Organizational Humility and the Better Functioning Business Nonprofit and Religious Organizations

Authored by: Angela S. Wallace , Chia-Yen (Chad) Chiu , Bradley P. Owens

Handbook of Humility

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138960008
eBook ISBN: 9781315660462
Adobe ISBN: 9781317337164


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Prior to the late 1970s, humility was viewed as a positive characteristic within the religious community, but was perceived by many as weakness when expressed in an organizational context. Thus, research examining the influence of humility in organizations is almost nonexistent prior to 1978. During the late 1970s two authors suggested that humility might be beneficial to organizations. First, Hayes (1978) noted that most of those reporting on the favorable characteristics of organizational members focused on surety, firmness, and confidence particularly among organizational leaders. Hayes suggested that organizational humility was vital to organizational harmony. A year later, Lasch (1979), in a landmark book, implied that humility was essential to successful organizational functioning by noting that organizations at the time were promoting detrimental characteristics among their organizational members by glorifying organizational behavior associated with narcissism rather than shining the light on those aspects of human behavior that promote organizational harmony. For the remainder of the twentieth century the notion of humility as an aspect of organizational functioning was touched upon, but still in association with such characteristics as low self-esteem (e.g., Knight & Nadel, 1986; Weiss & Knight, 1980). Then came the twenty-first century and the onslaught of numerous corporate scandals.

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