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Learning to Be Humble at Work

by Stan Mack

Confidence is a good thing, in life and in the workplace. Arrogance, on the other hand, can irritate people, jeopardizing your work and personal relationships. Going too far in the other direction is equally bad. For example, being too modest can come across as insecure. The key is to project an optimistic attitude about your abilities while remaining humble.

Recognize Your Faults

Humility starts with taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for feedback from supervisors if you’re not sure how to rate your performance and abilities. Use what you learn to focus your development on those areas that need it the most. For example, if your sales skills are good but your technical knowledge is lacking, ask for additional training. You might have to swallow your pride, but the long-term benefits will more than make up for any temporary discomfort.

Be Open to Criticism

The next step is to stay open to criticism so you can make continual improvements. For example, if you make a mistake at work, own up to it. Taking responsibility for your work tells others they can count on you. Further, you should actively seek out constructive criticism. Ask your boss for advice about how to improve your performance, and take the suggestions to heart. Your boss will appreciate your humble attitude, as well as your willingness to work harder and contribute more.

Value Your Colleagues

Insecure people might feel threatened by colleagues who have more experience or talent, but humble people recognize that talented colleagues are a valuable resource, for two reasons. First, having capable teammates makes your job easier and strengthens the organization as a whole. Second, if you can learn from your colleagues, you will advance in your field much faster than people who try to do everything themselves. In other words, being humble enough to seek guidance from your colleagues can make you better at your job.

Don’t Be a Pushover

Humility is about being open to the possibility of being wrong, but it doesn’t mean you have to let people push you around. For example, if someone suggests a new way to approach a situation, but the proposed solution will cause more problems than it solves, stand up for yourself. Explain as objectively as possible why you believe you’re right. Similarly, if your colleagues unjustly accuse you of failing in some way, don’t let them get away with it. If you have a reputation for being humble, most people will take you at your word.

About the Author

Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.

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