales, which is typically a position held by much more extroverted people. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert but I enjoy and am good at my job. What this means sometimes though is that I’m not always entirely psyched about having to meet with clients all day long, but anytime I’ve complained about having to stay late or “ugh I just can’t with people today” (in the same way anyone would in any job) I’ve gotten responses like “well you’re in the wrong job then.” …No, I’m not, and my sales record reflects that, so shush and let me complain for a minute about how I’d rather be at home watching Netflix than sitting in a two hour meeting with a bride.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          I’m an extrovert, Curmudgeon, and this environment would drain me too. Fake positivity drives me batty.

    1. kittymommy*

      Seriously. I’m a pretty positive person but this would annoying the eff out of me. It would also have the entirely opposite reaction of positivity.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree, I think OP is attributing this to their medical issue, but I actually think it’s perfectly reasonable to push back against it without ever mentioning that at all. They’re not really related in my mind. I have no medical issues but I would be demoralized and unable to achieve this level of peppiness on the regular.

        1. Elenna*

          Exactly! OP, clearly the other people outside your department also have an issue with this (and presumably not all of them have undisclosed medical conditions). You don’t have to mention your health at all to push back on this.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, it’s concerning that other departments have told them to cut it out and stop being weird, but they’ve decided to continue anyway.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This. OP, please, please don’t assume that your lack of “positivity” is a character flaw or a result of your prior medical condition — the fact that other departments have complained confirms this.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The thing I suspect that OP is normal – and everybody has the volume cranked well past max.

          Can you nudge your contacts in the other departments who are bothered by the over the top nonsense to take their comments/complaints to the department manager or HR as well as you going to them? Strength in Numbers – you all are very normal.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I am pretty high energy but it would be sucked dry very fast by having to engage in performative enthusiasm. In talking to people about this, I’d use the word “noninclusive.” It’s potentially alienating to all kinds of people, ranging from mere introverts to protected classes of folks. Just because her co-workers have gotten high off the fumes of their own privilege doesn’t mean everyone has, or should, or can.

    4. Velocipastor*

      Completely agree. And it is clearly disruptive/annoying enough that it has already been addressed by the company! If LW doesn’t want to discuss their medical issue, they can site the barrier this behavior creates with other departments and with clients who might not actually enjoy this level of “positivity.”

    5. Polecat*

      My first thought was that if I wound up in this type of work environment my next stop would be jail. I am incredibly low-key and I find all positivity to be toxic. If I were to have to function in this type of environment, I know that I would simply shut down and stop expressing any kind of emotion, just to fuck with them. And have done so in situation is not quite as extreme missed this. It’s just a job. Everybody needs to calm the fuck down and get over themselves.

    6. idwtpaun*

      Absolutely same. Everything in me recoiled when reading OP’s descriptions of the workplace.

      “A friend of mine from another department witnessed some of these exchanges and stood up for me, saying I wasn’t being negative and Jim was being weird.”

      OP, if you feel up to it, I think you should take your friend’s approach and keep with it. Every time when confronted with a burst of toxic positivity, use some sort of “What’s a strange thing to say” reply.

      “It’s a matter of minset!” – “What a strange comment to make, I’m waiting on a computer part.”
      “Where’s your pep, rockstar?!” – “That’s a somewhat unprofessional attitude in an office, don’t you think?”
      “Why are you so negative?!”- “I only pointed out that we’re running low on printer paper and will need to restock soon, are you sure you heard me correctly?”

      1. Sara without an H*

        Good suggestion. I’ve managed to get out of many disagreeable situations by smiling warmly and gently refusing to cooperate.

    7. Homebody*

      Definitely, though I get where the OP is coming from.

      Autoimmune diseases have this drain to them, where it feels like you’re catching up to everyone when you’re having a flare or a bad day. It’s hard to describe. For me, it’s this “tired behind the eyes” feeling where I’m exhausted but feeling good in a mellow way. I’ll have more than enough energy to get my work done and be kind and polite, but not enough to keep up with my coworkers at the physical/emotional/social level. I remember once I was having a flare, and was ahead with work, but I chose to go out to lunch with my coworkers and was just completely drained by the time I got back. It was the most exhausting thing I did that day even though it was a fun and relaxing activity.

      I can see OP struggling with two sides of this. They obviously know the coworkers are being over-the-top ridiculous. But it also seems like they are struggling to show that they just physically cannot be at their level due to the autoimmune drain, and there’s no way to communicate this to people who don’t have the patience or perspective to see it from OPs side. It really sucks, I hope they’re able to find a solution with HR/management about this, because you can really accumulate a lot of subconscious guilt about your health when met with this kind of thinking for a long time.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Agreed. And given this is a work environment where ‘I need a specific computer part to complete this work so we’re waiting on that’ is being met with ‘don’t let that stop you, you can do anything,’ I would ABSOLUTELY NOT disclose an autoimmune condition. Chronic illnesses tend to get a lot of ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’ and ‘have you tried X’ frustration to begin with, especially because they’re less visible and thus seem to be read as even less ‘real’ than using a wheelchair or being blind. (Which is not to say that wheelchair users, the blind, or the deaf don’t get the same tripe – they absolutely do – but if you don’t fit an able-bodied person’s conception of what disability ‘looks like’ or is it seems to spur particularly intense denial from said able-bodied people, whether that’s ‘you got up to reach something on a shelf, you must not REALLY need that wheelchair’ or ‘well but if you can hear some things are you REALLY Deaf?’ or ‘you’re too young to use a cane’ or ‘well I’ve never heard of this so clearly it can’t be that big a deal.’)

        I’m certain this would be actively exhausting for anyone to be around, but since OP’s also worried about being assessed differently for something they physically can’t perform, it also ties into ableism. If only in that if they DO end up assessed differently, it would be discrimination against a protected category but their coworkers don’t know that and it is not a good idea to let them find out.

    8. I could never get the hang of Thursdays*

      My work place is a pretty positive place, so that lots of people try to end conversations on a good note, or try to find the silver lining in a situation, and my team is “on” with clients, but upbeat all the time isn’t realistic or appropriate. And this kind of manic toxic positivity sounds utterly exhausting!

    9. MistOrMister*

      No medical condition here and I am exhausted just from hearing about this workplace. I wonder if Alison isn’t right that a lot of those people are acting that way just because everyone else is and it feels expected.

      I have had interactions like OPs where you can’t move forward for a valid reason and someone does ridiculous cheerleading and it is just annoying!!

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. I am a fairly dark and cynical person on the inside but try to be upbeat and friendly at work. These folks are so over the top, it almost sounds like some sort of performance art rather than real. People with outsized enthusiasm who insist that everyone else meet them on 11 absolutely exhaust me without any medical issues to exacerbate the problem.

      The cynical side of me always feels, too, like the performative types are doing it to cover a lack of substance. I’m not talking about run of the mill bubbly/cheerful people, but those like OP#1’s coworkers.

  3. Jean*

    This sounds like a straight up cult. Just reading about working in this environment makes me want to run upstairs and cram myself under the bed. OP, I can assure you that simply tolerating this lunacy means you have nerves of steel.

    1. LMB*

      Omg me too. Especially with health issues that lower one’s energy. I’ve gone through some medical treatments and other stuff that left me totally physically and mentally drained, and my tolerance for any kind of BS at work immediately went to zero. In a way it made me a more efficient worker by not even attempting to play into these games, which I’ve never been great at in the first place.

      1. anonymous73*

        My tolerance for this crap on a normal day is zero. Add any outside stressors to the mix and it would not be pretty.

    2. Anonym*

      Yeah, it was kind of a relief to read that it’s limited to this one department (and that other departments have complained)! If it was the whole company, it wouldn’t be salvageable for OP.

      I’m enthusiastic and optimistic, but these people sound delusional and utterly, utterly exhausting.

    3. AuntAmy*

      Cult and culture do have the same Latin root…. ;)
      I cringed so hard reading about this environment that I injured myself. Best of luck, OP, and I would love an update!

    4. twig*

      Reminds me of when I worked at a company run by $cientologists and they told me I was “too low on the tone scale” (aka – not peppy enough…)

    5. Windchime*

      It actually reminds me of a particular healthcare company that specializes in dialysis. A company I used to work for was bought by them, and they are relentlessly, agressively cheerful. The CEO sometimes dresses as a Musketeer and comes into meetings on a white horse (no lie). They have to do cheers and go to conferences/cult meetings at the company headquarters. I moved on from our company about the time we were being bought out and I was so glad to miss out on all that crazy stuff.

      1. Ariaflame*

        My mind is boggling slightly at the idea of what Alton’s *evil* twin would be. Would he only use unitaskers?

    1. bunniferous*

      We own a button machine at my house. If I were OP I would put that on a button and wear it daily.

      1. Pants*

        Ha! My first thought was “I’m more a Daria than I am a Quinn.” (I want to be Jane, but I don’t think I’m that cool.)

        Sparkle thieves? Meet the coworkers that suck out your soul, next on Sick Sad World!

          1. Pants*

            It’s been playing on Pluto recently and so I’m rewatching. It still holds up! I have a couple of new additions to my team who were born the year before I graduated college. (*cough*) One is obsessed with the 80s and 90s, which makes me feel a bit old but also really equipped to give her great recommendations. You bet your padded-wall-bedroom that I told her about Daria right off the bat!

            Your tween loves it, right? ….RIGHT? ;-)

        1. Emily Prentiss*

          I immediately thought of the line “I don’t have low self esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else” when reading this.

    2. laowai_gaijin*

      Said in as flat a tone as you can manage. Preferably while visualizing knocking out all of Jim’s teeth.

    3. Coffee Bean*

      If asked where my “Sparkle” is, I would be tempted to say “It’s in a kitchen cabinet at home with all my other cleaning supplies. Why do you n to know where my paper towels are, Jim?”

  4. Former Retail Lifer*

    Oh, no. I wouldn’t last a week there. I’m all for a positive workplace, but I can’t deal with THAT level of “positivity.” It’s a little cult-like and I’d be running for the hills.

    1. Liz*

      And I’d be running RIGHT behind you. My company used to have these annual meetings, and would bring in speakers. Usually what I liked to call “touchy feely” kind of stuff, which I hate. I still remember the catchphrase of one “tell me something good” or something along those lines. really? Why can’t i just be content doing my job well and leave it at that?

      1. Popinki*

        “Great news, boss! A pipe just burst LIKE A GLITTER BALLOON in the records vault so 20 FANTASTIC YEARS worth of important papers GOT THE ICKY DUST OF MELANCHOLY WASHED AWAY and oh yeah they’re completely ruined! GO TEAM!”

          1. Popinki*

            I just made it up, riffing off the “tell me something good” in Liz’s post. it’s my take on an employee who has to give bad news to the boss in a really upbeat, happy, sparkly way because the boss only wants good news.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        If someone said, “Tell me something good,” I would start quoting Chaka Khan and Rufus. Likely be asked down to HR very shortly after that.

  5. Mockingdragon*

    What kills me is you’re already doing much of what Alison would have advised! Are you comfortable saying to a Jim in a conversation like that “I’m fine, Jim, can we leave it there?” Or something like that?

    It also strikes me that everyone else knows this department by this weird reputation. This is not a you problem!

    Please update!

    1. Cold Fish*

      Am I the only one daydreaming about OP bursting into fake tears, exclaiming “why are you being so mean?” and running to the bathroom and refusing to explain her outburst each time a coworker makes a similar comment? Not a professional way to handle the situation but it could be highly entertaining :)

      1. 2 Cents*

        Immature me also wants to respond, “Sorry, forgot to snort the cocaine everyone else took this AM!”

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Love this–and a straight version of it might be, “I dunno, Jim, I just answered your question. What’s with the criticism?” Because, seriously, these Oh! So! Positive! coworkers are criticizing people constantly! That is not terribly positive, huh? Maybe they’ll knock it off if you call it out as–gasp–negativity?

      1. Salymander*

        Jim, criticizing me is so negative! We need positivity, Jim! Positivity!

        Maybe OP can to bring a set of tiny pompoms to work? Maybe wave them a bit while chanting at coworkers looking for more peppiness?
        Be! Positive! B!E! P!O!S!I!T!I!V!E!

        These folks make me tired, and I have only read about them. Working in this department must be torment. Like one of the circles of hell. Seriously, WTF?

  6. Coco*

    I just love the expression ‘toddler on espresso’. Thank you for that.

    I wish I had advice to give but all I can say is I really like your writing style.

    1. Hapax Legomenon*

      I agree, I love LW’s voice and hope we get an update (even more than usual) because I want to read more of it.

      1. Lady Ann*

        I want a tshirt that says “Eat dirt, Jim.” Except there’s a Jim at my office so it might not go over well.

        1. 2 Cents*

          OT but I bought the “Ew, David!” shirt referencing Schitt’s Creek and my husband is David hehehe

      2. PositivityPigeon*

        Yep, that line got me too. I’ve been having a really stressful few weeks at my work (I really should send a letter in one of these days…) and that line was the first solid laugh I’ve had since the debacle began!!!

        Sorry OP for the toxic positivity, but thank you for this post! Just what I needed today!

      3. Salymander*

        Yes. I think humor wins over forced perkiness any day. No wonder clients prefer OP’s work. The coworkers sound ghoulishly perky and I bet clients find them exhausting and obnoxious. Plus all that toxic positivity tends to come across as super fake, mean, and exclusionary. My friend was sucked in by a toxic positivity group, and I can’t even be around her anymore. My husband had to go to a positivity seminar for work, and he got sucked in. I had to come down super hard against it. The wanted $$$$ and all our free time, and wanted to sign our child up too. No way in hell that was happening on my watch.

    2. Christmas Carol*

      I love the phrase “Can’t meet this (your) level of enthusiasm and energy without violating our company’s drug policy.”

      1. Cold Fish*

        I forgot about that line. Now in my mind I’m picturing OP running to HR demanding all the coworkers be drug tested!

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Sign on an appliance store wall “all unattended toddlers will be given espressos, Hershey bars, and a puppy.”

      It’s on the door as you walk in – it’s my favorite store to check when I need a new garage fridge (it’s a used appliance store – nothing over $200).

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Oh barf. That rah-rah stuff is not a motivator for many people, and is in fact a demotivator. I don’t have your health issues, and I’d be just as annoyed as you if I were in your shoes.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      It’s fake bullshit and I am angry on behalf of the letter writer for having to put up with it. You can do anything with missing computer parts? Huh? These people sound so annoying. I can imagine that clients would get sick of it real quick, too. Perhaps the letter writer is the only one in the department not overdosing on happy pills.

      1. LawBee*

        I hate fakey rah-rah stuff. I’m on a organizational board that raises money and the constant stream of “I donated $x let’s keep it rolling!” cheerleader emails is just infuriating and draining. OP I really feel for you.

  8. Den*

    I’m a very laid-back, quiet chill guy with no particular condition, and a super high-energy environment like that would just exhaust me.

    1. supertoasty*

      I am humbled, honored, and over the moon to announce that I laughed at your comment and am now replying to it. I want to thank everyone who supported me to this moment to allow me to be literate enough to understand your reference to over-the-top LinkedIn positivity.

      1. Let’s not name names*

        People keep referring to this culture as a cult, which just mentally tracks with what I witnessed living in SF, where one roommate got a job at LinkedIn and before you knew it, the whole house was working there!

  9. Mockingdragon*

    And the computer part! Oh lord, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from saying flat out “no, this isn’t about mindset, this can’t be done yet.” These people are weird!!!

    1. KateM*

      Yeah seriously, sounds like the coworker didn’t even listen to what OP was saying. Maybe OP should ask them to materialize that computer part with their mindset?

      1. Forrest*

        Yeah, I think the NOT LISTENING aspect is a pretty key one, both for pushing back in the moment (if OP wants to) and for raising with your manager. You could quite reasonably ask your manager to catch comments like that and quash them— “it’s clearly not a mindset issue, Only Adult In The Room said she’s waiting for a computer part.”

        We’ve got a bit of a culture of people-not-listening where I work (in our case, it’s senior management saying they’re listening, and then cutting people off or brushing aside their point in a way that makes it clear they weren’t really listening), and me and a couple of middle managers are trying to push back in it the moment because it really is toxic and it makes people feel so dismissed.

