While many fear being arrogant, it’s often hard to notice yourself acting arrogant and you might end up doing it more often than you’d like.
According to a study of 520 drivers, only 1% considered themselves below average for their driving skills, with even the worst drivers saying they’re above average. Multiple other studies in the decades since have also found that people continually grade themselves as “above average” when presented with a questionnaire, even if they aren’t. This basically defines arrogance, or in other words, the behaviour of believing you’re more important or better at something than most others.
So, in the workplace, what happens when you do something outstanding? How can you share your successes without making it seem like you’re arrogant? Here we’ve put together our eight top tips for how to brag with grace.
- 8 ways to brag about yourself without sounding arrogant
- When it is okay and not okay to brag about yourself
8 ways to brag about yourself without sounding arrogant
- Take credit for your hard work
- Be honest about your achievements
- Keep your bragging brief
- Focus on your tone
- Avoid putting yourself down when talking about your work
- Show thanks to those who helped you succeed
- Act grateful
- Avoid humblebragging
1 Take credit for your hard work
Some projects are hard, long, or complex. You might have spent extra hours on a project, or maybe you had to re-do it a few times before you got it right. Or, maybe you had no idea at all what you were doing but somehow you still pulled it off! These are all successes. When someone around you commends you for this extra effort you put into your project, it’s okay to accept the praise and even pat yourself on the back—you should be proud of yourself too!
Share your wins
Include a section in your agendas during one-on-one meetings to share your recent wins, such as progress, results, and anything in between, so your manager is up to date. Try a tool like Fellow!
2 Be honest about your achievements
This tip is especially important for when you’re working on team projects or putting more effort than planned into a task. Sometimes work happens in the background that other people don’t see. Being open and honest about what you had to do to earn success is a great part of honouring the hard work you’ve put in.
3 Keep your bragging brief
When the focus is on your successes, keep it short, but always say thank you to the person who gave you praise. At most, you might consider adding a small anecdote of a challenge or lesson learned along the way to further highlight your hard work. Beyond that, avoid talking in too much detail about the struggles you overcame or the capabilities that you needed to succeed. Doing so can make it seem like you don’t think anyone else would have been able to achieve the same thing, which is an arrogant thought.
4 Focus on your tone
The way you convey your successes has a big impact on how they’re received. It can make the difference between, “wow, I’m actually really proud of myself for that,” vs. “Yeah, actually I knew I’d be able to do that anyways.” To keep your tone from sounding arrogant, focus on avoiding matter-of-fact tones. Keep your tone light, positive, and grateful.
5 Avoid putting yourself down when talking about your work
If you’re trying really hard to avoid sounding arrogant, your alternative instinct might be to decline the level of hard work you put into the project. Avoid putting yourself down, as this outer voice can make its way into your subconscious thoughts and affect how you’re truly viewing your performance. If you need help with separating what is really successful and what might be an exaggerated success, focus on measurable data points or regularly reflect using a blog or journal. This way you have something to rely on to ensure that you’re measuring your growth and noticing when you’re actually improving on a skill.
6 Show thanks to those who helped you succeed
A big part of being humble is recognizing that you likely didn’t achieve that success completely on your own. Sure, maybe you were the person who coordinated or executed the project at the end of the day, but along the way you likely had a manager who helped you prepare for the role, coworkers who helped you with project components, subject matter experts who informed you on the project topic, and hey, even your CFO who approved the project costs! Without these people’s support, your project may not have been the success it was, so it’s a sign of good manners to show them your gratitude as well.
7 Act grateful
Showing gratitude in the workplace has all kinds of benefits, such as aligning your team, making your coworkers feel purposeful, increasing team motivation, and building trustful relationships. When recognizing the successes in which you’ve been involved, it’s important to take a step back and understand the full picture. Some questions to give you this broader picture include:
- What happened to get you this opportunity?
- Who was involved along the way?
- What else could have happened that didn’t?
8 Avoid humblebragging
Humblebragging is the practice of purposefully bragging in a subtle manner while trying to seem like an accomplishment was more difficult than it really was for you. This behaviour can either occur to create a feeling of humility (humility-based humblebragging) or to dramatize problems that likely aren’t really a problem (complaint-based humblebragging). An example of complaint-based humblebragging would be saying, “It was just SO hard to choose between a Lexus or a BMW.”
According to a 2017 study, humblebragging is actually a form of self-denial where you aren’t fully realizing the efforts and resources that went into the success. Humblebragging is also actually much more likely to come across as arrogant—you’re less likely to be portrayed as arrogant if you outright bragged about your accomplishment.
When it is okay and not okay to brag about yourself
Appropriate times to brag about yourself
- During an interview. When interviewing for a new role, you obviously want to showcase your skills and accomplishments. In this case scenario, you want to make sure to be honest about the successes in your role while also acknowledging any support or resources that made your success possible (this is helpful to show you’re still a team player).
- During a team meeting. Some meeting types (such as all-hands, town halls, or even weekly team catch-ups) will often include a meeting agenda item to discuss recent group wins. This is definitely your opportunity to share anything extra exciting that happened in your role, and also highlight your team’s successes. Feel free to also shine a spotlight on any of your coworkers if you noticed they did anything ultra-impressive since the last meetings, because the best wins are those celebrated with a team.
- During a performance review. You want to be honest about your work performance by showcasing your accomplishments for the quarter or year. Your manager doesn’t always get to see the work you put into each of your projects, so this is your time to explain any added effort you put in. It’s also helpful if you have success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that tie directly to the work you completed to show that you’re aligned with the organization’s goals and are actively supporting their efforts to grow.
Inappropriate times to brag about yourself
- When someone else is receiving praise. Just as you love your five minutes in the spotlight, chances are that someone else on your team does too. Avoid interrupting their time receiving praise, especially if they’re new to the team or don’t often receive positive feedback. If you also saw that coworker doing something notable and want to add to the praise, this would be a good item to contribute to the conversation.
- During a crisis. When an urgent situation is ongoing, it’s likely that your coworkers are feeling stressed and are hyper focused on the situation at hand. Any additional information that isn’t related to the high-priority issue at hand will feel unnecessary to those working on the crisis, and it’s likely that your success story will either go unheard or be unappreciated. It’s better to save announcing your win for a time when the energy is light and the team is prepared to celebrate success.
- When one of your team members is struggling. If a coworker confides in you about having a difficult time, it is not the time to tell them how easy it was for you to get through a similar situation. And, it’s certainly not the time to tell them how happy you are that you got the easier tasks or were promoted to a better role so you no longer have to do that kind of work anymore. Instead, keep your focus on the challenges that the team member is presenting to you and offer help. This will be the best kind of support you can offer to them at this time, and your offer of support will help them view you as an active listener and great coworker.
The most important part of receiving and responding well to positive feedback is being able to read the room. Your ability to gauge the situation will help identify if it’s an appropriate time to brag about your accomplishments or if your celebrations are better left to another time. Specific case scenarios like annual reviews and job interviews are always great for sharing your success stories.
If you feel like you’re out of time or opportunities to share your wins with the wider team on a regular basis, you can also try connecting with a team member one-on-one. This meeting can be great for getting to know each other and boosting your motivation together!