Givers and Takers. What’s Best for an Organization?

March 7, 2018 Richard Justenhoven

Who gives the best performance? Givers or Takers?

There are the ‘givers’ and the ‘takers’ in the world – we all know some of these people – but for many of us, our default style is somewhere in between, sometimes giving and sometimes taking.

In his TedTalk, occupational psychologist Adam Grant shares the outcomes of his research of around 30,000 people across industries and world cultures. He paints a picture of three different types of people: the ‘giver’ – the person who instinctively offers help, and asks ‘what can I do for you?’; the ‘taker’ – the person constantly looking for what others can do for them; the ‘matcher’ – the type of person who sometimes gives, sometimes takes, and tries to keep an even balance between the doing things for others and others helping them out.

Grant looked at how these different people perform in different job roles.

The poor performers
He found that amongst the worst performers there were mostly ‘givers’ – perhaps they are busy doing other people favours, taking other people into account and generally helping out that they don’t focus on what their own role objectives are! But, as Grant argues, whilst ‘givers’ may sacrifice their own performance, the organisation tends to benefit. They are, after all, the people most likely to mentor others, share knowledge and give feedback. As a result, Grant argues that these are the people we want in our businesses.

The moderate performers
Grant points out that, despite getting help from everyone else, the ‘takers’ are not the high performers; they are outperformed by the ‘matchers’.

The very best performers
Even though the ‘matchers’ outperform the ‘takers’, they are not the best performers. It is, as Grant shares, the ‘givers’ that actually perform best; there is an overrepresentation of the givers in the lower performers, there is also an overrepresentation of them in the best performer group.

What an organisation could look at, Grant argues, is to:

  • Build a culture in organisations in which ‘givers’ can give, without giving too much and burning out.
  • Look at its recruitment processes – not to pinpoint and hire ‘givers’, but to screen out the ’takers’.

Grant says that, instinctively, one would expect to look at the Big Five factor of Agreeableness if looking at those who are ‘givers’ or ‘takers’ – but, he suggests, that this doesn’t get to the motives behind the action and this needs to be understood.

We work with clients to better understand their candidates and their employees and doing this not only from a behavioural competency or personality perspective but also from getting to understand what drives them and their motivations – and this combination of assessment provides a more comprehensive view.

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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