        1. PT*

          I’ve encountered this at work and it is INFURIATING.

          Me: We need 8 llama trainers on staff to run the Llama Capades this summer and we only have four. There are no applications in the queue. We should start making alternative plans.
          Boss: Don’t worry, you can do it! The Llama Capades are a go!
          Me: There are still no applications for the llama trainer job even though I have posted it on every job board possible. Additionally, one of our trainers quit to attend veterinary school, so now we are five trainers short. We need to make a contingency plan.
          Boss: Well we already sold 200 tickets to Llama Capades just do it.
          Me: Llama Capades are next month and we are now down to three llama trainers. No one is applying and Fergus got deployed with the National Guard to help out in a COVID hospital. We need to make a plan.
          Boss: You can do it! I believe in you!
          Me: The Llama Capades are tomorrow and as I’ve been saying for months we do not have enough staff to run the full program. Can you help me prioritize streamlining the event.
          Boss: It’s fine just do what needs to make it happen!
          Next Day:
          Boss: There are 200 people standing outside and the Llama Barn is closed what happened? I can’t believe it! This is unacceptable!

          1. Christina*

            That’s the life of most project managers – and why I stopped doing that job……”just make it happen” Ok, I need another three years and another $300 Million dollars…’ve given me six months and three million dollars……..”But its your job to make it happen.”

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        “I’m sorry, Jim, my psychic network hotline is down. Could you give me the number to yours?”

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          “Sorry Jim, I only violate quantum physics by manifesting matter where none exists on the 4th Thursday of the month. Since this is the 2nd Tuesday it will just be late”

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        My dream response is to ask for specific and detailed technical instructions on how to complete the task without the computer part, delivered deadpan and pursued relentlessly.

    2. Classic Rando (she/her)*

      Next time one of them is late because of car trouble I’d tell them they shouldn’t have let that stop them. C’mon, sprint down the highway at 65, it’s all about mindset!

    3. NeutralJanet*

      Right! The over positivity is one thing—extremely annoying and arguably implicitly ableist, but irritating coworkers are a fact of the workplace—but pretending that positivity can overcome literally anything, including actual technical problems? That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!

      1. KaciHall*

        I have had ex coworkers and bosses like that. They refused to acknowledge the reality that I did not know magic and I was not psychic or telekinetic.

        They are ex for a reason. (Not only that, but goodness that was a decent chunk of it. )

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I was working for the most toxic and abusive person I’ve ever known, and she asked me why I wasn’t acting more happy for something she was excited about. I said, “I’m not a very good actor.” She never tried to make me perform again.

          1. JustaTech*

            I once responded to a former boss’ request for a thing (that I told him would not have grown to full size for two weeks) with “unless you have a time machine you’re not telling me about, I can’t give you [the thing].”
            Professional? No. Finally got the point across? Yes.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I once replied to a client (internal to the company but not in my department) who bopped into the office saying “I need my normal request*. Thanks!”
              Me: “Sorry, but me request for the ability to read minds hasn’t yet been filled. In the mean time please fill out this request so I don’t miss any details. Thanks” Hands requestor a paper form to fill out as they stare at me in confusion (while the department manager is doubled over behind this person trying super hard not to choke, snort, or otherwise audibly laugh). Requestor huffed, and filled out the form though.

              This all happened back in the very early ‘00’s – and department policy stated all requests needed to be in writing to be honored.

              *this person had about seven “normal requests” and there was never a rhyme, reason, or pattern behind which one they would ask for at any given time.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Seems like a great way to avoid having to fix problems or dedicate any resources to doing so. It puts the onus on individuals to just deal with anything that comes up, rather than making systemic changes. And usually without empowering staff to change anything.

    4. Batgirl*

      It’s just poor comprehension skills to hear “missing part” and respond with “Oh you can just do it with your smarty smarts”. They need to tackle this habit of reflex idiocy before they embarrass themselves in front of a client.

      1. Xena*

        Given that OP has clients and they don’t I’m going to go ahead and guess that they’ve already managed to embarrass themselves in the past.

    5. Shiba Dad*

      “It’s all about mindset!”

      “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

  10. Amber Rose*

    I would have lost my temper in under a week putting up with that nonsense. I feel like I need a nap now just reading about this.

    OP, this is an HR issue because, as you say, it’s ableist as hell. And given your waiting list, I’m guessing your coworkers aren’t just off-putting to other departments, they’re actually driving away clients. The best way to make management listen is to point out to them that it’s hurting their wallets. :/

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      That’s a really valid point that totally slipped my mind. Obviously their clients love OP and their work (especially since they have a waiting list and nobody else does!). What happens to all that revenue stream that OP brings in if the toxic positivity can’t get solved, the OP leaves for a new job, and all those clients willing to wait for their work follow them out the door?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yes, this. The company should have a huge incentive to put a stop to this if it’s going to hurt their bottom line.

    2. Siege*

      That leaped out at me. If my consultant was this bananas, I would absolutely not want to work with them. How can you trust them to give you accurate info and guidance when they’re literally insisting you don’t need a computer to do a computer’s job? Like, maybe they’re calmer with clients but they are putting on a good performance of being totally out of touch with consensus reality.

    3. irene adler*

      Yeah, as a client I’d request the “rational one” to work with-every time-given the “ampedupedness” of all the other employees.
      Just make it stop! How do ya take out the batteries from these people?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Quaaludes in the water supply?

        I need a nap after reading that letter.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Great – now to scrape burritos off my screen…..really need to stop reading while eating.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        “It’s only a problem if you let it be one! Think positive!”

        “Right. Could I speak to OP, who recognizes a problem when they hear about one? And who might come with an actual solution?”

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      This is a really important point! OP has a waitlist while their coworkers have an empty queue? If it isn’t the toxic positivity, something isn’t working in their department and that needs to be addressed.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        100%. There is clearly something going on here that is leading clients to not want to work with the “rock stars.” We don’t know for sure that it’s the toxic positivity, but it seems like a pretty strong contender!

    5. BluntBunny*

      Yes if they brushed off the client’s problems like they did OP’s computer issue I can’t see that going down well. You can’t just smile away problems they need addressing and if they are so post over that they ignore risks or don’t feel they should bring issues up because “that’s being negative” I can’t see the department performance being good.

      I wonder if they are Elle Woods outside of the office as well. I would have a sit down with my boss and then individually with the team members I work closely with and explain that I don’t feel I can be myself and perform well in the current team environment. That their attitude is not not motivating you but alienating and that you feel they are dismissive or your feelings rather than empathetic. Their response shouldn’t be why are you smiling but if there’s anything to do to help.

  11. Lab Boss*

    I got a whole-body cringe from the part where you explained a task couldn’t be done until equipment was fixed and were met with the news that nothing is impossible if you sparkle bright enough. I can’t imagine how I’d function in that atmosphere and that’s even without a disorder compounding any of the difficulties.

    Is it people in your chain of command acting like this, or is it just peers/colleagues? Because if nobody with any real authority over you acts like this, could you frame it as something that you absolutely don’t have to care about? It sounds like your boss was fast-tracking your equipment repair, so she must at least have understood that it really was necessary to fix it. Is it possible for you to focus on your relationship with your boss, your good reviews, your strong client feedback, and your high demand? If Jim thinks you’re negative he CAN eat dirt, nobody important seems to care what Jim thinks and it might be freeing if you can just let people be annoying around you without engaging.

      1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

        Yeah I’m guessing that when LW did disclose their condition previously, they were advised to exercise, go outside, and just be so grateful for everything you’ve got, you beautiful bitch!

        1. LMB*

          Yup. It’s not their fault—the culture at large has bought into the “wellness” industry to the pony people think they can cure anything with vegetables and yoga. It’s so unbelievably bad for everyone on so many levels though.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. I hate the whole “wellness” schtick. The idea that just eating the right weird vegetables and doing some power yoga with make me lose the weight that I’ve carried since puberty and cure my hemiparesis is laughable at best, and extremely ableist and detrimental to my mental health in general.

            Anyone with any physical disability gets showered with the type of crap “advice” like “Have you tried yoga, crossfit, intermittent fasting, Adkins, Peleton, Weight Watchers, juice cleanses, transcendental meditation” blah, blah, blah. It is exhausting.

            Overweight? You get a ton of concern trolling, fat shaming, fad diets and actually hazardous exercises. Mobility impaired? You get quack cures, impossible exercises, and a freight train full of inspiration porn or false sympathy, followed by a useless “suggestion”. Have a fatigue related illness? Get crap about yoga, getting enough sleep, pop psych remedies, gimmicks and gadgets and the ever popular “power of positive thinking” nonsense.

            I swear, people just need to STFU and stay in their lane. Unless you are a medical professional who is familiar with my entire history and that I am paying for advice in the area of weight or mobility, just keep it zipped. If I want your advice I’ll ask for it.

            1. Popinki*

              It’s infuriating, because the implication is that it’s YOUR fault you’re sick/fat/depressed/tired and can’t be bothered to do the one thing that will magically make it all better.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                I’ve been fat since puberty and have had hemiparesis from a stroke for 27 years, but invariably I’ll meet some clueless nit who showers me with unsolicited “advice”. Then people wonder why I’m often a cynical misanthrope. It’s exhausting, and most people I’ve met who are also disabled hate it with a passion.

                1. Popinki*

                  And if there was some easy way to make your problems go poof, you’d have done it decades ago. So either they’re clueless or they think you’re stupid, and neither is particularly endearing.

              2. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

                That’s absolutely what it comes down to. A lot of people do need to find a way for anything bad that happens to someone to be their fault. If you haven’t done anything ‘wrong’ and you’re still sick, that means it could happen to anyone. That means it could happen to them! That’s too scary, they need to believe that nothing bad will ever happen to them because they’re making the ‘right choices.’

            2. Salymander*

              My friend was sucked in by the Toxic Positivity cult at her breast cancer support group. They have convinced her that she gave herself cancer by failing to be positive enough. When she admired the group (cult) leader’s enormous mansion where she was attending a $$$$ retreat, he told her that she lived in a crappy, mold infested duplex because she wasn’t manifesting wealth through positive thoughts, and if she paid more $$$$ he could sign her up to receive the secrets that create abundance.

              Pretty sure the secret of his abundance was the army of people he had deluded into thinking he had anything helpful to offer them.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          The amount of times I’ve had people tell me (at work) that my disability, or depression, or something else would be totally cured if I just did exercise, lost weight and ‘thought positively’ is enough to make me wish that I worked solely with computers some days.

          Computers have their issues, but toxic positivity isn’t one of them…

          1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

            Right, because it’s not like disabilities & depression (and their treatments) CAUSE weight gain or make it difficult to exercise or anything… /s

            1. quill*

              It looks like you’re trying to disparage a computer program. Would you like help with that?

              – Clippy

      2. Liz*

        That was a former boss, with her daughter. Who suffers from both depression and anxiety, and was never taken seriously by her mother. She then began drinking, spent time in (what I think was court-ordered) rehab, and has turned her life around. She graduated from college, and went on to graduate school, and is almost done with that.
        Former boss once said “i wish i had picked up on these issues she had sooner…blah blah blah” well, they were right there but you CHOSE to ignore them! We all think that the daughter managed to do so well because she got away from her mom!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Believe me if I could just will working software and hardware into existence my job would be SO much easier!

        1. Christina*

          I’ve tried sparkling at it, but it hasn’t helped. Would you mind stopping by my cube and seeing if your sparkle works?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I don’t think any machine/bit of software has ever been fixed by talking sweetly to it.

          Now, threatening it with a large electromagnet on the other hand…

          (Old IT support joke – you gotta make the tech fear you)

          1. Sled Dog Mama*

            I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught talking to the equipment I’m responsible for, at least enough for a couple of coworkers to doubt my sanity. I had one machine that if I went in and gave it a pep talk (or occasionally a good threat) Friday at lunch it would run fine until closing, no pep talk about getting the whole weekend off and all hell would break loose Friday afternoon.
            My coworkers actually believed that that machine feared me because they could try and try and try to fix something with it and then call me and the issue would magically go away and couldn’t be replicated when I showed up.

          2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I have been known to explain to people that there are occasions where “reboot” means “Repeatedly apply your boot to the hardware.”

          3. CreepyPaper*

            I did overhear a co-worker say to our IT guy once, ‘I’ve tried reasoning with it. I’ve threatened it. I’ve tried a magic spell. You’re my only hope.’

            IT guy replied ‘I’ll fetch my bat’ and then someone rang me and I missed the rest but lol. You can’t fix tech with positive vibes!

          4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            I once sang a lullaby to a laser printer. My coworkers looked at me funny, but I could get the printer to work and they couldn’t.

            (I don’t actually think the music made the difference, except in the sense that it helped me keep calm.)

          5. VicePope of the Almighty Bunny*

            Heh. It was a large sledgehammer in one of my workplaces. Won’t fix the machine, but great for stress relief AND we get a new machine.

            In my last workplace, I was known for being somewhat techie, and I was open about being Pagan. Whenever a coworker asked me for help with stuff that they really should’ve called tech about, they got, “Put two crystals on the keyboard & call me in the morning.”

    1. lyonite*

      This is good advice if you can manage it (though totally understandable if you can’t). If they’re going to be disappointed that you aren’t joining their glittery pony party, they can go ahead and be disappointed, it’s their life. And possibly new members of the team will see you not engaging and realize that that’s an option for them. (But definitely have the chat with HR, to ensure you aren’t going to face any consequences for not being part of the woo! chorus.)

    2. irene adler*

      If nothing else, I’d like to “think positive” my way to full printer cartridges. For eternity.

    3. J.B.*

      I don’t know, maybe they are sparkly vampires? You too could have their energy if you would just let them make you undead!

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I have literally told people in my industry that I don’t have a magic hat, and can’t pull solutions out of it for them, when informed that I had to think positively in situations where there was no way to move forward.

      In the OP’s shoes, I would be very tempted to invest in a sparkly wand and flash powder, and use it liberally whenever someone asked for the impossible.

    5. anonymous73*

      If I were in OP’s shoes I wouldn’t just be able to not care about it, because it would be affecting my emotional well being if I had to deal with people like this, regardless of where they are in the hierarchy. People who are that over the top positive are fake and full of crap, because not everything is sunshine and rainbows 24/7. They’re not just “being annoying”, they are constantly questioning OP and her responses.

      1. Salymander*

        Yes, it is hard to ignore people when you are exhausted all the time and they just won’t stop getting in your face.

        Maybe deploy some sort of water balloon slingshot? With glitter in the water? I dunno. I can’t get people like this to stop, but I have had the good fortune to be able to just walk away. Sounds like OP can’t do that, and the feeling of being trapped in a room with people who agressively eat, breathe and fart glitter at everyone must be truly awful. I hope there is some kind of management somewhere within this organization that can make it stop.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        The thing that would bug me is the way they ignore reality. They refuse to deal with anything, so if anything serious happens it won’t be dealt with. That would make me nervous as well as the annoyance and distraction of dealing with them.
        My mother was a lot like the woman mentioned above who ignored her daughter’s emotional problems until daughter got away and got treatment on her own. I ended up with PTSD so bad, seeing my mother’s name makes me sick. So I would be very nervous around people who ignore reality.

  12. KHB*

    Is there something tying you to this particular job on this particular team at this particular company? I agree with everyone that your team’s tone is extremely weird, but it doesn’t seem like an industry-wide thing or even a company-wide thing. You should, by all rights, be able to ask them to accommodate you, especially with your medical circumstances – but if it’s possible to get an equally good job somewhere else, it seems like that might be the path of least resistance.

    1. LMB*

      When you like your work and are good at it it sucks to feel like you have to leave it because of things like politics and toxic coworkers.

      1. Forrest*

        It does, but it also sucks to feel that you can’t leave a job. Having a sensible list of things to try before you push the eject button but also knowing the eject button is there if you need it is the most empowering place to be IMO.

      2. KHB*

        But most jobs aren’t so unique that you can’t find another job doing pretty much the same thing somewhere else. And of all the reasons why people leave jobs, I’d guess that politics and toxic coworkers are right up there.

