The Power of Humility in the Workplace: When Does It Help? When Does It Hurt?

On October  30, 2018, Dr. Peter Hill spoke to our first Work Life Forum at La Cañada Presbyterian Church and presented the results of new research he and a multi-university team have developed about humility. A video of the event is now available.


Humility is often misunderstood. It is not self-effacement or meekness, but involves having an accurate, ego-free assessment of ourselves, our abilities, and our limitations, and then being able to act accordingly. As such, humility can play an important role in how we deal with the stresses and conflicts in our work life. It can help us see and respond to circumstances more clearly and effectively, lower our stress levels, and improve our working relationships.

Dr. Hill pointed that we humans have natural self-enhancement tendencies, meaning that we naturally want to think well of ourselves; this can lead to an inaccurate self-evaluation. While there are exceptions, we tend to overvalue and overestimate our talents, attribute failure to external factors and success to internal factors, and think that people are more conscious of us than they actually are.

When were able to counteract these tendencies, the effects can be quite noticeable. We can be more open to information and ideas, more appreciative of others, and do a better job at forming effective working relationships. And our co-workers are likely to notice and appreciate when we behave with humility in unexpected circumstances.

This can be especially important for leaders. Dr. Hill referred to the work of Jim Collins and his observation that the most effective leaders tend to combine a strong drive with a sense of humility. Dr. Hill suggested that people do not often expect leaders to be humble, so when they are it is particularly noticeable. The humility demonstrated by a leader can make people more willing  to trust and follow them and can set an example that affects the entire organization, at least in some cases.

Humility is not likely to be developed directly by focusing on developing It as a stand alone virtue.Dr. Hill suggested it might be more effective to focus on the markers of humility. For example, we can work at becoming more aware of our limitations, focus our attention on other people, recognize the contribution of others, We can also remind ourselves of the fleeting nature of status and status symbols.

Dr. Hill developed these and other points during his talk. Watch the video to learn more about this important topic for our work life.

You might also be interested in the Faith and Enterprise Podcast episode from June 21, 2017, The Power of Humility.


Photo of Dr Peter Hill
About the Speaker
Peter C. Hill is one of the best-known scholars in two closely related fields: the psychology of religion and the psychology of workplace spirituality. He is a co-author of the best selling textbook The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach, a co-editor of The Psychology of Religion and Workplace Spirituality, a co-editor of the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling, and the author of three other books. He has authored approximately one hundred peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and is currently Professor of Psychology at Biola University’s Rosemead School of Psychology.
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About the Work Life Forum

The Work Life Forum is a speaker and discussion series designed to help people deal with their serious work issues and to do so in a way that is consistent with their own faith or spirituality. Each event deals with a serious work-related issue and includes a presentation by an expert on the subject as well as an opportunity for informal discussion. The events are free and open to everyone — you will be welcome.

Your work can have important effects on your well-being, even beyond the income it provides. It can provide an opportunity to pursue personal growth and developmentbuild communitycontribute to society, and discover a sense of purpose. But work can also be a source of stressburnoutboredom, and interpersonal conflict. The Work Life Forum can help you deal with both the positive and negative aspects of your work life.

The program is presented and hosted by La Cañada Presbyterian Church and organized and sponsored by the Center for Faith and Enterprise. Events are held at La Cañada Presbyterian Church, 626 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, CA 91011 (near Pasadena). To receive updates: