Thursday, 26 February 2015

Are you a giver, a matcher or a taker?

This weeks post is written by Christine Gertz, Library and Information Specialist at CAPS.

I first became aware of Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success, when I received a link to his podcast on the book from Knowledge@Wharton. I do try to stay on top of business books that are relevant to career management, but I am also a sucker for the Malcolm Gladwell-style books that link anecdotes and stories with current research, so Give and Take is an example of a business book that I enjoy reading.

I am interested in many of the ideas that were put forward in the book, and will be talking about some of them over the next little while, though I would like to introduce you to the three main styles of interaction that Grant identifies in his book.

The main premise of the book explores reciprocity and interaction style—in other words, are you a taker, matcher or giver? Grant explains these three roles as:

  • Takers who are primarily concerned about their needs, and tend to see the world as competitive with people fighting over scarce opportunities and recognition.
  •  Matchers are the equalizers. They are willing to help others, but they also believe that their generosity should be repaid in kind. They also tend to dislike it when Takers take advantage of others, especially Givers, and are willing to dole out punishment to Takers should the opportunity arise. The majority of people fall into the Matcher category, Grant argues.
  • Givers are the people who are generous, who don’t believe that opportunities are scarce and are willing to step aside if they feel that there is a better candidate who will assert their shared agenda.

Grant asserts that in terms of success at work that, over time, givers tend to come out on top, with matchers and takers filling out the middle ranks of success. Givers also tend to be among the least successful, meaning that you can give too much, or that it can be too early in your career to see the impact of your generosity.

Though these are the styles that people execute in their relationships, the question is not as simple as giver or taker, but when are you a giver or a taker? In our primary, intimate relationships, people are usually givers: we trust and love the people that are close to us, so we tend not to worry about when we get a return from them. It also makes for very uncomfortable family get-togethers when we have to deal with takers in our families.  In addition, people can take more in the early part of their careers, but learn to be more giving as they become more secure; however, the opposite can also happen when youthful generosity is rewarded with exploitative taking. So intimacy, their role in your life and past experience can influence your giving style.

Personally, I am usually skeptical when a label is slapped on a person, since I believe that relationships are complex, but because I tend to talk about what I am reading with our staff, I would like to apply some of these ideas to a discussion that I had with one of our CPEs on how hard it is to network—even though they know it is effective and have witnessed its positive effects in action.
In our discussion, we talked about how it is easier to network when you feel that you have something to contribute. For example, I am sure that many students have been approached by family and friends about how to apply to university: you have done it, you can offer advice to someone who is about to take the same step. Most students are usually willing to provide advice and directions based on their experience, costing only your knowledge and time. Yes, this is networking, and you feel comfortable doing it since you have something to offer.

But when asking for things that are outside of your power to achieve—how do I get a job with your organization? Would you pass my resume on to your co-worker in HR?—students are more hesitant, or even refuse to ask for aid.

My usual response to this dilemma of when and how to network has been to look for what you can offer in this scenario so that you feel you have given something back to the person who has done you a favour. This is typical matcher I need this, but in return I can offer this.

I would like to suggest something else: Take it. Take the opportunity that is given and not worry about repayment. You do not have something of equal value, but they are willing to give, and you should see this opportunity as scarce and time sensitive, and just take it.

If this makes you uncomfortable, I would like you to consider several ideas that came to me while I was reading this book:
  •  Most givers accept thanks alone. Initially, if you use their offer wisely and don’t squander their generosity, they are willing to accept only gratitude, so don’t forget to express your thanks.
  • Givers also appear to be patient. They know that you are not in a position to pay them back—and you may never be able to—but they have enough experience to know that giving can lead to more opportunity.
  • You are actually being given to someone else. In this case, they have a friend who needs an employee with your skill set and they deliver you to their friend. You are incorrect when you assume you are the subject in the transaction, because you are really the object of the giver’s generosity. 
  • It is also not important that they personally triumph. Givers are happy when their ideas and aims win, or when their giving helps someone else. Grant has a few stories in the book where givers did not need personal acclaim, but were satisfied when the group won.

In the beginning of your professional life, you have not built up enough trust or knowledge in the workplace to offer something of immediate value or use to others, but you should take advantage of generosity, especially if you are willing to pay it forward to others, show gratitude and share acclaim when the time is right. 

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