    2. anonymous73*

      The answer to everything is not “find a new job”. She stated she loves her job, and she’s good at it. The only issue is a small group of teammates. That can be addressed. There’s no indication that the company is toxic here. That could change once she goes to HR based on the way they handle the situation. But for now, HR is the first step.

      1. KHB*

        The answer to everything is also not “make other people be different,” because that’s not always possible. And these particular people have been told to be different before, without success.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          But I have to wonder what types of consequences have been imposed on them for forgetting? I also wonder if there is an “echo chamber syndrome” going on here, and if you can pull one or two of the echos out maybe the rest of them will settle back to normal? But none of that is known until it gets brought up.

          (Also, it sounds like OP isn’t the only one having issues with the over the top performative positivity- maybe if those other departments speak up more in addition to OP raising it HR/managers will be more willing to expend more effort to fix it all.)

    3. Dahlia*

      Obviously I don’t know if this is true of OP, but finding a good job that you like, can physically handle, doesn’t eat all your spoons, and that has good benefits as a disabled person is, uh. Not a small task.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Finding a good job with good benefits as a non-disabled person isn’t exactly fast and easy either.

  13. Lynca*

    Oh my god what? And this is just your department with normal people around you telling them to stop? How are these people like this all the time? Why does the company just let this go on?

    I’d go to HR because this is not okay and has to be driving people away. It is pretty abelist and as someone that struggles with ADHD/depression this would drive me up a wall. Especially being told I’m negative when I’m being perfectly normal.

    1. Ama*

      That was the one that would drive me up a wall and probably send me to either my manager or HR. OP’s response was perfectly professional and fine. To have to coddle someone’s emotions at work in the way her coworkers are demanding is ridiculous.

  14. Essess*

    I would start pushing back when people get ‘aggressive-positive’ and look them in the eye and say “you are making me uncomfortable when you do/say that.” As they say, return awkward to sender. The department has received complaints about this from other departments and has already been told to dial it back. This would be a good time to even point that out by saying, “this interaction is the type of thing we’ve been asked to tone down. I’m perfectly happy today but don’t need to overreact in the way you are forcing on me.”

    1. Nea*

      I like this. LW has a perfect opening to tell Jim “I’m not sparkling because I’m obeying requests to tone it down.”

    2. Anononon*

      Yeah, I agree. A lot of times, I’m against this type of bluntness directed to coworkers (think, along the generic “no means no” type stuff). But here, it’s just ridiculous and annoying that I would call it out.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Exactly. “Is there a reason I should be launching fireworks when I answer your questions? I don’t understand. Could you explain this to me?”

      Lean hard on the “we’ve been warned about this.”

    4. Batgirl*

      This kind of “go you” culture only works if people respond with “yeah go me!” which OP is subverting beautifully just by not being an idiot. I would also throw a few more spanners into the works like “what do you mean?”, “can you expand on that”, “how exactly would you suggest I “rock it”. However that’s placing a bet that they’ve only ever had to have enough pep to sustain a short jingle and a simple expansion question will throw it all to hell.

  15. fposte*

    This reminds me of when my supermarket briefly had a campaign where customers were supposed to alert headquarters if they didn’t receive “outstanding” service. I’m like, I just wanted deli cheese and I got it, and that’s really all I need. I felt bad for the employees and I was glad when it ended.

    Digression aside, I’m interested in the note that this is a holdover from a leader who’s no longer with the company. I’m not sure whether that meant this was a hiring lens or a rewarded behavior or both. I think that means the OP has a little more wiggle room here, since it’s more a legacy than a company value. And while I don’t want the OP to feel obliged to out themselves, they’re actually in a better position than some to say hey, this actually is turning into something bad, and it’s going to drown out important voices. I mean, how do these people react to negative feedback? Can a product ever be identified as substandard? I would really worry about that.

    1. Reba*

      I like these questions.

      While I agree with others that there is ableism here, I actually don’t think that OP’s illness factors into this at all. And, when you talk to the manager about it, it would be good for the conversation to be about how this culture that has developed needs management to avoid drowning out varied perspectives and personalities on the team. It’s not so much that OP needs an accommodation on the basis of disability to be relieved of the positivity burden, it’s that the forced positivity is harmful all around.

      I wonder if manager or some possible coworker ally would be willing to read up on toxic positivity or Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic “Bright Sided.”

    2. Random Bystander*

      Yeah–in my job, there’s one particular insurance group that I have to follow up with phone calls (vs the payer chat that is essentially an IM), and at the end of the call, the rep will always say “and was the service I provided today outstanding?” I figure they’d get in trouble if the response was anything less than “on a scale of 1-10, your service was 11+11ty good”, so I just reply yes, and move on. Internally, though, I roll my eyes at that.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I basically never give less than 5 stars/outstanding/a perfect 10 because even if the service wasn’t great, no one needs to get written up over it. I hate these stupid surveys, I hate being forced to participate in them, but I also don’t want anyone to lose a job over it.

        1. PT*

          I was once involved in a meeting at work where there was outrage that our November survey results averaged our department at 9.54 but the May ones averaged us at 9.48 and “what did you do wrong to make your score go down this isn’t acceptable, your department is declining!”

          We got maybe 20 surveys answered and averaging ordinal numbers is statistically iffy, so fussing over a 0.06 change in reviews over six months was utterly pointless, but when I said that I got in trouble for “showing off” and “flaunting my privilege” and “making other people feel bad” because out job didn’t require anyone to know about statistics so of course I shouldn’t either.

          1. Christina*

            HR people and management who can’t pass a statistics class and use statistics should be shot. Vive la statistically literate proletariat!

    3. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Alison writes about how a terrible boss or culture can warp your sense of norms, and that appears to have happened in spades here, with most of the team.

      What would happen if OP were to start asking questions whenever the toxic positivity appeared, rather than directly contradicting the obnoxious person? Something like

      * Why do you feel that way?
      * Why do you think that your attitude will fix a broken machine?
      * Are you afraid that if you don’t sound relentlessly positive you will be fired?
      * What, exactly, does sparkle mean? How can you tell when someone sparkles?

    4. Bryce*

      I have this issue for store surveys as well. “Did your order exceed expectations?” I wanted a taco. I got a taco. How do you exceed that?

    5. marvin*

      I would worry that they’re starting to go down the darker path of toxic positivity into full denial of reality. If they truly think you can sparkle your way into making hardware appear, I would be concerned that this will manifest into more overt forms of ableism, fatphobia and essentially blaming people for anything negative that happens to them.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      LOL – this reminds me of the time I phoned a grocery chain head office for something to do with my work, and got a maniacally perky voice on the line greeting me with “Thanks for calling XYC Grocery Corp.!!!! We’re fresh-obsessed!!!!”

      I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I think I might accidentally laugh, too. I once quit a Saturday morning exercise class because the instructor was way too happy about doing heavy cardio at 9am. I know they’re supposed to motivate you, but…I’m kind of a grump. I am fine with being pushed. I just don’t want to be forced to be happy about it, even if it’s entirely voluntary.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      “Was this the best customer service experience you ever had?”

      Well, no, but I called in to change the address on my account, and the address got changed successfully, so it was a perfectly satisfactory customer service experience… but you’re going to stop at the “well no” part and ding your CSR, even though they did exactly what I needed them to do in a timely and efficient manner.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I’ve stopped filling out customer surveys because I just feel so emotionally manipulated. Some employee that doesn’t deserve it is going to take it on the chin because I rated my experience modestly above average. Alternately they’re going to pat themselves on the back because 98% of customers rated them “stupendously amazingly excellent” in a desperate and probably unsuccessful attempt to prevent them from abusing their staff.

        It sucks.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I was just working on a project where our research surfaced a major problem with customer service for my client. The client was confused – all their surveys are fine! They thought their service was great. It’s just a hunch on my end, but I think their surveys are fine because their customers simply aren’t filling them out when they have bad experiences because they don’t want CSRs to get punished. And in this case, the customers were all food/retail workers, so they would be especially aware of the consequences.

    8. quill*

      Ah yes, the toxic thing where competent and uneventful is never enough. Service has to be 6 stars out of 5.

  16. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

    Jesus Christ, LW, no advice here but my heart goes out to you. Also I think you have a delightful sense of humor.

  17. Clefairy*

    I am naturally very energetic, upbeat, and hyper, to the point where I’m sure that I’ve been the “annoying” colleague in the past- and even I’m exhausted just thinking about your work environment! The upside of my energy is that at least it’s very genuine….and what you’re in sounds anything but. That all just sounds so forced and insincere. Ugh. Good luck, and please send an update once this is hopefully in the past!!

    1. Former Llama Herder*

      Honestly I was thinking the same thing-I’m definetely more positive and upbeat than some of my colleagues have been in the past and have to make sure I’m leaving space for people to express negative feelings. But holy moly this is another level of “positivity” and I hope OP is able to get some changes. I would lose my mind in this environment.

      1. WomEngineer*

        Here here! Threads like this are a reminder that “positivity” shouldn’t be forced. Particularly in these COVID times, it can do more harm than good.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Sometimes having one energetic group member is really great–I’m thinking of Mallory on The Amazing Race, and that you could tell other teams really valued her ability to be extremely enthusiastic and peppy on no sleep and tons of stress.

    3. mreasy*

      Yeah I can be more energetic and upbeat at times and yet I’ve never called someone a beautiful bitch at work? Or told them positive thinking would fix their computer? I’m only half joking when I ask if there is some outside of work involvement with this crew. Major cult vibes.

    4. Plebeian Aristocracy*

      100% in the same boat here. Something that I had to learn (*cringey* memories) is that it’s not OK to foster your excessive peppiness on someone else. Everyone approaches the world differently, and that’s a beautiful thing. Hopefully your coworkers will one day embrace that in all of its many, messy forms.

      I do wonder if it would be possible for you to keep doing your great work while also on a different team?

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The key to this is it’s just one person who is super energetic – it’s like the designated cheerleader. The key is that person is just one person, and can read the room and be normal energy when the situation calls for it. Right now that department sounds like a toxic echo chamber where they’re all feeding off of and amping each other up.

    6. anonymous73*

      Being upbeat and energetic is fine, as long as you respect that others are not like you, and don’t constantly question their state of mind.

      I’m not a morning person. If I see you in the hall and you provide me with an enthusiastic “GOOD MORNING!”, my response will be a subtle “morning”. If you then came at me questioning why it wasn’t a “good” morning or why I wasn’t more enthusiastic, I’d want to stab you in the face (figuratively of course, I’m not a violent person). That’s the difference between just being naturally upbeat and these fools in the letter.

      1. Clefairy*

        Oh yeah, no, people like that annoy me too! I might annoy you by being overly chipper in the morning, but I don’t demand the same energy back lol.

    7. Kate in Colorado*

      I’ve been the positive, happy one before too, but this place would drive me to the opposite end of the spectrum so fast. I would never suggest that a co-worker could just *positively think* their way into completed tasks despite lacking the practical tools necessary. I’m baffled at their lack of self-awareness at how obnoxious and off-putting this behavior is! Hoping for an update!

    1. Hapax Legomenon*

      (Smiley face so they know I’m being very positive and encouraging him to eat dirt like a sparkly rockstar.)

      1. KateM*

        And wave your arms energetically while saying that.
        It doesn’t seem like they listen to words anyway, TBH.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah I wouldn’t ENJOY either one as my workplace coping mechanism tends to be sarcasm and dry humor (with my colleagues, never outward facing), but if I had to choose between the two, the no humor office would be far less draining.

  18. SJ (they/them)*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

    Something that comes to mind, and I wish I could source this properly, is something a commenter here said one time that stuck with me. The OP in that case was, I believe, concerned about not coming across as enthusiastic enough in interviews, as they were a naturally more low-energy person.

    The commenter shared that something they had done successfully, when asked a question that seemed to want an enthusiastic answer (why is this work soooo important to you?) actually doubled down on their seriousness level. They took off their glasses (that’s the detail that stuck with me), and explained in an extra serious, almost somber tone what the work meant to them and why. And then put their glasses back on and returned to normal discussion. The result ended up being that they developed a reputation for being an outwardly stoic person with a deep, hidden well of feeling that everyone knew was there and just, oh so sort of dramatically/mysteriously didn’t usually show. (In fact the OP was just a pretty normal regular person who didn’t tend to be over enthusiastic about things.)

    Augh, I’m probably mis-remembering this!! But maybe there’s something helpful here for you. Good luck, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with you.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh yes, you have the gist of it. It was about “showing passion” for a non-profit’s cause.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think I found the comment/post you are referencing! Search “how to show passion for your work when you’re not a demonstrative person” from January 14, 2014.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Memory is so interesting! I definitely see how the glasses got added to your memory of this comment; they definitely encapsulate the tone and image of “I am now going to seriously convey my deep and hidden emotions for this work.”

    3. Anna*

      I like how the detail that really stuck with you is not actually mentioned in the comment referenced. The human memory works in interesting ways! Taking off the glasses would fit the approach perfectly, nice of your mind to just add that in.

  19. Tasteful Mullet*

    LW, do you think that part of the reason your clients are busting down the door to work with you is because you’re NOT a rainbow-vomiting pep-monster? It sounds like the rest of your department’s attitude is turning off potential clients (as well as the rest of the org.), but people love working with you because you’re a reasonable, normal-tempered person. That’s definitely a sign that you’re doing things right.
    I’m wondering whether you could get some feedback from clients to that effect…asking folks who’ve been on the waiting list with you why they’ve waited to work with you specifically. That could be good feedback to have, if you ever feel like raising the issue with your manager again.
    But mostly, you should feel pretty good about the fact that you’re a sensible, normal person in what sounds like a barrelful of of hyperactive monkeys. It sounds freaking exhausting, but at least you know you’re the one with your head on straight.

    1. HugeTractsofLand*

      +1! I have no doubt that OP is fantastic on her own merits, but I bet the department would be more willing to change if they found out this attitude has a negative impact on clients. It sounds like it’s already worsening internal relations as well.

    2. M*

      100%. When I’m looking for a consultant or a contractor or a supplier (or just about any professional in any facet of my life), I want someone who will be straightforward and competent and get the job done. This isn’t to say that a basic level of friendliness isn’t nice too, but if someone I was planning to contract or commission brought the kind of energy OP described to the table, I would walk away.

    3. Heidi*

      OP can totally spin this a good thing. “Most of my clients seem to prefer a more chill approach, Jim. It’s great that they can have that option here.” “Not all clients are so excitable. I try to match their vibe.”

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        That has the distinct advantage of being TRUE. (Maybe she should go into business for herself and take those clients with her.)

    4. LikesToSwear*


      I really think that someone fairly high up is going to need to have a very serious “come to Jesus” talk about just how toxic the rest of them are being and how *it is costing them, and therefore the company* money. Because LW has a wait list, even though her coworkers have openings in their calendar. And a reminder that if they don’t tone it way the heck down, LW won’t be the one who goes – it will be the people who are costing the company money.

  20. Foreign Octopus*

    This environment is weird as hell.

    What makes it weirder is that your department’s been told to dial back the pep and yet keep doing it, which is so strange. Is there a chance to transfer to a less enthusiastic department?

    But I think by focusing on the environment you’re in, you’re missing some clear signs that you’re the rockstar not your colleagues. Your clients love dealing with you (probably because you’re not hyped up on zest 24/7), you have a waiting list of people who want to deal with you even though your colleagues have open calendars. This speaks really highly to the work that you’re doing and your value and, perhaps, it gives you more of a standing to approach HR/your boss/your local exorcist to lobby for a change in this department.

    I hope that things change for you because this is frustrating as hell.

    1. Tasteful Mullet*

      my thoughts exactly! Sounds like LW is the one who’s getting the work done well, and that clients like them because they’re NOT like everyone else on the team (pumped full of glitter and battery acid)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      What makes it weirder is that your department’s been told to dial back the pep and yet keep doing it.
      And after the original insighter of the pep has left the company.

      Human culture is genuinely amazing.

      I think you’re right about OP’s clients finding OP’s more restrained style more reassuring to work with. Like this morning’s over-the-top CEO not actually landing as someone you want to work with.

