How would you rate your interactions with others in the workplace? Do you try to contribute to others without expecting anything in return, or do you seek to claim as much value as you can from the relationship, or do you aim for a fair exchange? In short – are you a giver, a taker or a matcher?
Professor Adam Grant from the Business School of Wharton has found that these three approaches underpin all our relationships and networks. While we can shift from one style to another, he suggests at work we often develop a primary style in most of our interactions. And this can play as much of a role in our success as hard work, talent, and opportunity. Adam’s research indicates that one of these three styles is more consistently associated with success, and one with failure.
- Givers – give to others without expecting anything in return. They are focused on what others may need from them. They never seem too busy to help out, they give credit to others, mentor generously, and actively share their time, knowledge, ideas, and connections.
- Takers – seek to maximize what they can get from others. They see the world as a dog-eat-dog competitive place, and in order to succeed they need to promote their competence and ensure they get credit for their efforts. They become defensive and protective about knowledge and resources.
- Matchers – strive for an equal balance of giving and receiving. They believe in fairness, so when they help others they expect an even exchange of favors. They give when they believe they will get something of equal value in return and help those who can help them in return.
Where do you fit? Take the Give and Take quiz to get your score and find out what this might mean for your workplace relationships and networks. You can also ask others to rate you on the 360 Assessment.
How To Get The Tool?
This free online assessment is available on Adam’s website.
What Have Researchers Found?
This tool follows from Adam Grant’s best-selling book Give and Take that is based on several decades of research on reciprocity. In our workplaces all three styles – givers, takers and matchers – have their own benefits and drawbacks. But when it comes to success across a wide range of occupations, Adam has found that givers dominate both the bottom and the top of the success ladder. Some givers become powerful leaders, whilst others are regarded as pushovers and doormats.
For example the least productive and effective engineers are givers. In one study, of 160 professional engineers the least successful were rated as giving more than they received. They had the lowest objective scores in their firm for the number of technical reports and drawings completed. As well as the highest rates of errors made, deadlines missed, and money wasted. It appeared that going out of their way to help others prevented them from getting their own work done. But it seems the most productive engineers were also givers. The ones who went out of their way to generously assist others.
Successful givers have a unique approach to interactions in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating and influencing. When they develop new connections, they ask ‘How can I contribute to this person’s work?’ as well as look at their expanded network as a way to benefit more people. When they collaborate with others, they aim to put the good of the group above their own interests, and go out of their way to share credit. When they evaluate others, they look for potential, and ways to draw out the best in others. As an influencer they are not only concerned with their own outcome, but also about what’s best for the other party.
But what stops a giver from burn out after being too empathetic, too trusting, and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good? Adam suggests that the most successful givers become adaptable in their giving — giving to maximize social ties, become cautious about giving to takers, and they develop assertiveness by taking an advocacy approach for their own and others interests.
Adam has found that givers, takers, and matchers all achieve success. But what sets giver’s success apart is the ripple effect it has. Successful takers tend to be resented by others, so when they win we look for ways to bring them down. However, we support givers who succeed as they succeed in ways that enhance the achievements of others around them.