12 Ways to Create A Positive Work Culture

Anna Erdmanska, PMP
Anna Erdmanska, PMP

This is a guest post by Anna Erdmanska, PMP.

Do you love your job? I assume yes – if you are reading this blog about doing work, you probably are committed to doing your job to the best possible level and that’s because you enjoy it.

Projects are about people and the fact that you are enjoying your job does not mean that everyone in your project team feels the same.

Whenever there is a difficult change to implement, a challenging initiative to lead, a troublesome task to overcome, something to be done, or something that exceeds the capacity of operating teams, we call in a project manager.

How can you make sure that there is a positive work culture on your projects and everyone feels like working on your team?

I have spoken about this with many PMI members, my project team members, business owners and other project managers. Here are 12 ways to create a positive work culture:

  1. Don’t focus on finding guilty people
  2. Build relationships
  3. Say ‘No’ to all complaints: reward and praise instead
  4. Celebrate success
  5. Focus on clarity
  6. Control gossip
  7. Don’t take credit for other people’s success
  8. Don’t burn bridges
  9. Be flexible
  10. Focus on the need
  11. Have fun
  12. Be the center of positive energy on the project.

Got that? Right!

Let’s look at what those points mean in practice and how we can create a positive working environment and effective culture on our project teams.

1. Don’t Focus on Finding Guilty People

If something goes wrong on your project, focus on identifying the actual cause, not a person to blame!

Once the team has identified the reason for failure, think about how to fix the issue and avoid such mistakes in the future. Watch out! This isn’t the end of story!

We are all happy that we know what happened and how to avoid it happening again. Still, someone needs to make sure that the remedial plan is going to be implemented.

Do make sure you find an owner for this task. Thanks to this approach everyone in your team can focus on productive work, creative thinking and simply on making things work.

2. Build Relationships

All surveys focusing on project managers’ skills highlight the ability to communicate and build relations, so this should already sound obvious to many of you.

As project managers we build project teams across different departments, we work with several businesses and across all levels of organizational structure.

Quite often we have no team directly reporting to us. Good relations are the key to influencing people, getting their attention and finally getting things done.

All of that creates a positive, productive atmosphere.

3. Say ‘No’ to All Complaints: Reward and Praise Instead

Many people like to complain and center their interest around the negative aspects of the project.

Focusing on bad news can easily block the team’s potential and ability to move forward with other tasks.

Therefore it’s crucial to point out all the successful deliverables on the project together with their owners – both to the team members themselves and to the project sponsor and main stakeholders.

Don’t be afraid to praise others and nominate them to be your project stars. Whenever they have a success, it proves you have assigned right people to right tasks. Just think about all the positive energy around people who are working with you!

4. Celebrate Successes

This does not only mean going out for a beer whenever there is occasion.

You can also thank them over a team coffee or let the team leave the office a bit earlier one day. Whatever motivates them – as their leader, you know best!

Read next: 15 ways to celebrate success at work

5. Focus on Clarity

Don’t assume that everyone understands the business case and goals behind your projects.

Your role is to provide clear communication, with appropriate details at each level.

When it comes down to the goals – you can never remind them too much.

All project discussions, actions, decisions should be taken with the main project goals as a base. Just think how comfortable the project team feels when they identify with the reasons behind their hard work.

6. Control Gossip

I am not saying gossiping is wrong, but it might appear very harmful to your project.

Gossiping highly impacts overall atmosphere around your projects. The less clear project communication is, the more gossip and negative assumptions surround it.

Iron out all unclear messages as these usually transfer into negative gossip and learn how to manage gossip at work to stop rumors when you hear about them.

7. Don’t Take Credit for Other People’s Success

Sounds obvious? That’s great! As far as you stick to this rule, everyone will be happy to join your project teams.

8. Don’t Burn Bridges

Does this sound obvious too? Good! This enables you to build an effective network across organizational units and levels.

For those who like taking on new challenges and have already run projects in different businesses, I don’t need to mention how fruitful the effective network might be and how much positive energy it brings to the project. So many obstacles become much easier to overcome with good relationships!

9. Be Flexible

There is nothing worse than sticking to one type of dashboard, graph or a document, just because your favorite project management method says so.

The team will treat this kind of project manager as close-minded and someone who doesn’t understand the business at all.

10. Focus on the need

What is the reason behind doing this particular task? Always explain it to others. This is especially helpful while running risk sessions, creating work breakdown structures, and brainstorming project schedules.

11. Have Fun

Use your sense of humor and soon you will see others eagerly following. Of course, you need to keep some guidelines in mind: don’t offend, don’t reference different cultures, genders, religions or nations in your jokes – and not too much joking in general.

In the end, we are all here for business reasons.

12. Be the center of positive energy on the project

You are the person with the biggest impact on the workplace culture. If you are stressed, the team members will be stressed as well. If you believe you can collectively overcome a problem, the team will believe it too.

These are the major points that came out in my discussions most often. The order doesn’t suggest priority and they may also appear quite subjective.

I hope this article will make you reflect on your own experience – after all, we spend most of our lives in the office. Let’s make sure we bring POSITIVE ENERGY to our projects!

About the author: Anna Erdmanska, PMP, is a project management enthusiast, leading projects in multinational corporations for the finance industry. Experienced in managing international projects, Anna has led virtual teams from Europe, Asia, Americas and Africa. Anna is enthusiastic about building project teams and selecting project management methods appropriate for teams and organizations. Anna is a Professional Scrum Master, PRINCE2® Practitioner and she is currently working on a PhD in Finance Management. Anna is also a member of the supervisory board for a company offering online accounting services.

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