      My dermatologist is very energetic and upbeat and I have come to view it as a real plus, as we are always going to be discussing a) any new skin cancer b) how any other cancer treatment is going–so the pep sure isn’t coming from me. But he’s like two order of magnitude below the examples in this letter. Any normal human behavior becomes off-putting if you keep dialing it up to an extreme.

      1. Ama*

        I do wonder if this is a case where department wide warnings have been given but the specific problem people haven’t been specifically told — “you specifically are exhausting your colleagues with your insistence on 100% positivity all the time, please stop.” In my experience, toxic positivity people are exactly the type of personality that never think general warnings refer to them.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreed – and I wonder if there is basically just one or two ringleaders for the over the top performative toxic positivity – and that if those people are stopped the rest of the department returns to a more normal level of energy and positivity.

    3. Very Social*

      you’re missing some clear signs that you’re the rockstar not your colleagues.

      YES, THIS. They may think that it’s energy that makes the rockstar, but it’s results, and you’re the one getting the best results.

  21. korangeen*

    Yikes, I’d have a lot of competing urges to either bust out laughing or punch people if co-workers were constantly asking me where my sparkle is or telling me I need to be a rockstar. I sure hope you’re able to get this worked out somehow.

  22. Nea*

    I’m one of the most sought-after consultants in our company. I have a waiting list

    I bet you do! I’d rather wait to deal with the single professional than any of the toddlers on espresso.

  23. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    i would find that environment unbearable and i’m (as far as i know) pretty physically and mentally healthy person

  24. BenAdminGeek*

    OK, I know you’re not supposed to stab people at work, but I feel like an exception could be made here. Make an example out of one, the rest will fall in line.

      1. the cat's ass*

        Makes me stabby too. They sound awful and irrational. My BFF just sent me a dishtowel that reads, “does this dishcloth smell like chloroform?” I feel like i should sent it to you (with some chloroform)!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Watch out, they sound like they’d bleed glitter.

      And that stuff is hard to get out of carpet!

    2. MacGillicuddy*

      I’m a former job we had one person who had toddler-on-espresso syndrome. When she was being particularly obnoxious about it, one of my work friends would whisper to me “Quick! Get the Thorazine dart!”

      With a group like the OP has, maybe something in the coffee supply….

      1. nonegiven*

        Can you imagine one of those people being called up for jury duty? What would voir dire be like?

  25. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m one of the most sought-after consultants in our company.
    This is probably the most important piece. Especially if the manager who incited the mania has moved on.

    There was a comment on a previous letter where someone who was very quiet and buttoned up, working in a mission driven context (probably charity?), managed to frame it to herself, and if needed others, as “I’m so committed to the work that it makes me appear very, very serious. My passion is expressed by being calm and serious and reserved.” So if you can frame it to yourself, and occasionally others, as “My sparkle comes across in my output; I am very serious when we discuss the work because that’s how engaged I am” that might land closer to what you feel is needed. But you’re already a go-to: That is big, and if your management is competent that is what they will care about. You can accomplish with calm and reserve what Bob tries to imitate with mania.

    A team member said “don’t let that stop you! You can do anything, you beautiful bitch! It’s all about mindset!”
    That is some Fyre Festival level disconnect. Though possibly everyone else on the call was aware of this and rolled their eyes a bit that Bob does not understand hardware at all, so we keep him away from those projects.

    1. anonymous73*

      Her teammates don’t need a long winded justification of why she isn’t cartwheels down the hall, jumping for joy excited with everything she does. She’s most likely a rockstar because she’s got a normal level of enthusiasm with clients and the teammates need to dial it down a hundred notches.

  26. The Prettiest Curse*

    Ugh, just reading this set my teeth on edge! I think you need to be very clear with HR or your boss that the peppiness of your team is draining, affects your ability to work effectively and needs to end now. If the other members of the team want to be in Happy Happy Joy Joy mode all the time, that’s fine – but they shouldn’t force it on you.

    Also,, that level of upbeat-ness actually comes across as quite juvenile to me. The nicest, most upbeat people I’ve worked with had a good balance between realism and positivity, and that’s what your team should aim for, not a smile emoji stamping on a human face forever.

  27. Jam on Toast*

    I’m exhausted just listening to that litany of positivity arm-twisting and I agree that the performative demands are ableist. When you talk to your manager, perhaps it would be useful to have a list which identifies which behaviours you believe are actively harmful to employee well being and which are just annoying but ignorable. That way, you’re forcing them to focus on the biggest problems, and not leaving low hanging fruit that will give management the cover to say “well, we asked Jim not to bring in his pom-poms and do cartwheels anymore, what more do you want?” and let them leave the really tough, toxic culture change issues untouched. So if you feel the unsolicited emotional tone policing towards others is definitely harmful but people putting up insipid inspirational slogans in their own cubicle may be something you can accept, emphasize the former and minimize the latter or even leave it off the list entirely. This also sounds like a weird reverse of last week’s update about the office that had a strict-no-joke policy; in both cases, the universal outcome is a weirdly rigid and unsustainable fixation on dictating the emotional landscapes of their hires to the detriment of all.

    1. Nanani*

      Now I want No Jokes office to become a client of this one, or vice versa.
      Like a matter and antimatter collision.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Now there’s a sitcom setup! you could even have a forbidden romance.

        Though I don’t trust Hollywood not to make the message that the grumpy people “learn to embrace the spirit of YOLO” or some such nonsense.

        1. FakeEleanor*

          I would love to see what the “no jokes allowed” HR would have to say to “you beautiful bitch” colleague. I think I’d pay money to watch that meeting happen.

          1. iiii*

            “Jim, Lisa is not here to be decorative. And she’s not a service animal, which is the best I can make of ‘bitch.'”

  28. Rage*

    I’d get one of those party horns – you know, the little ones with the paper thing that rolls out when you blow it. Keep it at your desk and when somebody demands “all teh sparkle!” – just toot the horn then go back to what you were doing.

      1. Caro*

        I keep a little bottle of bubbles in my desk drawer. At any time, I can bubble like nobody’s business.

    1. tessa*

      I used the “Find” tool to get back to this comment just so I could say how much I appreciate it.

      Thanks for the laugh, Rage!

    2. Ally McBeal*

      I was imagining a fistful of glitter thrown into the offending coworker’s cubicle, but a party horn is a great option for meetings!

    3. anonymous73*

      That’s a great idea. I would do this with the look of disdain and annoyance on my face too.

    4. quill*

      It gets better as the squeak wears out. Bonus points for whacking someone with the rolled up paper.

    5. Salymander*

      This is brilliant! Much better than a glitter/water balloon slingshot. Gets the point across, and you don’t have to pick glitter out of everything until the end of time.

  29. Ariaflame*

    Also having rewatched Encanto last night.
    “And that’s why coffee is for grown-ups” popped into my head.

    1. Generic Name*

      Ha! I loved that line. It came moments after my teenage son was like, “Wait! Little kids shouldn’t be drinking coffee!”

  30. NeutralJanet*

    I hate this trend of (mostly) women assuming that bitch is no longer offensive and is in fact complimentary and empowering. It’s fine if you feel that way yourself—I have probably referred to my friends as “beautiful bitch” or something along those lines—but it’s really not something you should just call women without knowing how they feel about it, and DEFINITELY not something to call a coworker in the workplace after she mentions a work problem. (I do hope that this coworker was a woman, if only because a woman who doesn’t mind being called a bitch might incorrectly assume that all women feel like she does—it’s still bad, but a man wouldn’t even have that excuse.)

    1. Holey Hobby*

      Not only is it sexist, inappropriate, and irritating as all get out – it’s also really, really dated. It sounds like the OP works in a creative industry, so it’s no wonder those colleagues’ work is less sought after. Ugh! Get new slang, you tired old hacks. Stop coasting on some stuff you heard on network TV in 2004.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Use of that term here would win the speaker an instant free trip to HR coupled with a refresher “respectable workplace” course, at the very least …

      2. Salymander*

        Yes. Just reading this letter, my right eyebrow raised so far up it must look like it is trying to escape from my face, or perhaps stage a hostile takeover of my forehead.

        How on earth did the former manager who created this unholy purgatory ever find so many aggressively energetic people? Were they always like this, or did the manager somehow influence them like a really perky Sith Lord? Who knew that the Dark Side was so sparkly?

    2. River Otter*

      Yeah, I’m okay with the f-word in the workplace (And life), but not the B word. I will let the B word slide in my personal life, but not at work.

    3. DarthVelma*

      Yup. This idea that it’s “reclaiming” the word is so much horseshit. You cannot “reclaim” a word that is still being actively used as a slur against women.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Uh, what? Like Black people reclaimed the N word after it was no longer a slur against them? You don’t have to like the B word, and certainly it shouldn’t be used willy-nilly at work, but other women deciding to reclaim it in social settings is their right. Ta-Nehasi Coates has a good explainer on the concept.

        1. Foila*

          I’ve heard it framed as “You can’t reclaim something for someone else,” which worked for me.

        2. Observer*

          You are aware that not everyone agrees with him. I’m talking about Black people, as they are the only ones with standing to have an opinion on the matter.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            The amount of condescension in this comment is uncalled for, particularly as that is his point in the clip I’m referring to…? I mention that clip because it is accessible, but this was a concept we studied in my college feminist theory class. You can’t live in the world without knowing that some Black people use that word semi-regularly in a way they are comfortable with. That is their reclaiming the word. It is also of course the prerogative of other Black people to still dislike it regardless of who says it, and no other group has the right to try to redefine it. My only point here is that the B word works similarly- it can be reclaimed by those it targets, others should leave it the hell alone, and individuals of the targeted group are free to feel however they choose about it.

            1. Observer*

              I’m not being condescending. I find it interesting that you claim that I am being so.

              I’m simply making the point that Black people apparently are not monolithic in their attitude to this.

              I’m not about to tell any Black person how to relate to this word. I’m responding only to your original framing, which did seem to imply that his opinion is universal.

              In general, when people use slurs in the typical inappropriate fashion, bringing in the whole discussion about reclaiming that slur is a diversion. Especially since it’s almost always something that’s not even universally accepted in the target group.

              It’s certainly the case with b***. Yes, there are some women who “reclaim” it. Lots of us DO NOT.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                I frequently find your comments condescending and would hope you might consider reflecting on that for a minute or two. Even when I agree with you, I often find you harsher than necessary, for months if not years.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  I’ve taken to skipping them – I come to their site to learn and debate, not to get riled up reading things that are very black and white about the world. Honestly Billy Joel got it pretty right with “Shades of Grey.”

              2. Which witch*

                Agree that you frequently come across condescending online, especially with your frequent use of caps and tendency to jump in with “corrections” and “explanations” that you assume people are unaware of.

              3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                What opinion? That white people don’t have the right to use the N word? I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s fairly universal.

                If you’re saying that I or he implied his relationship to the N word, or is universal, I believe my earlier comment should be more than sufficient to explain my feelings, and as for him, I can’t say, but I did not see that in any of the coverage of his explainer (in name link). I had assumed the OP’s coworker was female, but it would certainly change things if that was not the case.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          I’d just like to add I think it’s great to reclaim slurs and admire the women who are trying to do this with the B-word. I hope it’s as successful as the reclaiming of the N-word by Black people, which is awesome!
          Another good example is the reclaiming of the word “queer” by gays. (I say gays instead of LGBT because that’s what they were called at the time.)

    4. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Yeah, agree. I know a few people who took inspiration from Jesse on Breaking Bad and it drives me absolutely batty. It’s literally still a slur, please don’t throw it around without building up enough trust and consent with the person you’re referring to. I completely lose it when I hear that at work.

    5. Le Sigh*

      You are totally right about knowing your audience, but I just want to state for the record that from here on out, I will only respond to “Beautiful Bitch.” All official documents will need to list me as “Bitch, Beautiful.”

    6. Coffee Bean*

      I so thank you for making this point. I don’t want to be referred to as a bitch even if it’s in jest. I hate the trend of someone greeting a group of wonen with “Hey Bitches”. It’s neither funny nor cute.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – while I may be female, I am not a dog, and not being bred. That is pretty much the extent of the appropriate usage of that word that starts with B.

  31. WavyGravy*

    I’m writing “You can do anything, you beautiful bitch!” on my bathroom mirror in lipstick.

    This is like the bizzaro world of the no humor office and sounds just as unbearable.

    1. This is My Happy Face*

      Oh my god I want those two companies to be forced to share the same workspace for a day while the rest of us get to watch Big Brother style with popcorn.

      1. WavyGravy*

        Ooh yes, it would be like Survivor teams! Except instead of fire representing life on the island, it should be sparkle.

      2. Ama*

        Oh, all of a sudden I’m now wondering if no humor office had a toxic positivity employee and that’s how we got to “no humor in the workplace ever.”

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I hope it will be the bathroom mirror at work. And you’re working in the office, not at home.

  32. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Oh ye gods, toxic positivity taken to the extremes.

    As a fellow disabled person and IT manager I nearly threw a cup of tea across the room at reading that bit about just thinking positively about a hardware issue. (Also anyone referring to me as the b word at work is not going to be in my good books EVER)

    The sarcastic side of me would probably reply back with something…well, bitter would be the word.

    The professional side of me agrees with Alison – report this to HR and basically if you can just outright ignore the ‘but you must be more positive!’ stuff. It’s the same thing I have to do with the twits round this office who’ve tried to tell me that exercise will help with my depression/autoimmune disease/spinal injury etc.

    If they’re going to say daft stuff, I’m gonna ignore it.

  33. Generic Name*

    I think it’s interesting that your plate is full, with a waiting list, while your upbeat coworkers have open calendars. I wonder if pointing out your good relationship with clients and colleagues outside your department would have any sway with your boss or HR. Clearly you must be doing something right. And when someone tells you that you can power through broken equipment with the magic of positive thinking, you can say something like, “I appreciate the vote of confidence in my abilities, unfortunately, I really do need a working computer to finish this widget positive vibes or no.”

  34. Middle Name Danger*

    If other departments have complained, I think it’s worth taking to HR.

    This is aggravating your medical condition, worsening exhaustion and stress unnecessarily, and I’d frame it that way if you have to in order to make them do something.

  35. Nanani*

    Oof, what a textbook demonstration of toxic positivity
    “You can do anything if you try!” when the issue is literally broken hardware? That’s toxic. Not listening, ignoring the actual problem, a little bit of gaslighting, a little bit of victim blaming (it must be your fault right, you can do AnYtHiNG so if you didnt do the thing its your own fault) in a maddening glitter-bedecked stew.

    Good luck pushing back, I really hope this morass unravels when the right people are clued in

    1. Generic Name*

      I know, I thought the part about the broken equipment and then referring to OP as a “bitch” (but in the most positive way, of course!!) was pretty outrageous. Just no.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Ditto. The word “bitch” should never be applied to anybody who doesn’t have paws, a tail, and a cold nose.

  36. Hills to Die On*

    I am a pretty upbeat and positive person. We have mini bubble breaks here and I happily participate. I make little jokes here and there during the day and always smile and say hello to people. I adore my job and my coworkers. I make a point being in a positive (but authentic) mindset of gratitude daily.
    This environment would piss me off though. It would be a distraction and no, you can’t do “anything”. You cannot manifest equipment out of thin air. Too, too much. ugh.

    1. FG*

      I wonder what would happen if you just called them out in the moment. Since the pep rally vibes aren’t coming from the top, you have latitude to call a spade a spade. Generally, “I physically can’t meet this level of enthusiasm and energy without violating our company’s drug policy,” said with a smile, is humorous & gets your point across without getting into specifics of your condition – lots of perfectly healthy people could say that. In a more serious note, just lable the prods for excess enthusiasm: “What’s with all the toxic positivity?” Or “You know you don’t have to do that anymore now that Positive Patty is gone.” As for Jim, turn that right back around: A sincere “So what do you suggest I do to complete this task without the equipment?”
      Not to say talking to the mgr, HR, etc shouldn’t be done, but honest, pleasant responses might be a worthwhile experiment.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      But would you be sufficiently positive and sparkly and upbeat about it whilst setting the fire?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Certain fireworks have sparkles in them… plenty of sparkles there.

