My parents taught me that humility is an essential trait in life. Living in humility required me to no longer seek praise. Although, I wanted it so badly. Living in humility meant successes are not something to brag about. It felt wrong to be proud when I graduated with honors in university. Instead of treasuring my moment of pride and fame, I assured everyone that they, too, can do what I did.
But when I entered my first job after university, my co-worker immediately said “You are too humble!”
Naturally, I responded with “No I’m not.” It seemed like I was trying to be humble about my own humility.
You see, that morning we were discussing last week’s work social. I was a new Marketing Intern and the director of the organization wanted to get to know me more. I gave her my 30 second elevator pitch interwoven with my modest downplay of skills. Then my co-worker willfully promoted my organization skills. She even went on to praise the “beautiful graphics” I made for our marketing collateral. But here I was at the lunch table, with yet another slice of humble pie, and responded “I try my best but I still have a long way to go. Anyone can learn and do what I made.”
I went home and questioned myself for denying my own talents. My co-worker was right, maybe I am too humble. But then – what about what I’ve been taught all my life? Isn’t humility important too? Of course, there are some pros and cons to being humble at work.
Pro #1: You work without your ego and with an open mindset.
Our egos can get in the way of exploration and discovery. Our ego can divert our attention to the fear of failure rather than keeping fueling it with curiosity. Being humble allows you to place your personal success out of sight and focus on the success of you and your team. Without your ego, you are ready to tackle new tasks to help you and your coworkers finish projects together.
Con #1: You’re underestimated so it’s too late to discover your full potential
At work, you were hired because your employer believed you have the skills to do the job. Yet with the wrong use of humility, your skills and potential may be forgotten and lurk in the shadows. As a young professional, it’s important to show your peers the work you can do. Whether it’s by asking your co-worker for feedback or sharing your idea with your boss, taking a step to showcase your skills is important. Don’t let your humility hinder your growth.
Pro #2: You’re not the arrogant and selfish co-worker
No one likes an arrogant person. By being humble, you take the time to focus your attention on your peers. Instead of sharing your scary (but actually not scary) road trip story, you display interest in getting to know your peers. You are also aware of your own flaws. This makes you more understanding of any problems you and your team may face.
Con #2: Your silence may exclude you from decision making
Being too humble can lead to your lack of participation in team meetings or planning. Perhaps you downplay some of your ideas and opinions, leaving you with only a nod as your contribution in the meeting. It’s important to voice out ideas and be part of the team. Remember, you have valuable ideas too!
At the end of work day, the fine balance in being humble is what we all need. Young professionals hold the potential to be leaders. We must be able to turn off our focus on ourselves and turn to others when they need us. But we must also be able to speak up when our ideas need to be heard. Humility is a double-edge sword. Being humble in the right place and time is a powerful tool in your young professional briefcase.