Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Creating or Nurturing a Positive Culture: Showing Humility

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman

This week we’re concluding our roundup of strategies that can help create or nurture a positive culture in the workplace. So far, we’ve identified (1) fostering social connections, (2) “promoting psychological safety,” (3) practicing gratitude, (4) being helpful, (5) showing empathy, (6) demonstrating compassion, and (7) practicing forgiveness as scientifically proven methods—which you can read more about in our previous blog posts.

Today, we’re focusing on one final approach: showing humility.

There is now a growing body of research confirming that practicing humility in the workplace—i.e., owning up to mistakes and being transparent about one’s own limitations, being receptive to feedback, and acknowledging the strengths and contributions of other team members listening—is not only an effective leadership strategy that nurtures a positive workplace culture, but an effective company growth strategy as well.[1]

From a family business perspective, particularly those run as partnerships between siblings and cousins, where individuals not only have disparate personalities but increasingly divergent circumstances with correspondingly diminishing shared genetic connections, reinforcing and authentically integrating these traits and behaviors will help create or maintain a workplace culture of acceptance, learning, and mutual support—which, in turn, enhances job satisfaction, employee engagement, performance, and, finally in turn, “bottom-line” growth.

Parents can help their children by 1) making caring for others a priority, 2) providing opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude, 3) expanding a child’s circle of concerns, 4) being a strong moral role model and mentor, 5) and guiding children in managing their destructive emotions. Many of these behaviors can be—must be—taught by parents to their children years before those children are old enough to start working in a family business.[2]

If you’ve ever thought about the difference between “hearing” and “listening,” then check back here next week. We’re shifting gears to focus on proven communication strategies that can help enhance businesses and beyond. 

[1] See, e.g., Bradley P. Owens et al., Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership, 24 Org. Sci. 1517 (2013); John Dame & Jeffrey Gedmin, Six Principles for Developing Humility as a Leader, Harv. Bus. Rev. (Sept. 09, 2013),; Richard Martin, Humility as a Desirable Personality Trait and a Construct of Effective Leadership: A Review of the Literature (2014) (unpublished manuscript),

[2] See generally, e.g., Amy Joyce, Are You Raising Nice Kids? A Harvard Psychologist Gives 5 Ways to Raise Them To Be Kind, Wash. Post: On Parenting (July 18, 2014),

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