        “Where’s your sparkle?”
        Takes out a sparkler and lights it. “Here.”

        Bizarre stuff.

  37. Nea*

    I suddenly realize that this is the PERFECT opportunity to use a non-sequitur that a commenter here suggested:

    “I’m allergic to that.”

    “Where’s your sparkle?” “I’m allergic to sparkle, Jim.”

      1. KaciHall*

        Sometimes I can practically hear my coworkers saying this to me, in that exact tone of voice. Luckily the most positive ones are in another office most of the time. And they aren’t nearly as toxic as the ones in OPS office. (As in, they wouldn’t actually say that. But it feels like they think it.)

  38. PJ*

    For a time I worked for a very similar company. It broke my heart when I was let go, because it was my dream job, and I’d given up a lot to make it happen – but I wasn’t a good match for that kind of atmosphere. (Note: nothing in the interviews suggested this workplace was anything like this.)

    I’m hardly a “negativista” but I just didn’t have that faux, Vaseline-on-the-teeth sales smile in me, in any way, shape or form. And this was a relentless push, every day. Pep rallies. People standing up at their desks to do “the wave.” It felt a bit like a cult, to be honest. I’m all for finding a way to be positive, encouraging – and working to set a tone and mood in the office, but too often companies do it **on steroids**.

    and OMG, Jim should TOTALLY eat dirt.

    Not a Beautiful Bitch (at least not before my 3rd cup of coffee)

    1. Ginger Baker*

      For a college class relatively recently, we had to watch a video on the Zappos work environment (which is a very “bring your whole self to work” “decorate the office with abandon” “team adventure room outings” type vibe). Pretty much all the other [much younger, first time in college] students thought this sounded like an amazing place to work. I [42, decades of corporate work experience, devoted AAM reader] thought it sounded god-awful and I would never ever make it there. I don’t come to work to start clubs and hobbies with my coworkers…I come to get paid and provide my service in exchange for said money, in a rational and professional environment that is decently caring (did appreciate the food sent to me when my mom was hospitalized) but never ever “like family” (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has several family members they simply do not speak to ever…).

      1. Christina*

        Its PSTD flashback time to high school with pep rallies and lockers with signs on them “You GO! Robby!!!!!” for the mediocre basketball team……While everyone did their best to try and ignore the state championship Math team…….

  39. Ayla*

    The part where you were “encouraged” to sparkle and sunshine your way through a lack of equipment made my pandemic-brain wonder whether people in your department take needed sick days. This culture where people are pep machine first and humans never has to make it difficult to call out when you’re under the weather.

    There are just so many issues with this kind of work environment.

  40. This is My Happy Face*

    “I physically can’t meet this level of enthusiasm and energy without violating our company’s drug policy”

    What a mood

      1. Sandrilene fa Toren*

        “Jim, I’m gonna need you to share whatever you’re on if you want me to get that hyped about some slides.”

      2. JSPA*

        Yeah, this has a “they’re doing lines in the bathroom” vibe for me (but I may be showing my age).

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I laughed so hard at that line. So well put, and the sign of a truly self-aware individual. Good for you, OP, in recognizing this. I wish you the best of luck, and please know you made at least one person’s day much brighter, even though that wasn’t your intent.

  41. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who literally started panic-breathing while reading this.

    Excuse me while I go hide in my conference room and avoid human contact ALL DAY

  42. tessa*

    I would rather have spiders lay eggs in my ears. This ultra-positivity is a toxicity unto itself and not anywhere near discussed (not the blog, just anywhere) as a workplace aggression. Also, not to undermine your medical condition, but Alison is spot on – this would drain anyone. Just…no. omg. NO.

    I’m sorry, LW. If it gets worse – could that even be possible? – and if you’re able to, go elsewhere.

  43. animaniactoo*

    LW, I’m guessing one of the reasons people request you rather than your co-workers with the wide open calendars is that you are the sane person they can handle dealing with.

    Also, Evil Me™ suggests answering all the obnoxious “where’s your pep?” “where’s your sparkle?” with “I left it on Aisle 4.” Calmly, and possibly even cheerful in your low-energy style.

  44. Missb*

    But how many piece of flair do they want you to wear?

    Omg I would strangle the person that called me a beautiful bitch.

  45. a tester, not a developer*

    I sometimes work with people who have that whole “I’m living the dream! No, REEALLY!” thing going on. Like OP, I’ve got chronic medical stuff going on – and I’m just not peppy by nature. I decided to lean in hard on my reputation as The Croaking Voice of Doom (TM). Every project needs one. Luckily my leader agrees that it’s not ‘negativity’; it’s ‘realism’.

    1. Happy Grouch*

      I’d wear a pin picturing Eeyore with a: ‘my sparkle is kept inside’ inscription in addition to this.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I may have to try to make these buttons. I hang out with introverts who can be very sarcastic some days.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Sometimes it’s important to recede into the shadows, wailing “DOOM” with a raven on your shoulder (or perhaps a small black cat).

  46. NewCEO*

    I worked with a boss like this — and she was the devil incarnate. She’s the reason I spent years writing several exclamation marks after every! single! sentence! to show my enthusiasm! I had to fake being SUPER HAPPY AND PEPPY at all times because if I didn’t, she’d question my loyalty.

    It was the most toxic workspace I’ve ever worked in. I left after a year and spent the next few years recovering from workplace PTSD. The toxic positivity was just the tip of the iceberg of a highly dysfunctional company that was definitely involved in shady business dealings.

    1. anonymous73*

      I wouldn’t have lasted a week in that place. I am physically unable to fake enthusiasm and have no poker face. In fact my last boss told me once that I have no poker voice on conference calls. In addition I inherited ym grandmother’s RBF.

      Glad you escaped! (notice my pep LOL)

  47. Mannheim Steamroller*

    I’m exhausted just reading this.

    Do they also make you sing “Everything is Awesome” (the annoyingly perky theme song from The Lego Movie) every few minutes?

    1. Jam on Toast*

      Nice! Malicious compliance could also be whistling a rousing round of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” Not only is it an ear worm of epic proportions, there’d be something extra funny about singing a peppy song about death by crucifixion and having it sail right over their sparkling little heads. Doo-doo-dee-do-dee-do-dee-do.

  48. Eliza*

    This would drive me absolutely bonkers. I’m a naturally dry, low-key person and had a single co-worker like this. I dealt with it by purposefully keeping my energy low when she exploded pep at me, and she eventually took the hint, but that probably won’t work if the whole department is a pep machine.

    In addition to Alison’s excellent advice, I might prepare some phrases that could undercut the over-the-top enthusiasm and really stick to them. “I actually don’t need a pep talk, I need my computer update” or “Let’s set the pep aside and focus on the task at hand” or “I don’t need sparkle to do my job well.” Be really intentional and vocal that you are declining to participate in toxic positivity and it may not stop completely but hopefully it will stop it from being directed AT YOU.

  49. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Holy pickled mackerel on toast, I’m exhausted just reading all that, and my physical health is fine! I would get SO DEPRESSED working here and dealing with all that. (At some point I’d probably lose my temper, TBH.) I’m impressed the OP has stuck it out there so long, I’d be trying to transfer out of that department. WOW.

  50. Really?*

    I do not see in any work environment, how being called a “beautiful bitch” is appropriate. I would rather swim in a pool full of snakes than work in a SUPER! HAPPY! CULT! ENVIRONMENT!

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Having swum in a pool trying to catch venomous snakes, I heartily agree with you! The copperheads don’t call me a beautiful-ass bitch.

      1. quill*

        Point me to the ball pythons, KoiFeeder. That’s the kind of work environment I need: a lapful of the world’s chillest snakes

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I cannot hook you up with multiple ball pythons but I can hook you up with a single ball python known as Big Billy, the local supreme lumpus. He will sit anywhere, anytime, no problem.

  51. I edit everything*

    I’d be tempted to start carrying a bag of glitter around, and every time someone asked me about my “sparkle,” I’d blow a handful of it in their face. Pretty soon everyone would be cursing sparkle.

  52. North Wind*

    OP, please don’t think your normal mindset/behavior is negative in contrast to the circus around you (you mentioned hoping you didn’t come across like the cheap all rolls gal). This would be an unbearable culture for a lot of people even without a medical condition.

    I had a job once where in the onboarding process, the HR Director told us newbies we had to be positive and went on this huge and very creepy rant where every phrase ended with “you WILL be fired!”. “So it’s Monday morning and you’re really not a morning person but you see your colleague in the elevator on the way in – you will smile and say hello or YOU WILL BE FIRED”.

    There was a mandatory peer mentor/mentee program so new folks could get to know different parts of the company. You shadow someone on their job and they shadow you on yours. For every relationship, there were 12, we had to sign separate positivity pledges which included the words “I promise to exude positivity”.

    I had that job in my mid-late 30s and it was the first time in my life I played the lottery, just desperate to get out of there as quickly as possible. I felt like I had taken a wrong turn in life and somehow ended up in a nightmare of a teen summer camp.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      “If you’re not fired with enthusiasm, then you will be FIRED — with enthusiasm!!”

    2. Nanani*

      That reminds me of tutorial videos for MMO boss fights. They often go “dodge the thing or YOU WILL DIE,” and so on as they explain.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      *shudder* I would have had my resume out within the first week.

      I value quiet competence, not performative positivity. My gut instinct to nope right out of there would be screaming at me non-stop.

  53. alienor*

    Tbh, I would be tempted to tell Jim to eat dirt in this situation. I don’t have any advice, OP, but wow do you have my sympathy. It sounds like a nightmare.

  54. Michelle Smith*

    Just putting another comment out there to express what others already have – this environment is toxic af and I wouldn’t last 5 minutes there without cursing someone out. I am low energy as well, but that’s not why. I am just one of those people that has a drier, darker sense of humor and a need to be able to (productively) vent about legitimate concerns without my input being taken as an affront. Toxic positivity is a real thing and I admire your willingness to try to stick it out at this company. I would have quit a very long time ago.

  55. Evonon*

    My abelism alarms are also going off. Managing work and an illness/treatment is really hard. OP, you are kicking major ass at work and there is nothing wrong with being yourself. In the autism community, we use the term masking to describe having to hide traits to better fit in. Not surprisingly, this can lead to burn out and sometimes depression.

    You do not need to put on show for these people. Oftentimes, people get uncomfortable with neutral statements regarding illness or stress because it doesn’t fit into the currated image of “Insert Condition Here” Warrior. You are already kicking ass in your role. You have so much more power than you even realize. Another coworker stood up for you because they knew Jim was out of line. People notice your work performance and how inappropriate this enthusiasm is and how it’s targeted at you. You do not need to be a sparkle bitch to outshine these people.

  56. Overit*

    OP- this situation jas nothing to do with your medical condition. It has to do with a normal person bring surrounded by idiots.

    1. sb51*

      No, it absolutely does have to do with OPs condition because the condition makes it much harder/impossible to fake the sparkle, and that’s actually super important here.

      Yes, it’s toxic positivity run amok there, but I’m guessing there’s a bunch of coworkers who are just pasting on a grin and Jim isn’t picking on them.

      If it were, say, ugly harsh fluorescent lighting that almost everyone hated except the boss who thought it was nice and bright and pleasant, and it gave OP migraines, they’d be in a similar boat: there’s a thing that both annoys the heck out of a “normal” person and directly has specific bad consequences for someone with a disability _on top of_ the annoyance.

      1. anonymous73*

        Her medical condition isn’t unimportant, but it’s not the actual issue here. These people are banana crackers. As someone without a medical condition and a low key personality, working with people like this would be emotionally draining.

        1. A Wall*

          Alright, then as someone who does have a medical condition that keeps my energy dropped a lot of the time, I can tell you that it is in fact a big contributing part of the issue here. Yeah most people would be annoyed by this, yeah it’s toxic positivity. And it’s because it’s already a negative environment that having the additional barrier of a chronic illness makes it even worse and more precarious for the LW.

          Saying the illness is an issue is not a description of blame towards the LW, it’s highlighting that this problem is additionally dangerous for people in an already-marginalized group. The illness is in fact an issue because this environment is even more hostile to disabled folks, and that’s a big problem. It is not helpful to sweep that aside just because abled folks also wouldn’t like having to deal with it. I think you folks are coming at this from the angle of “they should stop doing this regardless of whether or not anyone who works there has a chronic illness.” Which is true. However, it is still important to call out that they have created an environment that additionally disadvantages marginalized people (which I would imagine goes across the board, as people already like to police women and especially women of color on their tone) on top of how it is bad for everyone who isn’t in one of those groups.

  57. SheriffFatman*

    Office Space has you covered:

    Peter: Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday, and you’re not feelin’ real well, does anyone ever say to you, ‘Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays’?

    Lawrence: No. No, man. S***, no, man. I believe you’d get your a** kicked sayin’ something like that, man.

    1. Tex*

      “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

  58. JSPA*

    This thread will–naturally–produce a lot of moral support, “I can’t even” and eyerolling on behalf of OP.

    But in terms of process, if OP does not want to disclose health stuff, some redirecting comebacks may be more helpful.

    For the vast majority of responses (the ones that don’t include true impossibilities like, “you being a [body comment] [b-word] means you can create hardware out of thin air” which can be either reported or ignored as the “moving my mouth for the sake of making noise” nonsense that they are!) there’s a basic winning answer:

    “I put all my sparkle into the work.”

    Repeat as needed, with variations.

    “I put all my pep and rainbows into that shiny, shiny proposal. They’ll love it, you should, too.”

    “I put all that good love into client effort. They’ll be floating, you’ll see.”

    If can say the happy words, but quietly, rather than while bouncing like a majorette, the positivity of the words will make the quiet register as a calm after glow.

    Alternativel, seeing you’re with people who (semi-reasonably?) believe that your low energy is some form of sadness that requires cheering…and seeing you don’t want to take the step to clarify the actual situation, which is of course your prerogative…and you don’t want them to force-cheer you…then guiding them into the type of upbeat call-and-response that you do want, is likely the simplest option.

    “Sam, Janette–so nice to see your smiling faces! Beam them at me for a few seconds, so I can bask.”

    Or out-gonzo them, but in an un-bouncy way.

    “I’m on a kick of directing the energy inwards. You can’t see it, but it’s like smiling on a cellular level. Have you ever stopped and looked inwards, and tried to feel your pancreas and your spleen get in tune with the universe? It’s just the absolute best.”

    And even for the missing part, you can set it up for the response you want–quietly–as, “You guys are the best, and between manager’s expedited request, and all your positive energy, I look forward to getting my replacement thingumabob in a few days, which is penultimate requirement for this project.”

    The other obvious answer is, “transfer teams” or “ask to sit with collaborators on some other team.”

    But if you enjoy some of the silly energy (except when you’re called upon to manifest it, or it’s blatantly counterproductive) then meeting their “this is how I am positive, join me” nonsense with your own “ah, but THIS is how *I* am positive, join ME” carefully selected nonsense, has solid potential.

    And, who knows, if they do direct some of that energy inwards, or towards their projects (now THERE is a novel thought…) their performance of their actual work may even improve.

    1. school of hard knowcs*

      Good practical solutions. Distract and deflect.
      Anytime, someone starts a conversation with me I don’t want… I stand as I am speaking pickup a piece of paper and walk away.
      Any over the top positive will fix everything. Possible answer, smile, pause ‘or a hardware board’ and then go back to the topic. or “I just do the work and watch my clients sparkle”, smile and then go back to the topic. Complement the person on something good they did. Or I was thinking about world domination or wowing my client, I get back to you on the sparkle.
      I have a hard time believing everybody spouting this stuff really wants to, see how many you can vacuum off the sparkle.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I think Captain Awkward calls this the “bean dip” approach:

      “I put my sparkle into the end product. Isn’t this bean dip great?”

      Smile-acknowledge-change subject. I’ve tried it and found it useful in many situations.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      These are great suggestions. I especially love the idea about saying you put the sparkle into the work/product. And getting all metaphysical about your organs being in tune with the universe is excellent.

