What would you call a person who can stand up in front of a group of colleagues, not care about the professional hierarchy of the people present, and say those rarest of the rare three precious words, “I am sorry.”?
First, maybe you’ll appreciate it. But then what if the person goes on to say, “Yes, I didn’t know any better and I made a terrible mistake. It was a complete lack of rational judgement on my part. I’ll fix this.”?
How would you take that blunt honesty?
Would your organization reframe from:
- Making this one incident synonymous with the person’s entire identity?
- Mocking and joking about his/her upfront acceptance and efforts to learn better and do better?
- Gossipping about the person being an absolute fool to even be honest about the whole situation instead of being sly about it?
If we want a healthy work culture, let us not forget that it is we who create the culture at our respective workplaces. Culture does not exist as an abstract idea. It is to a great extent what we make it out to be.
Conversely, holding someone accountable for their complete negligence of official duty is not an attack to be thwarted with vengeance and evil gambits.
Accountability, just like Respect, is always a two-way street and works effectively only when it’s practised equally both up and down the hierarchy.
Confidence is ideally all about claiming credit for the good work alone, is it?
What about the accountability to be just as vocal about admitting mistakes too?
Finding the voice to accept faults is not arrogance.
Arrogance, on the contrary, is living on with the notion that there’s nothing wrong with me and I am never at fault, that I am always on the right side of things in every situation. That is, in fact, outright obnoxious.
What comes across to you as over-confidence is in fact self-assurance that yes, I have made a mistake, I do not know it all, I have screwed up and I will make up for this. I may not know how even at this very moment, but I do know that I am sincerely committed to working on my shortcomings and making safer, better mistakes over time.
And that is modesty.
Let’s get over the idea that only people-pleasing is modesty; that self-deprecation is the only possible expression of modesty.
Modesty is admitting to your own limitations and flaws, and at the same time putting your foot down when someone comprehends your humility as the password to humiliate your very existence.
May this be a reminder for you to make sure that you taking responsibility for all that you do, or do not do, for that matter, is never mistaken as the token to gaslight you and/or mock you and tear you down at every chance someone gets.
Modesty is accepting accountability for what you did wrong and taking full responsibility to make amends, all while shutting down anyone who dares mortify you for the same.
In a parallel conversation: The self-sabotaging thought of “I am unworthy and undeserving and not good enough” does not require any modesty in the first place. Modesty is not trivialising the self, but appreciating your own self and sharing that appreciation with others just as heartily.
Modesty is confidence in your own accomplishments, minus the insecurity that keeps you from acknowledging other people’s achievements and potentials.
Think of it this way: When you trivialize anything that you are good at, that you know and have learnt with hard work over days and weeks only to appear “modest” in the eyes of that one person or group that you so want to please in order to remain in your organisation’s good-books, you don’t just tear yourself down, but you, in that very moment disregard and trivialise every single person who has invested their time and resources and brain capacity and generosity to teach you what you know, to support you in any way and form throughout your learning saga. I am sure you don’t intend that now, do you?
Modesty is knowing that “Yes, I am good enough in my present skills and abilities and yet, there is so much more that I don’t know anything about and need to learn.”
P.S.: This post in no way patronizes obnoxious know-it-all arrogance, carelessness, willful blindness, and such unacceptable callous behaviour on the job.