What is the secret to success? Is it a combination of hard work, dedication, and talent? While all of these things are important, there is one key factor that often goes overlooked — humility. Humility may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about the traits that make for a successful leader, manager, or employee, but it is a critical quality to have in the workplace. But what is precisely humility in the workplace?
What is humility?
Humility is a state of mind in which you regulate your impulses and do not put yourself above others. It is about being authentic and not pretending to be someone you are not.
It is also the ability to see yourself objectively without making excuses or rationalizing your actions.
Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but of ourselves less — instead of thinking less of ourselves, humility causes us to think of ourselves less often. It is being genuinely interested in others and their success more than we are in our own.
It is a genuine curiosity about those around us and a willingness to learn from them. And it recognizes that we are just one small part of something much more significant than ourselves — your work colleagues, team, community, company, your industry.
Why is humility important?
There are many reasons why humility in the workplace is essential. For one, it shows that you are willing to put the team’s needs before yours. It also demonstrates that you are confident in your abilities but not arrogant.
And finally, it helps create a positive and productive work environment where everyone can feel comfortable contributing their ideas and working together towards a common goal.
Many people think that humility means putting yourself down or always giving credit to others. But true humility is quite the opposite. It is solid self-awareness and knowing that you are just one small part of the world.
Humility can be one of the most powerful traits to have in the workplace. Here are 17 examples of humility:
1. Congratulate someone even when you disagree with them
It is often easy to forget our manners, but those moments of courtesy can significantly impact the workplace. So, you can still offer congratulations and respect even if you disagree with someone.
For example, if you believe that person has not earned a promotion or award that they received, you can still congratulate them on their accomplishment.
Disagreeing with someone does not mean that you have to be unpleasant or unprofessional. It is often more practical to respectfully agree to disagree.
This allows you to maintain a positive relationship with the other person while still maintaining your integrity.
2. Be patient with less experienced people
One good example of humility in the workplace is being patient and understanding with people who are less experienced than you. No one starts at the top of their field.
Everyone starts from somewhere, and even the so-called “experts” were once novice employees who had to learn the ropes or had to learn and develop their skills over time.
Therefore, it is essential to be supportive and helpful to those new on the job and be willing to share your knowledge and experience with them.
So, always remember that we all have to start somewhere! Providing guidance and mentorship to newcomers or the less experienced is a great way to share your knowledge and experience with them.
Read also: 15 Examples of Commitments
3. Maintain a constructive dialogue
How many of us put our egos on the line to maintain relationships? Only a few! Most people will choose to save their skin and end up burning bridges in the process.
In other words, most people make themselves look good, even if it means resorting to underhanded tactics like gaslighting the other person or bending the truth.
But what if you dared to always maintain a constructive perspective, even in the face of adversity? What if you saw the best in people, no matter what they said or did?
That is humility. It is not about putting yourself down or making yourself small. It is about having a giving heart, even when things are tough.
People with humility understand that it is not all about them and are willing to compromise for the sake of relationships. They know it is much more productive to have an honest and open discussion, even if it’s complicated.
And they’re not afraid to be vulnerable and admit when they’re wrong. That kind of integrity is what builds trust and fosters healthy relationships.
4. Openly admit when you don’t know something
Pride can often get in the way of our ability to be humble. For example, we may feel we are exposing our weaknesses when we admit we do not know something.
Or, we may be afraid to ask for clarification because we do not want others to think less of us — we may not want to look dumb in front of our others.
However, it is essential to remember that nobody knows everything and that seeking to understand when needed is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Admitting if you do not know something can prevent you from looking ignorant when someone calls you out on your mistake.
5. Never hesitate to admit when you are wrong
We all make mistakes, but how many of us admit or strive to learn from our mistakes? When we deny our wrongdoing, we look for scapegoats —we make up excuses instead of accepting our faults.
We refuse to take any blame. We become defensive and argumentative. But when we are humble, we do the opposite. We readily admit our mistakes, even when it is embarrassing or inconvenient.
We take responsibility for our actions. And we accept criticism gracefully, knowing it can help us learn and grow.
6. Don’t gloat or boast about your accomplishments
Some people try to think of themselves as being “talented” or “gifted” because they are good at something, but the truth is, we are all gifted in different ways.
No one is better than anyone else — we are just different. And that is a good thing. So, no matter how good you may be at something, humility always shines through.
Genuinely humble people never put themselves above others and are always willing to help whenever possible.
When we humble ourselves, we recognize that we are not the center of the universe. We can be proud of our accomplishments, but we do not put ourselves on a pedestal. Instead, we give credit where credit is due.
7. Never take advantage of others
Most people do not dare to resist the temptation of abusing their power. It is much easier to take advantage of those who are weaker than you, and most people do.
But it is refreshing to come across someone who does not — a humble person will never take advantage of their position or power in the company, no matter how great the temptation may be. They will always put others first and act with integrity and honesty.
They will promote someone they believe is more deserving or give someone a raise, even if it means taking a pay cut themselves. They never act out of self-interest. These people embody humility, which is something we can all learn.
