Positive Workplace: Enhancing Individual and Team Productivity

SECOND EDITION                                                         

By Jocelyn S. Davis, President,

Nelson Hart LLC


John H. Cable, RA, PMP, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence

Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland



The global workforce is stressed:  employees are disengaged; senior managers will be retiring in record numbers without obvious replacements available; morale is low; more than half of US workers are passive job seekers; turnover rates are high; turnover is expensive; managers are not effective; many projects represent significant risks of failure to their corporate sponsors.  Improving the performance of individuals and project teams depends upon a new and coherent approach to the workplace of the present and the future.

This paper introduces key concepts and research results on the power of engagement, strengths-focus, optimism, resilience, hope, positive emotions, and the key characteristics of high performance teams to yield real change in the workplace – change that will result in sustainable competitive advantage.

This paper outlines empirically validated methods to improve productivity, sales, profitability, employee and customer satisfaction while reducing safety incidents, theft losses, absenteeism, stress-related illness, and attrition rates.

Additionally, PM’s will learn how and why the shift from a weakness-correction model to a strengths-focused model amplifies employee performance.  PM’s will also come to understand the impact of emotion on performance:  how the right blend of positive and negative emotions yields high performance project teams and how optimism and resilience can be developed to strengthen individual and project team performance.


For PM’s, the global workplace forms the foundation of their work environment, a work environment which is increasingly complicated by the virtual nature of many teams.  Let’s consider for a moment the state of this global work environment.

We’ve reorganized, process-improved, downsized, and right-sized and outsourced – all to gain and maintain competitive advantage.  Global and domestic economic pressures continue to intensify.  Many key strategic projects fail – to meet expectations, to meet budget or to meet schedule.

The employer-employee contract has changed forever.  Employers wanted a workforce made up of flexible, independent workers thereby providing a flexible labor pool for companies.  In actuality, it’s a classic good news-bad news story.  The workforce has become more dynamic and flexible, but is no longer a loyal workforce.  In this modern workplace experienced talent is increasingly scarce.  Employers and employees each have real choices.  Employers can select the best employees and increasingly, the employees can select the best employers.

While the underlying terms of the employment contract have changed, there are other workplace changes, too.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the PMI Global Congress 2012 – North America and included in the congress proceedings.  It is republished here with permission of the authors.

About the Authors

pmwj24-jul2014-Davis-IMAGEJocelyn Davisflag-usa

President, Nelson Hart LLC

Virginia, USA

Jocelyn Davis is the president and co-founder of Nelson Hart LLC, a women-owned consulting firm.  Nelson Hart works with clients in all sectors to help them develop teams and workplaces where individuals flourish and the organizations thrive.  She believes that each of us has unique strengths and capabilities to bring to our personal and professional lives as individuals and as members of various groups.  She is a leader in efforts to enhance the quality of workplace experiences and the performance of people, teams and organizations. Jocelyn is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA in the Clark School of Engineering’s Project Management Program where she teaches two innovative applied positive psychology courses:  Managing Project Teams and Evolving as a Leader. Jocelyn can be contacted at [email protected].

John-Cable-BioJohn Cable flag-usa

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence

University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA 

John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.J. Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management.  His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management.  In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at [email protected].