Moral humility: In life and at work

Isaac H. Smith, Maryam Kouchaki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


If behavioral ethics research from the past two decades has taught us nothing else, it has made it abundantly clear that humans are morally fallible. Indeed, there are everyday examples—in the workplace and beyond—of people who unwittingly violate their personal moral values, finding numerous ways to rationalize and justify otherwise morally objectionable behavior. In this article, we argue that acknowledging one's own moral fallibility and developing moral humility can be an influential step in helping bridge the gap between a person's values and behaviors. Specifically, we define and make the case for moral humility as a fundamental virtue that can help people better avoid unethical behavior and enable virtuous behavior. Specifically, we explore the potential effects of having low (insufficient), high (optimal), and extremely high (excessive) levels of moral humility on multiple outcomes at the individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels. Our hope is to encourage future research on this important but underexamined construct.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in Organizational Behavior
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Behavioral ethics
  • Ethics
  • Moral humility
  • Morality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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