The 5 forgotten virtues of the workplace

Oct 20, 2016

Virtues such as humility, kindness and hope may not make it on our work agendas but they hold surprising power for successful teamwork, networking and problem solving.

Virtue is about demonstrating traits of dignity, honesty and integrity. It’s about creating worth in both what we do and how we treat one another, and no one would deny that we need a good and generous dose of such traits in our workplaces.

Whether you are in a job, looking for a job or looking to change jobs, equipping yourself with the following essential virtues needed in the workplace is a good place to start.

Humility halts arrogance and self-indulgence.

Rick Pitino

One of the ways in which a lack of humility will harm your career progress is in preventing you from asking for help, while having a spirit of humility will enable you to show that you are willing to learn. Amy Cuddy in her book Presence says that many high flying graduates waltz into their new jobs, internships or work experience and spend their time trying to appear smart. They’re so caught up with making an impression and showing how much know that they don’t ask for help, or they spend so much effort trying to appear professional and confident that they come across as aloof. They’ve forgotten one important thing: to connect with the people around them. As a result, they don’t get offered the job because no one really got to know them. So do yourself a favour: be humble. As the ancient Proverb says, ‘Pride comes before a fall’. The way to avoid that fall is to exercise the opposite, to be humble.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Joy is a virtue that is contagious. People who are joyful are a pleasure to be around. Think about anyone you know who is miserable and you will see that people are always trying to avoid them. Joy is different to happiness in that it doesn’t really depend on outside stimulus; it’s more of an internal state of mind that helps you affect the environment around you rather than allow it to affect you. People will be drawn to your joyful countenance and invite you into their professional circles and networks simply because you are a pleasure to be around. Is there a place for joy in the workplace? Certainly! Find it in the tasks you complete and do well; in creating new things and and in helping others do the same. Next time you go to an interview or walk into a meeting with your manager at work, try to practice feeling joy. You may just get that job and salary increase you’re after!

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.

Robert H. Schuller

Hope is another virtue we take for granted but in actual fact we can do very little without it. Hope is the ability to see beyond what you see in front of you, to remain optimistic and expectant even when things aren’t looking all that great. It will get you through tough times at work or while you are looking for a job but keep getting rejection letters. In fact, hope is a prerequisite for leading teams. If the leader cannot foster hope in those he leads he will not be able to inspire its members to move forward. A team must have hope in order to move forward and to take risks. Social activist and futurist Robert Mattox says a person can create change in a team, organisation or company by creating what he calls a ‘hopescape’. This would work a bit like a landscape to create a map or picture that could be used to inspire team members to move forward and get things done. A hopescape can work on a personal level too. Keep hope alive.

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.

Samuel Johnson

Kindness is the fourth virtue I want to mention. Again, it’s not a trait that we commonly talk about in the workplace environment but without it we’ll only alienate those around us. We may be good at our jobs but unkindness will still leave a nasty stain in the memories of colleagues, clients and suppliers and send them running in the opposite direction. Like empathy, it helps us build trust and shows we’re human. It helps you to make the right connection and that’s what helps you win at sales, in pitches, in solving customer service problems and even in interviews. It’s the virtue that enables you to say to a colleague, customer or client, I know exactly what you mean and to melt away boundaries. It helps you build meaningful and valuable networks. What is more, it will pay you back when you least expect it.

Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.


Patience is our final and perhaps most often quoted virtue. In our fast paced society, we don’t think too much of it because we want what we want now and everything around us is set up to deliver it now. However, we can’t always have things our way and there are times when we simply, well… need… to… wait. Patience is what will get you through when you need to wait for the right price, project, job, client or whatever it is that isn’t coming through right now. It is the virtue that will enable you to keep trying for that contract, keep trying to get hold of that person you need to speak to, to keep going for the job you want or to hold out for that better sale or purchase. We may need to exercise patience with those we are training while they learn, just as others did for us. Patience goes hand in hand with persistence, resilience and grit.

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