      Based on the description of the interaction with Jim, I think that the coworkers aren’t really listening to the words OP says; they’re focusing on demeanour/energy level.

  59. I exist*

    I’m imagining everyone’s enthusiasm is also loud. “I’m not negative just because I’m not yelling, Jim.” You said it’s great ffs

  60. Teapot Wrangler*

    Sending you lots of patience because I think you must be running out! I don’t know how I’d deal with a whole team of people being OTT like this. We have one guy on an adjacent team to mine like this and even though we hardly interact, he still makes me roll my eyes almost every time I see a message from him. Yesterday he said he “literally can’t wait” to be sent a boring piece of technical guidance and my eyes nearly rolled out of my head. Don’t know how you’re coping with multiple people who seem even worse!!!

  61. Happy Grouch*

    I highly recommend the magical eyebrow.
    If you want to know what that is just watch Mary Poppins, the old movie.
    Within this cheerful, bubbly obscenity of toxic positivity Mary is in fact the only person not being cheerful and bubbly all the time. (unless she sings. Please don’t start singing!)
    You don’t need to be overly ‘toddler on espresso’ (btw. I love this phrase, you’re my hero LW!) to survive such an environment. The only thing you need is an eyebrow that can rise as high as a kite and a good, stern look with an amused smile. Just look at them, no talking, magical eyebrow raised, that Mona Lisa smile on your face for a few pointed seconds like Mary does when someone behaves silly. Then go on with business as if you haven’t heard anything from them about attitude.
    They’ll soon cease to make those comments against you if your office is otherwise halfway decent and from what you write I’d say it is.
    It helped me a lot. People will interpret this as you having a very dry sense of humour instead of being a sourpuss. And when people perceive you as humourous, half the battle is won. Let them hype themselves as much as they want, you just lean back and enjoy the show. (You sound creative in your writing so if you can, imagine a Benny Hill theme in your head while they’re hyping around, that’ll help with the smile even when you’re exhausted) Smile your little smile. Let yourself laugh at the silliness if you feel like it and otherwise just do your job well, focus your main energy on the work you do, raising your magic eyebrow, smiling your amused little low energy smile, while others waste it on appearing maniac about filing or ecstatic over a spreadsheet, I bet your manager will like that. You’ll see, it helps and there’s no need to be hyper.

    1. Happy Grouch*

      Oh and of course I only meant that to be a survival strategy to help you short term, in the moment.
      I’m not saying you should just suck it up forever and endure. Alison’s advice is as usual spot on!
      But until something changes, it can make things easier to bear.

  62. Gnome*

    I… Don’t know what I would do in your shoes. I can say there would be a good chance of my being excessively blunt.
    “Where’s your sparkle?” Me: “Wow. That’s obnoxious.”
    “Why so negative?”
    Me: “Wow. That wasn’t negative, that was answering your question.”

    It’s probably passive aggressive, but basically shoves back matter of fact-ly at their positivity…and if they want positive responses, this will get old with them quickly.

    On the other hand, I might be inclined to take this as commenting on appearance. “Where’s your sparkle?” Me: It’s not appropriate to comment on people’s bodies. Please don’t comment on my appearance again.

    That may be so awkward for them, they might stop.

    But I’d probably also look to see who seems to be faking it and recruit them.

    And I’d most definitely start wearing more black and muted colors.

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      I too would be inclined to use the return awkward to sender method with the “where’s your sparkle?” but I’d probably not pull it off very well

    2. a tester, not a developer*

      I own a t-shirt that says “Black Is My Happy Colour”. I have only worn it to work once. It did what was required.

  63. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    LW, you are a superb writer with a great sense of humor. I do not have an autoimmune disease and I would find this absolutely exhausting. There you are concentrating on turning out excellent work and making the clients happy while the rest of them are busy doing cartwheels and backflips. Cartwheels and backflips don’t get the work done! You’ve gotten a lot of good advice here. Definitely go to HR.

  64. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    I’d be tempted to come to work dressed up like Jennifer Anniston from Office Space. Then if someone gives you the positive toxicity- show them your 15 pieces of flair!

    No additional advice, just commiseration that would be so annoying. I could see brushing off some comments here & there but being told to change your mindset when you need technology? Yikes.

  65. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    At my workplace, we’ve really embraced more awareness of mental health, taking a “I’m not myself” day when needed, we have a very robust EAP program, and there’s a huge demand for mental health first aid training.

    This constant positivity is absolutely ableist – and it strikes me as a complete denial that mental health issues exist! If you need a mental health day, it would be worse to say “You can do this!!!” That could be in fact very harmful.

    It also risks veering into privilege issues: it’s easier to feel that “you can do this!!!” when you’ve got a good home life, a good pay, supportive family/manager and not in a marginalized group.

  66. Critical Rolls*

    Buy some cheap sequinned tops to wear to work. Sparkle problem solved!

    Really, though, where is your manager or department head in all this? Because it’s fully bananas and absolutely detrimental to the work of the department if reality isn’t allowed when it’s not shiny; or if people are spending time policing pep.

    1. londonedit*

      Oh, god. I have a Christmas jumper that’s just a black jumper, but with two sequinned sparkly Christmas puddings over the boobs. OP should gather a collection of similar tops and then when Jim asks where her sparkle is, she could just wordlessly point to the boobs. Extra points for just pointing and not even breaking concentration from her work.

    2. Happy Grouch*

      I’d feel tempted to tie a sparkly tissue on a stick and pull it out for a short wave to just put it back and go on as if nothing happened whenever someone made a comment.

  67. BadBossesSuck*

    “I get wonderful feedback from my clients and I’m one of the most sought-after consultants in our company. I have a waiting list, many of them are willing to wait for me despite my “rockstar” colleagues having an open calendar.”

    I wonder if your boss and HR are aware of this fact — that clients are waiting for you to be free, and not going to the “rock stars” in your workplace.

    And I’m with Ariaflame — “I’m sparkling on the inside Jim”
    Besides, no one wants to sparkle on the outside like a vampire in the Twilight movies. :D

  68. Sad Desk Salad*

    I got real MLM vibes from some of the things LW’s colleagues are saying! I don’t have an autoimmune disorder and I got exhausted reading that letter. In fact, in my field, I’M usually the one with too much energy, and even so, I need another cup of coffee just imagining LW’s experience. Glad you’re getting some good advice, LW, wishing you the best.

    1. Jzilbeck*

      Same here! Definitely similar language to what MLM huns say to each other in “training.”

      This letter also gave me “life ain’t that bad, you should smile more!” vibes…and I’m honestly not sure which is more infuriating.

  69. Observer*

    OP, I don’t have a lot of geed advice to give you. But I do want to say this:

    Someone else already mentioned how great your expression “toddler on espresso” is. I agree completely. It also tells me that you cannot be like the “cheap ass rolls” person, because you have a sense of humor, something that that person almost certainly lacks.

    PS If your department is being told to dial it back and others have complained about them, it really IS them, not you.

  70. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I don’t know if I’d have the presence of mind to do this, but all of that stuff deserves a return awkward to sender type of response.
    “Where’s your sparkle today?” — “Why do you ask?”
    “You can’t have a case of the Mondays today, we’ve got to be rockstars”–“Are you suggesting that my work is subpar?”
    “Why so negative?”– “what makes you say that?”

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      “My clients already think I’m a rockstar — so much so that I have a waiting list while your calendar still has openings. So my work can’t possibly be subpar.”

  71. KoiFeeder*

    I physically recoiled at parts of this letter. This is the literal nightmare scenario for me. As in, I have nightmares about this exact thing.

  72. Gnome*

    You know… Maybe we’re approaching this wrong. Maybe any toxic positivity comments need to be heard as, “I have free time and would like to do some of your work.”

    “Where’s your sparkle?”

    You’re right, it would be so helpful if you reached out to IT about the status of my new equipment! Thanks for volunteering to help! I’ll expect to hear back on that by 3:00. Now that you’ve got that covered, I’m going to take care of this client. Bye!

    Or maybe that’s just me being snarky. But I’d bet that will get them to back off… Especially if you can say it with a bit if energy.

    1. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      Yes! Or wave magic hands in the air, look around hopefully, say “My sparkle didn’t fix the machine. Sounds like you could look into getting the machine fixed. Thanks so much buh bye.” Probably too snarky.

  73. Hollywood Handshake*

    Yes, OP, you have every right to feel this way, medical condition or not. Being surrounded by this sounds like it would drain what normal energy I have, certainly with nothing left to “sparkle”. And I know I’d feel like this anyway, but if someone cheer-led me like this today at 8 months pregnant, my reaction would probably cause them to remove the “beautiful” from their statement.

  74. Joielle*

    As I was reading this letter, all I could think of was that episode of Parks and Rec where an organization called Kaboom comes and builds a playground in a day, and Paul Scheer’s whole character is based on exactly this type of over-the-top aggressive positivity. Most of the characters hate it, Leslie loves it, and (spoiler alert) she gets in trouble trying to “Kaboom” other problems by doing whatever she wants without asking permission or thinking about consequences. Turns out, all problems can’t be solved by just seizing the day and making no excuses and whatever!

    I don’t have useful advice, but OP, maybe watch that episode if you need some catharsis :)

  75. Alexis Rosay*

    OP, this sounds terrible and draining. I even wonder if part of the reason you are in demand is that your coworkers’ energy is off-putting to clients, too. I personally would much rather work with someone with…a normal or low energy level. It reminds me of a dentist I went to who was super hyped up about teeth cleaning–I did not particularly like that.

  76. Butterfly Counter*

    The first time I taught a class on my own, it was a Statistics class that was held from 8am to noon MWF during the summer in a building where the AC was broken. It got ROUGH, especially since I had to be up at 4:30am most days to make it in on time and prepared. We basically all got through that class together like we had been through a battle.

    One of my favorite evaluations from that semester was from a student who wrote, “I appreciated my professor looked as miserable to be in class as the rest of us were a lot of the time.”

    I had a guest lecturer come in one day to help break up the sound of my own voice teaching for so long. He came in with so much volume, positivity, and enthusiasm that I saw a number of barely awake students actively recoil! After he left after the first half of the class, students sighed in relief and asked me not to have him back again. At least not so early.

    There are times people can be okay with enthusiasm. 8am in a hot classroom while learning stats is apparently not one of them! :D

  77. ElizabethJane*

    Not gonna lie if I saw this on TV I’d just laugh and laugh and laugh.

    Also I really hope I can call someone a beautiful bitch at some point in my career.

    But this does sound exhausting and I’m sorry.

  78. RagingADHD*

    I think it’s telling that LW is constantly requested and the others have open calendars.

    I’m a fan of the dry comment, and I’d probably start responding to questions like “where’s your pep?” with something like “Laser focused, Jim. Don’t want to waste it.”

  79. Minimum Amount of Flare*

    As a naturally “bubbly” person, I can say your co-workers would be the end of me. I couldn’t handle it.

    I love Alison’s advice. I think showing that it clearly isn’t having any affect on your ability to attract and retain clients and do your job well. Perhaps it is what is making clients come to you instead of your toddler-on-espresso co-workers in fact. And I do think explaining it really is an inclusivity issue. Are there other people in the department that show the minimum amount of flare to go unnoticed that are also dying inside? Clearly other departments are hating it. It is probably turning off potential hires. This will totally hurt them in the long run, not just with you – a star employee – but with clients (ie revenue) and their retention.

    As for how to deal with it in the moment – I love the answer of saying your sparkle is in the inside. OMG. I am so stealing that! I do think keeping entirely neutral and turning it around on them is a fantastic way of making them justify why toxic positivity is necessary all the time. Also, a good attitude will fix your technical problem? Great! Invite that co-worker on over to use their magical powers to fix that piece of equipment for you since they have those abilities!

  80. MEH Squared*

    LW, it’s not you in case you need confirmation on that. Just reading your letter makes me want to take a nap. I can’t help but notice that you are a standout among your coworkers no matter how cheerleader-y they get. And people in other departments have commented on how off-putting your coworkers are as well. In other words, you are not the problem here. I would probably ignore people like Jim when he asks why so negative, but I don’t do well with empty positivity.

  81. Essentially Cheesy*

    Wow, that sounds like an awful environment with no allowances made for personality differences – and not even factoring possible health/medical factors. I know that I probably portray “low energy” just because I’m an introvert – I would probably fail spectacularly in this environment.

    I realize that I may need to lighten up, but “Don’t let that stop you! You can do anything, you beautiful bitch! It’s all about mindset!” would drive me over the edge. That seems completely inappropriate but it probably depends on the environment ….

    1. Observer*

      Well, you sure are not the only one. I honestly don’t know if I would react at all appropriately. That’s just SOOOO inappropriate

  82. Joanna*

    If someone at work called me a Beautiful Bitch, my response would not be professional. It would be along the lines of my response I gave the last time a man at work told me to smile. (IT was worth the look on his face when I said FU to him. I didn’t get in trouble, and no one has said it to me again in10 years.)

    Here’s your sparkle! Tosses open container of glitter.

    1. Girasol*

      That was my take: the whole thing sounds like one big “Smile, darling! You’d be prettier if you’d smile more, sweetheart!” I wonder how OP would fare at another employer that valued expertise over such fluffery, and how fast the current employer would figure out how to adjust the culture if they realized she might be thinking about that.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I would buy a pack of sparklers and just wordlessly hand them one when asked “Where’s your sparkle!!1!!”

  83. Sara without an H*

    I physically can’t meet this level of enthusiasm and energy without violating our company’s drug policy.

    On reading your letter, my first thought was that somebody on this team is, indeed, violating your company’s drug policy for fun and profit.

    On a more serious note, please follow Alison’s advice and talk with HR and your manager. You want to get some formal assurance that being culturally different from the rest of the team won’t be held against you.

    After that, you can work on a personal strategy to enforce boundaries with your coworkers. Personally, I’d be either job searching or looking for an internal transfer.

    Good luck, and please send us an update.

    1. Observer*

      I really agree with this. The OP actually sounds like someone I would REALLY like to work with – competent, good at what they do, low drama, and with an actual sense of humor to boot.

  84. Sled Dog Mama*

    Ugh this environment sounds awful. I would run for the hills and take that waiting list with you.

    I have often wondered if those toxically positive people who leave other workplaces because their toxic positivity isn’t a good fit end up together and now I know they do and it’s just as awful as one would imagine.

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      And if someone called me a beautiful bitch at work I would be talking to someone about inappropriate language in the workplace!

  85. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Who the HELL has this kind of energy and wherewithal to be this excited about their work 2 (almost 3) years into a pandemic???!?!?!? What about the exhausted parents? (See posts from earlier this week and last), the burnout Millennials?
    Are lobotomies part of this department’s onboarding process and you somehow luckily missed out???

    1. Observer*

      What about anyone with care-giving responsibilities, anyone who lives with someone in a front-line type of job (retail, healthcare, teaching, etc), or anyone with “underlying conditions” that make them more vulnerable to Covid and the vaccines less effective, and / or anyone living with someone with these health issues?

      Which is to say, that there is a HUGE swath of the population for whom this is a more that usually bad thing.

  86. Avril Ludgateau*

    This sounds like a dystopian nightmare of a workplace. Like, there is some sort of collective “positivity monitor” and if the department dips below it, all the employees are tortured.

    Open Office, directed by Jordan Peele. Coming summer 2023.

  87. Olive*

    Yeah, absolutely not. We have one super positive person on our team. She has a really high pitched voice and every time she speaks it sounds like she’s giving someone the news that they just won the 100 million dollar lottery or something. Insanely peppy and while others constantly compliment her energy, inside I’m cringing. It’s almost like she’s sucking up my energy as well because after just a short half hour meeting with this person, I am completely drained and need hours to recuperate. That’s bad enough. If I was surrounded by people like her, like the OP, I would 100% quit.

  88. Robin Ellacott*

    Empathy for the letter writer because even without having a health factor at play I think I WOULD have told Jim to eat dirt! This is completely unreasonable and bizarre. It’s like some collective, aggressive refusal to live in the real world (“you can do anything! even without the necessary equipment!”).

    I would also bet they are driving clients a bit batty with their squealing, gushing, and denial.

