The importance of humility in the workplace

We spend at least 90,000 hours or a third of our lives at work.

And if you don’t practice humility at your workplace, you’ll be stuck in a living hell.

It’s not always easy, especially if THEY’RE the ones who are not humble. But it’s important to try hard to stay humble nonetheless.

In this article, I will give you some obvious (and not-so-obvious) reasons why humility is one of the most important virtues at work.

1) You’ll actually want to work

Most of the work we do is—let’s face it— NOT fun. And it’s especially worse when you’re working in a place where there’s a culture of one-upmanship and tearing one another down.

A culture like that can only exist because people are being a bit too proud of themselves.

It can start small—with boasting about getting a raise or joking about being the boss’s favorite— but it can quickly get worse.

Humility helps to keep things from going too far, and creates a healthy working environment—an environment where you’re actually motivated to work.

It might not feel like you can make that change yourself, especially if you’re just another employee or a low-ranking manager.

But change starts somewhere… and it might as well start with you.

2) Humility fosters respect

We all want to be respected, be it at home or at work.

And since humility is a consequence of having respect towards others, someone who isn’t humble can’t offer others the respect they deserve.

On the other hand, someone who is humble will be respected by the people around them— from their bosses to their colleagues, to any subordinates who may be working under them.

Respect begets respect, after all. And in a work environment, mutual respect is incredibly important if you want to keep things from falling apart.

3) Mistakes and tensions are more easily avoided

The number one guarantee for things going wrong is arrogance and ego.

And so, it is unsurprising that avoiding these by simply being humble will make things go more smoothly.

Humility doesn’t mean that you won’t feel hurt or offended when someone says something you did was wrong, or that it messed things up.

It means you will push those feelings down, avoid pushing the blame on someone else, and accepting fault.

And by accepting your mistakes as they are, you can… well, actually treat them as mistakes! You can learn from them instead of ignoring them and repeating the same mistake or even leaning in and getting worse.

“I am a genius, there’s no way I’m wrong!” has ruined work for way too many people, so it would be helpful to just avoid it and be humble.

4) You’ll be less pressured to prove yourself

There should always be a pressure to succeed at work, but too much pressure can easily shut you down and ruin not just the way you see yourself, but also how you perform at work.

A lot of people burn out at work precisely because the pressure to prove themselves is too much for them to bear.

You are forced to think that you must stand out and be special if you want to succeed. But here’s the secret—you aren’t actually that special and that’s okay.

You can relax knowing that you’re not that great at a lot of things. But neither is everyone else!

By being humble and accepting your limitations, then you can work in a healthier manner…which can ironically increase your chances of making great stuff.

5) You’ll  help create a friendly work environment

People who are not humble tend to be disliked by their coworkers… and any subordinates of theirs work for them simply because they have no choice.

So if you want everyone to be productive and happy, you have to be nice and respectful. And that includes the times when you’re at your wit’s end or the times when you just aren’t in the mood to be nice.

By being this kind of person, you will get to create a nice and safe environment for yourself and your coworkers where you’ll get to thrive.

And you know what? People like these are heroes.

If you want to be a source of joy to others, be humble and nice in your workplace. You’ll make a difference in everyone’s lives—especially yours.

6) Everyone learns faster

We sometimes hear colleagues say something like “I wanted to help him with the presentation but I worry he’ll think I don’t trust him if I do it.”

Or “I think she’s wrong, but I’d rather not say anything or else our day will be ruined.”

Don’t be that person!

One of the great things about humility is that it means you accept that you don’t know everything. So that means you’re more open to learning, to be proven wrong, to accepting new ideas that may challenge your own.

And even better is that by staying humble, not only do you keep your mind open to new ideas, opportunities to learn and grow will also come to you more often because people are not scared to offend you.

Besides, people are more willing to offer opportunities to those who are willing to take it rather than squander it.

7) Ideas are much more freely shared

Imagine this. You have an idea and you think it’s pretty neat.

Would you share this idea with people who have been known to brag about how “good” they are, or with those who are known to hear you out?

People have ideas, and some of them can be quite good… but people aren’t going to want to share it in an environment where a lack of humility can make them dismiss it or get mad about it on principle.

That is, thinking along the lines of “wait, you dare think you know better than me?” and “are you trying to humiliate me?”

Humility—both among colleagues and from superiors—means avoiding that line of thinking, which leads to people being at ease with sharing their ideas because they know it won’t get them shredded.

8) Work will be more flexible and productive

So we’ve already established that the normalization of humility in the workplace will make it easier for people to communicate with one another.

A significant side effect of this is that people are more willing to learn from and stand with each other. People are less afraid of offending their coworkers or their boss, and people are less interested in keeping each other “in their place.”

So when people see a colleague or a superior struggling with something they can help with, they see no issue in reaching out to help.

This kind of teamwork will help things move along faster…and of course, better.

9) You’ll have a good reputation

It’s inevitable that if you’re going to be a humble person, you’re going to get a good reputation in the workplace.

That will serve you well enough at work, but consider how helpful it would be should you eventually leave for another job.

Whether you want to stay in your current job until you grow old or leave someday, you will have to consider that this is a very real possibility.

And if you’re ever going to leave your work behind, you might as well leave it with a good reputation—not only can your superiors give you their recommendations, they can even offer you a much better job!

10) You’ll win some friends

Last but not the least is that being humble helps you become more likable.

Sure, having an ex-boss’s recommendations on the resume you’re showing to a job you’re applying to is good, but being seen as a genuine friend by your co-workers is pretty neat as well.

Not only can you help one another when you’re in need of help, you’ll also just find work a lot more bearable together because… well, you’re friends.

And even those who might not exactly get along with you enough to call themselves your friends will at least find you nice.

We all need friends. And if we can find some in the workplace, we should.

Life will become more bearable and enjoyable that way.

Last words

Some people don’t always make it easy to be humble in the workplace.

And sometimes, it can even feel like there’s just no point because no matter how humble you try to be, others are… not.

But do try.

If you think about it, you’ll benefit from it the most. You’ll have less arguments from people, you’ll learn more, you won’t get in too much trouble.

Do it primarily for yourself…and then for others. That way, you’ll never feel like a doormat or that they’re treating you unfairly.

And another good thing about humility is that it bleeds into other aspects of your life. Practice it in the workplace and you’ll improve your other relationships as well. That’s a guarantee!

Also read: 10 signs your boss sees your potential at work, even if they don’t say it

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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