Humility at Workplace – Does it Hurt or Help?

Humility at Workplace – Does it Hurt or Help?

Humility is the virtue that keeps you from putting yourself before others.

The popular misconception is that those who act humble are often vulnerable and weak. One actually requires substantial inner strength to practice humility, even more so at workplace.

In an age where everyone looks up to a charismatic leader, people often see humility as a relic of the past. But the fact is, and it may sound counter-intuitive, humility can actually be a competitive advantage for the leader. Exercising humility at work helps engage employees, boost morale, increase productivity and minimize attrition. It is a subtle and more effective approach to leadership. Instead of taking an authoritarian approach, humble leaders lead by example. Here’s how fostering humility at work helps you being a more effective leader.

1. Owning up Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. Most of the people deal with them by covering up the truth or passing the bucks. It doesn’t really help. Humble people realize that no mistake is too big to admit. They are more open to owning up their mistake and proactively participating in getting it fixed.

2. Inviting Feedback
Humility is being open and receptive enough to discover what other people have to offer. Humble leaders listen to their employees, inspiring feedback and criticism and fostering an environment where everyone can learn and grow. By doing so, they create an instant likeability and inspire people (instead of pushing them) to go an extra mile.

3. Delegating Tasks
It feels good to be the been-there-done-that guy in the boardroom. But you can’t possibly know everything there is to know. Accepting that you don’t (and can’t) know everything is also an act of humility. When you realize your way isn’t the best way, you get other people to jump in and let them do what they do best. In a way, acting humble helps you stop getting tempted to micromanage things or being a control freak.

4. Sharing Credit
There’s a famous quote by Criss Jami – ‘The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it’. Leaders often let success get over their head. No matter how smart or successful you are, nobody likes a braggard. Being boastful or full of yourself won’t take you far. The right way to savor success is to duly give the credit to all those who put their efforts in achieving it.

5. Embracing Competition
Underestimating your competition or taking it for granted might get you out of the game. On the other hand, when you take your competition seriously, it keeps you on your toes and drives you to learn the ins and outs of your competitors. Even better, embracing your competition helps you build your brand equity.

6. Accepting Differences
The business landscape is going to be dramatically different in the near future. Embracing differences will emerge as a competitive edge for organizations. It takes a humble leader to providing a workplace that embraces each race, culture and gender, tapping on the strengths everybody brings to the table.

Can Humility be Faked?
One simple yet effective way to tell a truly humble person from a pretentious one is to notice the frequency of the words ‘I’ and ‘You’ in their conversations. Acts of humility can’t be scripted or deliberated. Employees are smart enough to figure out which leaders are genuinely interested in their concerns and which ones are pretending to make it look they are. Truly humble people always put others before themselves. Instead of keeping count of what others didn’t do, they focus on what can they do for the betterment of the organization.

The Takeaway
Humility is one of those rare virtues that everyone admires in others but only a few strive to develop in themselves. While we all wish our bosses to be more humble, humility is everyone’s business, be it leaders or employees. Human research studies show that a major fraction of the bad hires are fired not for lack for skills but for a simple reason such as lack of humility. Humility is one of the five top hiring attributes for employees in many of the top workplaces including Google and Facebook.

Fostering humility at workplace inspires people to show more engagement, contribute novel ideas and promise a deeper commitment to a leader’s vision.