Read also: 21 Good Examples of Accountability
8. Help new employees get up to speed
Most people struggle when they start a new job. They need to become more familiar with the company culture, the politics, or how things work. It is easy to feel lost and alone.
So, make it a point to reach out to new employees and help them feel welcome. Show them around, introduce them to people, and help them get up to speed.
And do not do it because you are trying to be humble or look good in front of your boss. But because you remember how difficult it was when you first started working, you want to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and welcome.
9. Point out what everyone else is doing well
An excellent example of humility in difficult times is when someone quickly points out what everyone else is doing well and offers encouragement and support instead of condemnation.
Even when things are tough, you stay positive and look for the good in every situation. Know that a bit of kindness can go a long way, and you are always willing to help a colleague in need.
Do not try to put yourself on a pedestal because you know that success is a team effort. Also, you have a genuine sense of humility, and it is one of the things that makes you so admirable.
10. Learn how others are doing in their jobs
When meeting someone for the first time, ask about their job and how they enjoy it rather than start talking about yourself. Let them do most of the talking and be interested in them as a person, not just their job.
Many people love talking about themselves, so it can be an excellent way to break the ice. For example, you may ask, “What are your thoughts about your new job? I’m sure it is keeping you busy.”
It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about them and their experiences rather than just talking about yourself.
And you can always share your own experiences more subtly. For example, you may say that you found your job challenging initially, but you have come to love it.
It shows that you are humble and open-minded and can help you make a positive impression on the other person without appearing boastful or arrogant.
11. Don’t get upset just because someone else gets credit
There are a few reasons why you might not get upset when someone else gets credit for your idea. First, it is possible that you are genuinely happy that the idea was successful, and you do not need recognition.
Second, you may know that you are the one who deserves the credit, and you are not worried about what other people think. Third, you may understand that ideas are just a small part of success and that execution is more important than ideas.
When an idea is successfully executed, it is a team effort — not a one-person show. So, if someone else gets credit for it, do not get upset — be happy that the idea was successful. After all, you were a part of the team that made it happen.
Read more: 16 Examples of Taking Responsibility at Work
12. Don’t try to justify your work
When someone criticizes our work, it can be difficult not to take their words personally. We might feel the urge to defend our position or justify why we did things the way we did them — that will only further frustrate the person trying to help.
But, if we can resist the temptation of defending ourselves and instead listen and learn from what they have to say and thank them for their input, it shows a lot of humility and maturity.
Yes, it can be tough to swallow our pride and admit that we made a mistake, but it is the only way that we will get better at our jobs. And besides, nobody is perfect — when we accept constructive criticism graciously, we show our willingness to learn and grow as professionals.
So, always listen and learn from people’s feedback, and if there is something you disagree with, respectfully explain why.
13. You are not the only one in the workplace
You are one of many in the workplace. No matter how high up you may be in the company, there is always someone who knows more than you or has more experience.
There are countless other people with valuable skills who are just as capable and talented as you.
If someone else can do a task better or faster than you can, do not be afraid to let them take over — step back when someone else has a better idea — being humble means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledging that you are not always right.
You are not indispensable; everyone on the team will be stronger if they all pitch in.
14. Acknowledge the contributions of others
Always acknowledge the contributions of others, no matter how small they may seem. This could include thanking someone for completing a task, suggesting, or taking on extra work.
Even if you feel that your contribution was more outstanding than someone else’s, giving credit where credit is due is essential. It shows that you are grateful for everything your team does and honestly believe in teamwork.
15. Listen more than you talk
The best example of humility in the workplace is someone who listens more than they speak. In meetings, if you take the time to listen to others and understand their point of view, it shows that you respect their opinion and are not just trying to push your agenda.
It also makes you appear more intelligent and thoughtful when you speak later. And finally, listening more than speaking allows everyone in the meeting to have a voice, which is ultimately more democratic and collaborative.
Read also: 15 Examples of Taking Ownership
16. Never hastily dismiss anyone’s ideas
Disagreeing respectfully is another crucial part of being humble in the workplace. It is important to remember that we all have different backgrounds and experiences, so we see things differently.
If you are always quick to dismiss others’ ideas or are not open to new perspectives, then people will be hesitant to come to you with suggestions or solutions.
And that is not good for your team or your company. So try to listen first and judge later — it will make everyone’s life much easier.
17. Recommend a colleague better qualified for promotion
An excellent example of humility in the workplace is when you are given an opportunity for advancement. Instead of taking it for yourself, you recommend another better-qualified employee.
Even though it would have been an excellent opportunity for you, you chose to put the interests of your company first.
This shows that you are willing to put the company’s success ahead of your ambitions and recognize your colleague’s strengths.
It takes a lot of humility to admit that someone else is better than you, and this type of attitude can help build a solid and successful team.
Humility can positively impact any workplace environment — whether it is between colleagues working together on projects or between managers and employees in a hierarchical structure – by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding that encourages collaboration rather than competition.
Humility should not be mistaken for weakness. Instead, it should be a strength as it allows us to recognize our shortcomings while striving for excellence in all aspects of our work lives.
When we embrace humility in the workplace, we create an environment where everyone can succeed — regardless of position or rank.