Now Needed More Than Ever: Humility in the Workplace

Photo by  Gareth Davies

Photo by Gareth Davies

Let’s talk relationships.

I mean authentic, sincere and real relationships. Relationships that are based on respect and trust.  And not founded on what we can get from one another to further the business.

It’s a paradigm shift focused around relationships with employees, vendors, partners and customers that is kind, empathetic, and reflects one of my favorite values: humility.

But first let’s define humility and the act of being humble.

Webster says:

“Humility is freedom from pride and arrogance. Humility is the act of being humble which is to serve others and be for their good as well as your own.” 

This is a common value we see in Benefit Corporations. They’re committed to the “greater good” while achieving profit. These leaders recognize that relationships based on humility, reveals a business practice that helps them grow their business.

Today, Millennials, who now represent the largest age group in workplace history, can sniff out “phony” talk. They demand businesses listen first, problem-solve in collaboration with them, maintain transparency and practice servant leadership grounded in humility.

Which is why they are drawn to benefit corporations. These are the companies they work for and these are the companies they purchase goods and services from.

It’s not fluff. These values represent a needed a new way of doing business. 

So, move over technology-driven, analytic, process-oriented companies and welcome Benefit Corporations to the table. These are kinder, gentler businesses that are still finding success and growth, with a focus on the first ‘P’ in the triple bottom line…People.

Need more compelling reasons for becoming a benefit corporation? At the 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum, the business case was made for  a different more humanistic business paradigm. “We cannot let technology, however advanced, replace humanity with all its sensitivities, its appreciation of love, beauty and nature, its need for affection, sympathy humility and purpose, its hopes and fears, intuitions, imagination and leaps of faith,” begun management author Charles Handy, in a stirring address at the Global Peter Drucker Forum last year.

Canvas Host is a prime example of a business practicing humility. It’s a benefit corporation with corporate headquarters in Portland, OR, and certified as a Benefit Corporation for Good.  Listen to the  words of its founder David Anderson.

“It’s the way we do business…listening with respect in a spirit of collaboration. It’s not about us – it’s about the other --- the customer and the community.”  

This company thrives, but lives by the Golden Rule---without ego. It’s a commitment they make as part of being an Oregon Benefit Company.

All of which brings us to some easy ways to practice humility in the workplace.  Pretty simple stuff… but we all need reminders.

1.       Listen before speaking

2.       Put yourself in the other’s shoes

3.       Assume good intent

4.       Ask for help from others

5.       Recognize others may know more than you do

6.       Share the stage with others

7.       Don’t talk about your own achievements – modesty is the path

8.       Know when you are wrong

As British writer C.S. Lewis said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”




MaryAnne Harmer