    Personally I don’t think I could stand it, but I like the smiling “nah, I get more chill the happier I am, personally” approach to defuse it. I hope you get somewhere with your boss and HR because this is a terrible culture and a little bullying.

  89. Tech and Pearls*

    Oh I would go nuts here. While high energy can be great when it’s authentic and, you know, at a comfortable level (not a WHERE’S YOUR SPARKLE level), I think many, many people feel that a superficial/fake take on it is truly demoralizing. Colleagues forcing this level of “positivity” would make me question why – like are they actually miserable if they don’t hype themselves up constantly? I guess I think that in a healthy workplace, your colleagues should feel respected and valued even without being reminded that they’re OUT OF THIS WORLD daily.

  90. just a thought*

    For what it’s worth, I would much rather work with a consultant that tells me they need a piece of expensive hardware to complete a project so it will be delayed until she has the proper equipment over anyone that tries to overcome not having the equipment to do her job with a positive “mindset”
    Seems like your clients already agree

    1. Tech and Pearls*

      Right? I would find it quite unprofessional (and of course, just odd) for a consultant to try to overcome a broken piece of hardware with a positive mindset.

    2. Observer*


      And, depending on what exactly what the OP and their company does, it may be more than just “unprofessional”. It may actually flat out dangerous.

      I mean trying to get out some large scale technical drawings without the correct plotter *is* going to waste time, annoy a lot of people, and probably waste a fair bit of money. But it probably won’t endanger anyone’s life. Trying to test drive a car without the correct brakes, on the other hand. . .

      I’m sure that the people on the Deepwater Horizon who decided to drill despite the known issues also thought you could overcome as long as you have the “right mindset”. It didn’t quite work out that way, did it?

  91. Not your typical admin*

    Oh my gosh, this workplace would drive me crazy. I’m a pretty positive person, but places like this drain me, and I find them to be fake. OP – I imagine you’re actually going to be sought out by clients over your coworkers because people value authenticity over an energy level that is just impossible to maintain. I don’t need someone to tell me how great they are and shove problems under the rug in the name of positivity. I need honest answers and fixes to problems.

  92. Twisted Lion*

    LW as someone who has also chronic fatigue from an autoimmune I am just cringing UGH. Ive told coworkers/managers about my illness/fatigue and besides the use “try yoga” line, they tend to forget its a thing. I wish I had some words of wisdom. Its total abelism. Good luck. Sounds like the job itself is great, its just this culture of acting like a weirdo that is the issue.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Had someone tell me to try acupuncture to fix a broken wrist once. His reaction to my response was hilarious.

      My manager’s response to his complaint was even funnier.

  93. as sparkly as i can get*

    May I just say that I wish I could write as well as you? I struggle with this pep as well, but the most I can manage is an explanation point when one really isn’t needed!!!! (much less four).

  94. Pippa K*

    OP I just want to say I’d love to have you as a colleague because you’re an excellent writer and “exhausted but funny” is a very compatible vibe. Come and sit by me.

  95. Our Lady of Tralfamadore*

    I’m sorry, but this department needs to be quarantined until we can figure out what the hell is going on

  96. I Faught the Law*

    While I agree with everyone saying that this would drive most people crazy even without a disability, I fully agree with the LW that it is extremely ableist. I suffer from depression and severe anxiety, and this environment would render me nonfunctional (i.e. so depressed that I would be unable to get out of bed in the morning and go to the office at all.) I don’t know what to say except that I’m sorry you’re going through this OP. I hope you can either get HR involved with some success, or find a more normal working environment.

  97. Trek*

    Constantly negative people are equally as worthless and hard to deal with as those who push toxic positivity. I would seriously start calling all of them fake and tell them if they have to try so hard to appear happy they must be truly miserable. Make an appointment with HR and start with the beautiful bitch comment and go from there, I’m sure you will receive swift action. Also tell HR you want transferred ASAP if that’s at all possible/reasonable.

  98. EnergyGarlic*

    A) I would read anything that you write OP, this was delightfully worded. Today I learned that I work with caffeinated toddlers too and it makes so much sense.
    B) I am so sorry and also impressed that you manage to work under constant attack from the positivity Fae. Please do not make any promises to them whatever you do. I hope that they move on soon and leave you alone.

  99. HelpWitch*

    I think you are absolutely not out of line in your demeanor or tone, and you work with some people who would annoy me to no end, but one thing you can try to make a head fake in their direction is to add a single exclamation point to any email you send them, on whatever sentence you want. “It turned out great.” vs “It turned out great!” It’s really subtle but it might be just enough to skate by.

  100. Colorado*

    Ugh. I have nothing but flashbacks of watching Trolls with my young kiddo hundreds of times..
    You do you OP. Sounds like you have the performance and clientele behind you.

  101. Jessica Fletcher*

    I bet a lot of clients hate this, too. This sounds like a too bright Disney Channel sitcom.

  102. Kevin Sours*

    Honestly my mind went straight to Office Space:
    Peter Gibbons : Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?”

    Lawrence : No. No, man. Shit, no, man. I believe you’d get your ass kicked sayin’ something like that, man.

    1. Susan Ivanova*

      Likewise. It’s the only place I’ve ever heard it, and it was very obvious that if you’re saying “case of the Mondays” you should also be asking yourself “are we the baddies?”

  103. BorisTheGrump*

    I LOST it at “Don’t let that stop you! You can do anything, you beautiful bitch!”

    I would potentially say this to a friend. I’m about to write it on my own to-do list. At work?! When My computer is broken? Absolutely the eff not.

    Also, anyone who is actively worrying about being a cheap-ass rolls type almost certainly is not one.

    1. Salymander*

      Exactly. OP is in no way a cheap ass rolls person. Not even close. OP is a good writer with a lovely sense of humor and sounds like a very pleasant and competent person to have as a coworker. I don’t know what the heck is wrong with these coworkers, though. I mean, FFS! In what way does being a beautiful bitch with tons of sparkle make it possible to manifest computer parts out of thin air? How does that work? Do they even hear themselves when they say these things? You can’t fix a problem without acknowledging that the problem exists! I am rolling my eyes so hard it is starting to give me a headache. Sheesh!

  104. Dark Macadamia*

    This reminds me of The Good Place when Eleanor’s neighbors are genuinely delighted to be cleaning up after the trash storm. *strained smile* “You guys are so fun. Just relentlessly fun. I keep thinking, ‘When are they gonna stop being fun?’ And the answer is never. You’re never gonna stop.”

    1. Kevin Sours*

      That’s a different kind of toxic. I have a hard time picturing dude-bros talking about “sparkle”

  105. AAM SuperFan*

    Please tell me that this letter predated the pandemic, because a culture and expectation of “radical pep” during a global pandemic is just utterly nuts!

    1. Observer*

      It’s utterly nuts at any time. People who can say stuff this toxically stupid are not going to be aware enough to realize that a global pandemic just makes it worse. They are far more likely to say that this is ESPECIALLY the time to BE POSITIVE! After all, it’s all MINDSET!

      Remember – these are people who think it’s reasonable to expect something that is physically not possible because “it’s all mindset”

  106. Khatul Madame*

    This conflict was immortalized in the old film “Addams Family Values” where Wednesday and Pugsley go to Camp Chippewa.

  107. DarthVelma*

    Honestly, I wonder what these people are hiding under all that fake surface level manic positivity. It cannot possibly be good. I am vaguely terrified.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      It’s probably just that they’re scared and miserable.
      However, I think anyone who tries to get at the root cause needs to be prepared for meltdowns and a lot of handholding.

  108. Lorelai*

    This sounds exhausting. Give me my workplace’s sarcasm and dark humor and light cynicism any day over that level of toxic positivity.

  109. Perdita Von Dalmatia*

    I like Alison‘s suggestions for addressing it through the proper channels and I agree with commenters who said the beautiful bitch comment certainly merits a discussion with HR.

    And yes by all means adding responses along the lines of “I am the mellow one” can reinforce the idea that we are all individuals.

    However I see a big red flag in the part about having a broken computer part and someone telling OP they can do anything. Once you’re dealing with people who are so relentlessly positive as to be out of touch with reality, the best thing is to mitigate it while you’re there but make plans to work elsewhere. You cannot just overcome a broken computer with a better mindset. Broken means broken.

    This also suggests that OP is working with people who lack management skills as well as a certain basic level of technical savvy that should be required of anyone in leadership these days. OP May also consider disclosing to HR that a medical condition requires them to manage their energy which they do towards the excellent results that they continue to deliver on time for clients. If there is any justice in this world HR can intervene with management to require them to back off.

  110. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    The other thing about being SUPERLATIVE ALL THE TIME is that you can’t measure anything. If everyone’s work is “out of this world” regardless of quality, and you must always be DELIGHTED and ENERGETIC, then what on earth happens when someone actually fluffs up?

    “Hey, Susan, your last SUPER DUPER EXCEPTIONAL teapot measurements were submitted in millimetres when we needed inches WHICH IS HILARIOUS AND FUN but now we have a gross of toy teapots HEY TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE-DOWN we’re giving you an EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY TO SPEND MORE TIME IN YOUR AWESOME COMMUNITY”

    “Am … am I fired?”

    “Don’t be such a negative Nancy! You’re heading for your NEXT GREAT SUCCESS!”


    “WE HAVE CEREMONIAL GLITTER CANNONS to help you clear your desk.”

    1. Nanani*

      This is also the problem with customer service feedback questionaires asking if everything was FANTASTIC and OUTSTANDING

      “Outstanding” can’t be the baseline! Or there’s no grounds to actually measure anything and you might as well just have a binary good/bad instead of a rating out of 5 or 10 or whatever.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m fully aware that feedback surveys graded 1-5 actually mean 5 is anything even vaguely approaching acceptable and 1-4 mean I think this person should be fired immediately. I score individuals accordingly.

        1. Sara without an H*

          True. What I want from anybody’s Customer Support rep is a resolution of my problem. I don’t require “sparkle” in the process.

          And I always assume that feedback surveys are not designed to “help” the employee and grade accordingly.

        2. Critical Rolls*

          I’ve seen a thing that goes basically: “Terrible service. 5 stars and a 30% tip so this fool can eat.”

        3. UKDancer*

          Me too. My cleaning service asks me to rate their service from 1 (poor) – 7 (amazing). If I score them less than 7 the cleaner gets in trouble. If I score them as 7 she gets extra money. Of course I score them at 7 because I don’t want her to get into trouble and I do want her to get the extra money as she’s supporting her family in Bucharest.

          It bears no resemblance to the actual quality of her work which is fine without being amazing. So it’s a completely pointless exercise.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Or “if everyone is somebody,/ Then no-one’s anybody” (h/t Gilbert & Sullivan, The Gondoliers).

    2. Salymander*

      Deploy the Ceremonial Glitter Cannons

      I am giggling so hard I snorted and woke the cat. She is looking reproachful, but who cares? The Ceremonial Glitter Cannons. They are brilliant.

  111. Anon Y. Mouse*

    It’s certainly one thing to ‘self-sparkle’ in a hyperbolic way

    but the expectation that everyone has to match it and there’s something wrong if you’re not similarly sparkling is…… eughh.

    Every star in the sky shines at a different level and the sky is still beautiful. Calm down!

  112. anonymous73*

    Your medical condition is irrelevant, as in it has no bearing on why these people are ridiculously obnoxious and infuriating. Depending on your relationship with your boss I’d start with them (unless you’ve already addressed this issue and it hasn’t changed). Give them a heads up that you will be reporting this to HR, and go there immediately. And address the comments in the moment, just like any colleague with boundary issues.

    “Don’t let that stop you! You can do anything, you beautiful bitch! It’s all about mindset!”
    “No, it’s LITERALLY about the hardware.”

    “Woah, where’s the pep today? Why so negative?”
    “Lack of enthusiasm does not equal negativity.”

  113. Data Analyst*

    I’m sorry OP! It sounds like it’s feeling to you like you’re drained by this because of your condition, and that makes talking about it more complicated. But it’s just full on weird and obnoxious and would bother almost anyone (like Alison said). Which is cool because it hopefully makes it easier to think of as a Them issue, and leaves you clear to not bring illness into it at all.
    I’d be trying to find a different place to work, but if you want to stay, I think it will help to have a few assertive but even tempered phrases in your back pocket, like
    “We have different energy levels, and I’m okay with that.”
    “It doesn’t feel great when you focus on my energy level, can you stop?”
    “My focus is on the clients, and they like me the way I am.”
    “A lot of clients say they appreciate me being calm and even keel.”
    “Well, my client wait list is three months long, I don’t know what to tell you!” [threw a snarkier one in there]

  114. Semi Bored IT Guy*

    My response would have been something along the lines of “First of all, did I hear you correctly? Did you just call me a bitch?” (wait about 15 seconds, totally silent … let it get awkward) “And secondly, how the f*** do you expect me to do X, Y, and Z, which require (specific computer functions) WITHOUT A COMPUTER? Or are you volunteering to give me yours, so I can finish my work while you go think about what you just said?”

  115. Barking Mad in the US*

    Holy Sparkle and shine. All I can think of is the infamous line “Sparkle, baby, sparkle” from Toddlers and Tiaras! It’s stuck in my head. However, all I can say is listen to the commentariat. Spot on.

  116. University Schlep*

    I would leave your medical out of it. It isn’t an unreasonable expectation BECAUSE you have a medical condition. It is unreasonable period. People should not have to put on a false personality.

  117. lost academic*

    As a manager I so want to stop all of these people when this comes up and have a serious conversation about professionalism. Even if I weren’t their manager I’d probably envision doing that – part seriously and part to screw with them a little – “I’m not sure you realize that your attitude/tone/choice of phrasing is deeply unprofessional and has no place here, I need you to think about being appropriate in a workplace is something you can commit to or if we need to make other plans for your employment”.

    Unless everyone is, I don’t know, a cruise director?

  118. Coder von Frankenstein*

    I would be throwing people out the window. And I don’t have a medical issue aggravating things. In fact, the lack of a medical issue would just mean I could get more distance. “You can hit the other side of the parking lot! Gravity doesn’t matter, it’s all about mindset!”

    (And did somebody actually, non-ironically use the phrase “case of the Mondays?”)

  119. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

    No time today to read through all the comments to see if this has already been said but anyway here it is [again]: I really REALLY hope you don’t feel you need to turn this into a medical accommodation issue, with either HR or your manager, because this problem has nothing whatsoever to do with your physical health. The problem is that your colleagues are simply insufferable. Channel your inner Maggie Smith in your interactions with them, and carry on being the consummate professional that you are.

  120. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    If you’d care for a script: “I’m more of a poise than a pep person” with smile, wink, or deadpan. When they keep going, “It’s really odd that you keep commenting on this. That’s just not how I am.” And if they escalate, “This is really weird and I need you to stop.” “We’ve talked about this and I haven’t changed. Please let it go.” “This is not up for discussion. Stop.” They’re being rude by insisting on a particular expression of an emotional state from you, although it can feel odd to push back. Return rude to sender.

    Also as someone who always errs on Happy Puppy at work (it’s partly my job, partly my temperament), insisting on high energy from everyone is a jerk move. You are, as you know, just fine the way you are and they’re out of line for making it a thing.

    1. Robert S. Teachout*

      oh so helpful! Thank you for providing escalating levels of response. After about the third time (…and I need you to stop.) start documenting the conversations and then take it to the manager and/or HR. At that point, it’s clearly out of bounds and harassing behaviour.

  121. Gonzo Muppet*

    Having just seen “Don’t Look Up,” I couldn’t help but think of the newscasters’ response to Jennifer Lawrence:
    “Are we not being clear? We’re trying to tell you that the entire planet is about to be destroyed.”
    “Well you know, it’s something we do around here. We keep just the bad news light.”

  122. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I wouldn’t last two minutes without telling them all to piss off. And that’s the nice version.

  123. Marco Diaz's Red Hoodie*

    “I can’t meet this level of enthusiasm & energy without violating our company’s drug policy” is such a big mood hahaha. Solidarity, OP — as the comments show, I think we all agree this is a bonkers level of energy and positivity.

