You can talk all you want about how steady recycling, rest guilt, and perpetual devaluing of what you do is “not the norm,” but for some people Monday will still start on Saturday.
This is how toxic productivity develops, aka “hustle culture,” whose philosophy is that being a good employee is not enough. After all, you have to be the best.
The renaissance of toxic productivity came during the pandemic: according to Prodoscore, for example, in 2020 employee activity increased by 42% on Saturdays and by 24% on Sundays compared to a year earlier. And although a healthy amount of perfectionism in the workplace has never been superfluous, it’s worth knowing the measure, otherwise “hello” to a damaged psyche, health problems and burnout looming on the horizon.
How Toxic Productivity Differs From Regular Productivity
Toxicity is a consequence of unconscious and unprocessed aggression. It’s a hidden attack, which outwardly may look like a manifestation of motivation, love, and kindness.
Unlike ordinary productivity, toxic productivity is expressed not in creation and creativity, but in aggression toward the weak and ineffective self.
Outwardly the person seems to be creative, but inwardly he tries to destroy the imperfect self or the world around him. This duality leads to dissatisfaction and perfectionism. It seems to the person that since there is no satisfaction, it’s necessary to try harder, at which point the conscious constructive intentions come into conflict with the unconscious destructive ones.
The need for hard work can be realistic, but it can also mean that the person doesn’t think he or she is worthy of getting good things and is trying to compensate by sacrificing himself or herself. In many ways, toxic productivity is similar to workaholism, where people go into work to hide from themselves and their intolerable feelings.
How Toxic Productivity Manifests Itself
There is a great demand in popular culture right now for spiritual practices that call for destroying the “bad” self and nurturing beauty, success and productivity. In reality, however, with toxic productivity, one cannot get satisfaction from one’s work and accomplishments, or these feelings instantly disappear.
Such people will always be dissatisfied with themselves and full of inner aggression.
Anything that has to do with creation and creativity doesnt require a race to achievement: the result is just a natural stage of work.
Because of perfectionism and irritability, the person is abusive about his or her body, personal boundaries, opportunities, and those around him or her, which get in the way of the results. Toxic people find it difficult to care about those around them, and the goal for them will always be distant, unrealistic and insufficient.
Is Toxic Productivity a Consequence of Perfectionism?
It’s similar to perfectionism. When a person cannot accept himself and the reality around him, there is a need to constantly improve something and feel empowered through it. There are people who cannot engage in abstract activities where there is no concrete result – they need proof that improvement has happened and they are capable of something. It’s like on a treadmill: you have to keep running in order not to fall.
We strive to become the best version of ourselves to the detriment of everything because of an unbearable sense of worthlessness, anxiety, and shame.
In real life, the “treadmill” can be projects, creativity, spiritual practices, sports, money – most importantly, getting “medals” for your work. At the same time, productivity can also yield benefits. The difficulty is that accomplishments will still not feel sufficient.
How You Deal With “Toxic Productivity” and Help Yourself
A person lives with the feeling of a constant race for success: the more you succeed, the better. Eventually there is a feeling that you have done everything you could, the declared goals have been achieved, but there is no relief. Then depression can set in: a person finds himself at a dead end and does not understand where to go next.
Struggling with “toxic productivity” can only intensify the problem, because the person is already in a constant battle with himself.
It only helps to accept oneself and one’s feelings, but this doesn’t mean indulging one’s destructiveness.
It’s important to stop encouraging oneself for this race and show empathy for oneself: “Yes, I have a hard time with myself and the world around me, I found a way to deal with it, but it doesn’t work and it hurts.”
The same goes for helping another person who is facing this problem. It’s worth it to treat him with understanding.
Many employers use such people for selfish purposes. A good boss won’t encourage overtime – he should monitor compliance with the regime and help his employees separate work from their personal lives.
Modern culture has shifted from guileless narcissism and bragging about wealth to a toxic, “Look how good I am.”
It’s a more subtle, veiled version of narcissism. Many celebrities are now giving interviews about how they went from eating wrong to living a healthy lifestyle and achieving a perfect figure. Social networks sell courses that promise to improve you and turn your life into a fairy tale where you can hit a jackpot at slot machines in Uganda in minutes. This is also what coaches do – they teach you how to achieve your goals, but they don’t try to figure out why people want to change themselves all the time and why dissatisfaction with themselves eats away at them from the inside.