Are product managers expected to be positive all the time?

Over the past year, I’ve noticed that my attitude has a significant impact on how stakeholders and coworkers interpret the facts.

Here, I would like to discuss the importance of a product manager’s mood in influencing stakeholders’ perception of data. I have noted that some stakeholders, particularly in the USA, view projects as extremely positive, allowing them to focus on market conditions. However, as a product manager, I receive firsthand information about the delays and team failures, making it difficult to always maintain a positive attitude.

I’d like to know whether a product manager should always be positive even when a project is going down and offers tips on how to achieve this?


Without a doubt, you don’t need toxic positivity to be authentic. I typically discuss my worries with my coworkers on partner teams. They are in sync most of the time. Then we focus on framing the situation for the team so they won’t experience the same frustration. By openly sharing our concerns and seeking support from others, we create a safe and supportive work environment. This allows us to address challenges collectively and find effective solutions that benefit everyone involved. Ultimately, fostering genuine connections and open communication is key to maintaining authenticity in the workplace.


Oh God! Toxic positivity. That’s the real word, then! I’ve had that happen at a corporation, and it’s annoying. It’s frustrating when people constantly project an overly positive attitude without acknowledging the real challenges or issues at hand. This toxic behavior can create a false sense of optimism and dismiss the genuine concerns or problems within a corporation, hindering progress and effective problem-solving.


Positivity is a result of experience and trust, and satisfaction comes from exceeding expectations. To build confidence, it is important to set realistic expectations with stakeholders based on the team’s capabilities. Confident individuals tend to project a positive attitude. In a high-functioning agile environment, surprises should be issues out of control. When unexpected issues occur, it is crucial to speak up clearly and often. This approach allows the team time to pivot and resolve issues. While some may criticize the lack of professionalism, others appreciate the authenticity and transparency of the individual. While they are often praised for their positive attitude, not every day is the same.


We still have a long way to go until we achieve a “High-Functioning Agile Environment”.

I’ve received similar comments, and speaking up actually had unfavorable effects. The project continued to deteriorate because the people who could have made a difference chose not to pay attention to my warnings.


I struggle a lot with this, but I believe there is a distinction between positivity and optimism for me.

Positivity: Even when things aren’t going well, there is a lot of gaslighting that everything is OK and continues to go well.

Optimistic: When things are not going well and you are honest or realistic about it and deal with it, you can still be upbeat for the future by doing xyz.

Since optimism is action-oriented and does not pretend that everything is alright when it is not, I rely more on this way of thinking.


An organization can be destroyed by telling lies or sugarcoating the truth. But without making amends for errors, neither a team nor an individual can progress. I don’t believe you need to be upbeat about the circumstances, but you may be upbeat about how you or your team will be able to develop and learn from them. Acknowledging and addressing mistakes is crucial for personal and professional growth. It allows individuals and teams to identify areas for improvement, implement effective solutions, and ultimately thrive in the face of challenges. Embracing a positive mindset towards learning from errors fosters resilience and fosters a culture of continuous improvement within an organization.


This is more of a leadership issue than a PM issue. Leadership plays a crucial role in guiding and motivating a team towards achieving project goals. While project management skills are important, it is ultimately the leader’s ability to inspire and empower their team that drives success.

Leaders don’t have to put on a happy face all the time; if anything terrible occurs, they should be able to convey it without harming team spirit. Leading when the group is aware that conditions are difficult is one of the most crucial leadership tests. It requires strong leadership skills to maintain team morale and motivation during challenging times. Effective leaders should be transparent and communicate openly about the difficulties the team is facing, while also providing reassurance and support to keep the team focused and determined.

As de facto internal boosters, PMs are typically expected to be optimistic about the success of a product or feature. They are responsible for inspiring confidence and belief in the team’s abilities, even when faced with obstacles. However, it is important for PMs to strike a balance between optimism and realism. They should acknowledge the challenges and potential setbacks while also emphasizing the team’s capabilities and the potential for success. This approach helps to build trust and credibility among team members, fostering a positive and resilient work environment.


This seems to be incredibly hypocritical @EvaRichardson.

For instance, the entire organization heard bad news while I was a junior (at one of my first jobs). Upper management attempted to spin it as the “best news ever” and sell it to us, but people talk, and the truth eventually got out.

As an employee, I felt horrible about the bad news, but when the whole issue was revealed, I felt even worse. The trust in the entire senior management team was quickly shattered as the entire crew felt betrayed and purposefully deceived.


Positivity is beneficial for morals, but it’s important to convey negative status objectively and not in a wishy-washy way. The difference between “the design team failed” and “current design iteration doesn’t meet xyz specification” is significant. Objective, issue-oriented statements are preferred, and if blame is present, it’s discussed with the leadership team. Brevity is sometimes needed for private discussions, and if things are truly dire, it can be said directly to the right audience.

However, it is crucial to strike a balance between conveying negative status objectively and maintaining a constructive approach. Instead of solely focusing on failures, it is essential to provide actionable feedback and propose potential solutions. By adopting this approach, the team can work together towards improvement and growth while maintaining a positive and solution-oriented mindset. Additionally, fostering open communication channels can help address concerns effectively and ensure that the right individuals are involved in the discussion.


Positive thinking and enthusiasm are two distinct concepts.

Should you be positive all the time? No.

Do you need to be enthusiastic all the time? Yes, as a leader.


To maintain focus on the vision and avoid getting lost in the weeds, it’s essential to communicate with customers and highlight the problems your team and software help them overcome. This can be achieved by finding venues where both the customer and team members can hear from the customer directly.

If a team is likely to exceed a deadline, it’s possible to involve decision-makers to identify critical features or fixes that can be delivered within the allotted time. While not all Product Managers have control over budgets, P&L, sales, marketing, strategy, goals, roadmap control, customer access, and leadership, they do their best to ensure timely delivery.

As a Product Manager, you’re like a captain on a cruise ship, with limited control over passengers and a livelihood dependent on their return. Despite potential challenges, you remain enthusiastic and remind your company’s leadership that Product Managers are leadership positions, regardless of their position within the organization. This attitude ensures that your success is a priority for your company.


I’m not, but I do have a hard time with that responsibility and expectation. I was at my lowest point in a prior organization after numerous rounds of layoffs, strategy changes that no one supported, and generally bad leadership decisions. Product leaders reminded me that my responsibility was to be a positive influence on the team and to avoid letting them see me depressed. Sadly, some leaders anticipate that prime ministers will always put a smile on their face.


Being the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” is something I think makes a good PM. It’s important to speak up when you notice or learn about factors that could lead to failure or a catastrophic decline. Because they have a holistic view of a project or product, PMs are in a unique position because they can spot details that others would not. Avoiding issues that could or would lead to failure is a necessary component of assuring success.

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@JesusRojas, So deliver things that are going sideways (bad news) with a plan in how to manage them (positive)?

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Yes, insofar as you are able to carry out the strategy. Offering suggested solutions would be beneficial if there were circumstances beyond your control. Certain choices might need to be made above you. To put some ideas into action, you must bring up the problem(s) and offer solutions, or you must ask for executive-level engagement. It might not be a case of good news against terrible news, but a decision could need to be made by someone with authority over you.