  124. TrixieD*

    Holy hell. This sounds like a great mockumentary SuperBowl commercial. Honestly, I’d get out of there and never look back. Kudos to you for sticking around as long as you did. I’m exhausted FOR YOU.

  125. V. Anon*

    This reminds me of a scene I saw in the theater once. One of the characters/actors was getting more and more agitated and demonstrative and loud, while the guy he was talking to got colder and colder and went as still as a rock. The audience was losing it laughing by the end as the first guy was by then SHRIEKING his lines and the other was answering with a deadly whisper.

    The quiet guy was a murderer, just fyi.

  126. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Gotta admit, this is perhaps the first time that I have laughed (ruefully) out loud while reading an AAM letter – at this: “You can do anything, you beautiful bitch!”… an absurd and inappropriate comment from OP’s co-worker. “Where’s your sparkle today?” Good grief! Anyhoo, as others have wrote, I don’t think OP’s medical condition is even an essential part of the analysis of this problematic environment. Many people would have would find this environment off-putting. These Pollyannas are annoying as hell.

  127. All Het Up About It*

    I’m curious how well known it is that this department has been asked to tone it down. You could try responding to some of these comments with “You know Jim/Beautiful Bitch, I think this is what HR was talking about when they asked this department to dial back the enthusiasm. So let’s move on to the next agenda item.” Or “I’m pretty sure that question was an example of what Christine said needed to stop in her last email, so I’ll refrain from commenting on my sparkle and I’ll let you know when I’ve finished with X account’s report.”

    If the OP finds these to exhausting to ask, that’s totally fine, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with flipping the script and reminding the team that they are the OTHER in this company. I get how the OP is worried that their medical issues make this harder, but that’s it. It makes it harder for them, but it would be hard for most of us, so no reason to focus on the hardER and then disclose and have to listen to the litany of I think one commenter said last week “yoga and kale” solutions.

  128. LOL*

    “ I didn’t say “I hope you fall down the stairs, Jim” or “Eat dirt, Jim.” ” made me laugh VERY hard, thank you. You are not angry rolls lady. Best of luck figuring this one out!

  129. CorruptedbyCoffee*

    I work in an environment like this, and it extends even beyond the relentless emotional positivity. We’re also not allowed to talk about problems, even to solve them, and conversations are very carefully steered around any issues for maximum positivity. It’s so exhausting trying to get anything done.

    I once had an entire meeting about the pros and cons of a service where we were not allowed to use the word cons. Our manager wrote out pros and cons in columns on a giant notepad and then crossed out cons and wrote “opportunities.” It reminded me strongly of the love and fear scene in Donny Darko.

    Then again, they also made us sit in a circle on the floor for meetings and tried to require us to use our breaks on a “15 dance party” because we weren’t peppy enough. The average age of our workers is 55.

    1. feral faerie*

      Yeah, this is precisely the problem with toxic positivity in the workplace, beyond the sheet insensitivity of demanding that your colleague act like a Disney character. What if Jim proposes a project that’s unethical? Or a meeting with a client goes poorly and the team decides to debrief and discuss what went wrong? If team members are badgered for negativity, they might feel less inclined to speak up, especially if they’re new to the team or don’t have a lot of social capital.

  130. JR*

    The writer should document her medical condition with HR. Assuming the medical condition rises to the level of a disability, this will help to protect from adverse action by the employer by ensuring the employee can have reasonable accommodations (at least for most US employers).

    This obviously does not address the root cause of the author’s frustration, but it is a valuable safety net for the employee. It’s hard enough feeling like you don’t fit into the company’s culture like this; having the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act helps to take one stressor off the table.

    As an employee with a (mild) disability, I can say having one’s disability documented with HR and the resulting ADA protections is of significant benefit.

  131. Princex Of Hyrule*

    I was *literally* a high school cheerleader and my positive peppy attitude tends to unnerve my coworkers, and even I think this sounds unbearable. You’re not the weird one here OP!

  132. feral faerie*

    Holy moly. I can’t deal with this level of unfettered positivity in social settings, let alone at work. One or two people like this is fine, but when it’s the entire culture, that’s a huge problem. I am saying this as someone who works in the service industry, where being bubbly and outgoing are generally considered to be positives.

    There’e a big difference between positivity and toxic positivity, and there’s a crucial difference between it being a couple of people instead of a whole department. The words “you beautiful bitch” should not be uttered in a business setting, and you’d have every right to push back on that alone (though I realize that this takes a lot of energy too). I would suggest meeting with someone further up the food chain who isn’t in your department, like your grandboss. You are a valued contributor to your company which gives you social capital, and the fact that the company already recognizes the department’s culture as problematic is another point in your favor. I don’t know how helpful HR would be with the overall issue- they could be looped in on certain pieces (like the bitch comment and the oddly persistent pushback you get for being neutral). This seems like the manager’s direct boss also needs to play a role in changing things.

    I’d sit down with the higher up and mention the ways that you think this is harming the department as a whole. One of the major issues I see with this kind of culture is the potential for people to not speak up when they disagree with an idea because any reaction short of total enthusiasm is criticized as negative. You can also mention the potential retention issues that could arise if someone joins the team and feels turned off or alienated by the culture.

    I think the disability piece is relevant too. I agree with many of the commenters who are saying that the toxic positivity would be a problem for them even though they don’t have chronic health issues. It also makes total sense to me though that the way people push you to be exuberant feels particularly alienating when you have a physical limitation to the amount of energy you can expend. I don’t think it’s necessary to disclose your own disability to whoever you speak to about this if you don’t want to. You could just say, “The excessively high energy culture of the department has the potential to alienate people with disabilities” . Beyond disabilities, sometimes people are struggling with challenges in their personal life like grief, and while this might not impact their ability to do their job well, if you’re feeling down, it’s really crappy for a coworker to question why you aren’t enthusiastic enough.

  133. WFH with Cat*

    That office makes me want to work at the one that outlawed jokes … Being fired for my unstoppable, sarcastic sense of humor has got to be preferable to working with these positivity-crazed folk. Good grief.

  134. wine dude*

    Years ago I worked for a startup where at the main office, whenever something good happened, a boom box would be produced and everyone would dance the Macarena.

    I was so thankful I worked at a remote office.

    1. Taxidermybobcat*

      Our office has a clanging noisy object (which shall remain nameless) that is…activated…every time there is a sale. I’m also glad I’m remote.

  135. I'm just here for the cats*

    I want this team to go to the office with the people that don’t allow jokes. I really want to see how that would turn out!

  136. Taxidermybobcat*

    I would be willing to bet this is a company (or department) run by sales people. Sales People who probably love Grant Cardone and getting “pumped up” to sell stuff. It’s a…special…kind of energy. No offense to sales people intended. I get it, it’s hard to take that much rejection on a regular basis and you have to find ways to stay upbeat. But that kind of coked-up-squirrels-at-7am energy doesn’t transfer well to other departments. Leave us alone, m’kay?

    On that note, I was on a call with a vendor earlier whose answer to my polite “how are you today?” was “I’m PHENOMENAL!” and then he proceeded to tell me that is the only correct answer to the question and if you’re not feeling phenomenal, you’re doing something wrong. At which point I decided he and his product were not for me, but I had to listen to the rest of the call anyway because my boss was on it. Any chance he works for your company? Hahaha.

  137. Ama*

    I’ve been in a similar situation! I was lucky to be in a position that would make replacing me a bit of a headache, so I aimed for the tone of “low-key lovable smart*ss.”

    Them: “Hey beautiful! are you excited to be here to today?
    Me (deadpan): baby, I’m paid to be here. Enthusiasm costs extra.

    Them: “Don’t mind *computer issue* you’re a rockstar!
    Me: I mean…. I’m good but I’m not change the laws of physics good. I’m going to lunch.

    Them: *Explosive positivity!*
    Me: (pregnant pause) so, what kinda coffee you drinkin’ these days?

    Funnily enough, they usually liked me more than they liked each other.

  138. nonegiven*

    I’d probably get cheesed off and tell everyone that said something like that to me, “Get away from me with that toxic positivity, you are sucking the life right out of me!”

  139. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    First off, that all sounds absolutely exhausting. I’m tired just reading about it, let alone what it would be like having this be my day-to-day experience.

    The good news is that it sounds like your performance reviews have been really good and you’re the actual rockstar in your department, given how sought-after you are with clients. If the weird comments are mostly/only coming from your colleagues – not anyone in your chain of command – I would hope it stays this way. Personally, I would find it very odd to be compared to coworkers’ demeanour in a performance review. Yes, you are less peppy than your coworkers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You have your own style that works for you and that your clients like.

    I think your approach of trying to redirect to work stuff is a good one, like telling Jim that you sent the thing and to let you know if he has questions. Can you lean in even harder to this? Like if Jim comments on your lack of pep, say “nah, I’m fine, so [let me know if I need to rework something] [how is X going?] [any other work topic]”.

    I’m curious who it was who told your department to chill the f*** out last time and whether they could step in again.

  140. MCMonkeyBean*

    Oooof that sounds awful, but OP I think that this doesn’t need to be about your medical issue. Given that it sounds like your team is the outlier in the company and other people have already complained about their toxic positivity, I think you can reasonable push back a bit without ever having to disclose your condition if you don’t want to!

    I think overall you should be aiming for “friendly” but not “peppy.” But I know that the more people throw their extreme pep at you the more even “friendly” starts to feel hard as you get more resentful of the emotional energy they are trying to demand from you. It’s easier said then done but if you are clear with yourself (and maybe with your boss?) on your emotional boundaries and know that as long as you are professional and polite without being cold then you are behaving reasonably and you don’t owe them the pep they desire, then maybe that can help prevent some growing resentment?

  141. Polly Hedron*

    OP, I hope you can take comfort that you are one of those rare posters who get unanimous support.

  142. Ellen N.*

    Your autoimmune disorder should qualify you for accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act. If I were you, I would discuss this with my manager; you can explain that you have a medical condition that often makes you tired so as an an accommodation you need to be left out of demands for displays of excitement.

    I hear you on not wanting to discuss your autoimmune disorder due to everyone giving unwanted “medical” advice.

    I have a rare autoimmune disorder, Pemphigus Vulgaris. I’ve received so much “medical” advice from friends and acquaintances. Much of it would have killed me if I followed it.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Hey, same hat! Not the same autoimmune disorder, but the same experience with unending “medical” “advice” that would kill me most of the time if I tried to actually follow it.

  143. Good Enough For Government Work*

    Without wanting to exaggerate, I would have absolutely no choice but to murder these coworkers.

    And I say this as someone who’s generally pretty cheerful and definitely one of life’s optimists… but dear God.

  144. Dahlia*

    OP, I want you to know I legitimately worked with toddlers and preschoolers for years, and did not act like this.

  145. Panhandlerann*

    My kids were figure skaters, and at competitions, they and their friends would yell, “Smile, sparkle, shine!” from the stands when any one of them was on the ice, about to start a performance. Which was nice and cute and all that in that context. But at work, among adults? Good grief no.

  146. Olivia Oil*

    This is so bizarre. In addition to being annoying, it does sound like this weird pep comments are actually hindering proper communications around work and progress (like you trying to relay that you were waiting on an order to finish something, and instead of acknowledging it your coworker called you a beautiful bitch.)

    If you bring this up, I would point out the ways that this nonsense is actually affecting work and productivity, including productive communication. If you can, team up with the other people who have complained to do this. Or if you are the only one with political capital, you can collect their input and aggregate them with your own complaints but keep the other people anonymous. I don’t think you even need to bring your health issues into this.

  147. Magiggles*

    FWIW: the message that should be coming from the manager is that they want to encourage authentic, candid conversations and interactions between colleagues and clients. To that end, they are asking everyone to tone down some of the positivity talk and to accept that, as humans, everyone has highs, lows, and middling days. All of it is fine and it is OK to show up on this team and have a low energy day. The key there is that it is explicitly saying that showing up as low energy is fine.

  148. nnn*

    I’m thinking it might be time to start dipping your toes into a job search, just to see what’s out there. Maybe see if any of your waiting list clients might be hiring. Maybe look into how easy or difficult it would be to go freelance and take your waiting list of clients with you.

    I’m normally not a person who defaults to “get a new job”, but imagine how it would feel to be able to look them dead-ass in the eye and tell them their relentless positivity has driven away one of their top performers!

  149. Twill*

    Nothing to add, but I was exhausted just reading that. I just could not deal with that on a daily basis.

  150. CoveredinBees*

    Oh, wow, you are not overreacting at all. That sounds so rough. Even if you didn’t have a medical condition, you do not need to be like them in the workplace. It sounds absolutely exhausting!

    I am a pretty quiet person just by personality. I had one colleague who was like your coworkers and just the one was too much for me. If she asked someone how they were doing and they said “good” in a normal tone she’d go on a whole thing “Only good?! What’s wrong? Why not amazing or fantastic ?!” She was very smart and very good at her job but I can’t imagine working with a whole team like that.

  151. it’s funny because it’s true*

    As someone who also has an energy-limiting chronic illness and completely understands why this is especially hurtful to OP, I agree that I too would absolutely not under any circumstances discuss my disability with any of these people. Besides the armchair diagnostics OP mentioned, from the broken computer example alone, I can already tell these people would immediately jump to trying to inspire me to magically surpass the very concrete limitations of my body with such nonsense as “the only disability is a bad attitude!” This place already sounds like hell on earth but if I were walking into work every day knowing that I’m going to have my existence invalidated? I’d probably end up in jail.

    1. Salymander*

      They sound like the people who told me that I was choosing to have migraines because they were all in my head.

      I mean, yeah? They are in my head because they are headaches. But thanks for the tip I guess? I’m sure all the forced smiling and sparkliness will totally cure my migraines.

  152. Elbie*

    I find it really telling that the OP has a waiting list for clients, while the other overly peppy staff have openings on their calendar. It seems to me like the clients can see how “fake” the peppiness is, and know that by waiting for the OP to become available, they will not only will they get superlative work results, but a genuine person to work with as well. As a client, I would be totally put off by the overly excessive positivity nature of the team, but would feel that my project is in competent, well grounded, professional hands.

  153. fhqwhgads*

    Comebacks I’d hope I were quick enough to use (but probably wouldn’t manage):
    To the “pep” and/or “sparkle” quieries:
    My New Year’s resolution was to be more Vulcan.
    I find my clients prefer my Lilith Sternin vibe.
    I’m cool as a cucumber, Jim.
    I’m the chill one, Jim.

    Re: “negative”
    You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.

  154. Karen*

    OP, you are a rock star just for putting up with this garbage. I would have lost my mind after a day. I once had a co-worker like this and after our first week together she decided that she had to call me out about my lack of positivity. I looked at her counted to 10, told her that being an annoying witch to her co-workers was not going to help her get her job done.

    She went to our boss, who told her that her comments were ridiculous and to concentrate on learning her job and to STOP trying to police people’s attitudes. She laid off for about a week, then started again. Needless to say she did not complete her probationary period, and I have been there for over 10 years.

    Polite and helpful is a job requirement. Positivity and joy should only be displayed at work in an annoying motivational poster.

  155. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I get wonderful feedback from my clients and I’m one of the most sought-after consultants in our company. I have a waiting list, many of them are willing to wait for me despite my “rockstar” colleagues having an open calendar.

    Could you move to another company and take your clients with you?
    Or venture out on your own (barring any non competes)?

  156. celadon*

    Ha. Love this.

    I read that Tell Me Something Good was going to be the song that Katherine Martin was singing in her pick up truck in Silence of the Lambs, before Buffalo Bill gets her. Then they changed it to American Girl by tom petty.

  157. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I’d probably tell them I had a tragic accident that unfortunately resulted in my having to undergo an emergency Sparklectomy, that I’m trying Sparkle-replacement therapy, but it’s experimental. Some days, I can manage a light glimmer, while other days, I say things like EAT DIRT, JIM. And I’d really appreciate it if everyone could stop asking me about my Sparkle because it’s just too painful . . .

  158. Elio*

    I do not have a medical condition and that would exhaust me. That environment is insane. OP, I bet clients like you more than these “rockstars” since you act like a normal person and not like you’re on something.

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