How do I create a positive working environment…

…is a question that we tackle frequently across many of our management training courses. So, here’s a quick guide for managers and leaders who need to get their teams firing.


First of all – let’s qualify what a ‘positive working environment’ is.

Phrases such as these can be interpreted very differently. It simply means an appropriate environment in which people feel capable of working the job they’ve signed up for. You should interpret that how you wish depending on your organisation, which takes us nicely to:


1: As a manager it’s down to you to determine ‘positive working environment’

What do you want it to be like working for you as a manager? Creating a positive working environment means allowing people to get from their roles enough for them to want to do it, and do it with pride. Every workplace and team will be different but respect, trust, enjoyment and meeting of personal wants make up the basis.

For a manager to be a good leader it’s imperative that they understand the power that creating a positive workplace environment can deliver to all stakeholders.


2: Understand how culture makes a manager’s life easier

If you run a nightclub, sales office or a mortuary you can imagine that workplace cultures might be wildly different. But not all organisations in the same industry are the same to work in. Not all teams within the same organisation, doing the same thing, are the same.

There’s something there that tells people what it means to be there. What it’s like to be there, and how to behave.

This is culture and it always exists – you can’t not have one.

The skilled manager knows that building a positive workplace environment is about building the right culture. Hard to do, but ultimately the most powerful tool in the manager’s armoury, as once in place it becomes difficult to shift.

Thus, a positive culture sticks.


3: Understand how to praise

The number of managers who miss this baffles us every day. Praise is simple and generates repeat behaviour. A simple ‘good work on that’ in the right place makes people feel positive about their impact and helps to create the culture. There are so many ways to do it, it’s almost always free, and it creates a highly positive culture.


4: Money doesn’t work

Money does not necessarily add to positivity. Anyone who hates their well-paid job will tell you that. It simply means people will stick out their job with minimal effort a little bit longer than they might have.

Of course getting pay right is important and in sales teams in particular it can help motivate and create a culture. But that’s different to creating a positive environment.

As a manager you have to ask yourself whether you really want an over-paid, under-motivated person – or people – in your team, and whether that will really create a positive working environment for your organisation.


5: Cooperation and competition

How are your people encouraged to co-operate? How do you create gentle competition?

These are both great motivators and help teams to pull together and keep on track with their goals and targets. A manager can create a strong workplace culture by using these basic human factors in the right places at the right times.


6: Empowerment

Leading on from point five, giving your team responsibilities also encourages people to work happily. If people feel trusted and respected enough to get on with their jobs as well as possible – as defined by you – then they’re far more likely to be happy in their work.


7: Constant communication

Your job as a manager is to be clear about what you want done, the challenges ahead, how the team needs to work and what changes or issues might be ahead.

Without your constant communication you forego your leadership and allow mission creep and leadership vacuums to arise. Both of these can destroy a working environment.


8: Banter

Banter is great. Mostly. But banter can be harmful enough to land you in court with a very, very big bill and your reputation in tatters.

Office banter is one of the biggest challenges for managers, and don’t confuse this for some modern, ‘woke’ challenge. It always was.

If you want to keep a positive working culture you need to ensure your team can laugh together but understand the boundaries and culture of your workplace, not just your legal obligations.

Even putting the law to one side, if banter goes too far you can lose key team members, your culture, your results and your owning standing.


9: Rely on the maths

So often managers say they don’t have time to engage their people and work on culture.

In saying this they entirely strip away their ability to go on and be outstanding people managers. And yet the maths almost always tell you how little time is actually needed.

If you work out how much time you need to put into ‘leadership’ activities such as team meetings, 1-2-1s, praising or mentoring, and then consider what that gives you back in terms of added work done or jobs delegated, it’s almost always a return on your time investment which pays back quickly and thoroughly.


10: Value leadership

All of which then means you should value the agency that being a leader gives you. If you understand that you have it in your power to shape up your team and work on that – however difficult it seems some days – you will ultimately build a positive workplace culture which means that your people enjoy their work that little bit more. They’ll share their ideas and work together more readily. And ultimately you all achieve more with fewer problems.


Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be done?


Written by Jon Dean – Managing Director


Impellus is a UK-wide provider of management, leadership and core commercial skills training. See our relevant courses:

Management & Leadership Skills

ILM Courses in Leadership & Management

Commercial & Professional Skills Training