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Give, Take, Match

Adam Grant is an industrial psychologist who studies human behavior in the workplace specifically this concept of givers, takers, and matchers.  In his recent TED Talk, “Are You A Giver or a Taker?” he engages the audience in self-reflection of their own tendencies when it comes to being a giver, taker, or matcher and the impact on professional effectiveness and cultures of success.

While takers at first glance tend to rise to the top in professional schooling and appear to have the potential to “do it all” they are not necessarily the people you want on your team or leading your company.  While Grant notes that the worst performers are the givers who often sacrifice, help, or elevate others to their own detriment, the inverse was not true; the high performers were not necessarily the takers. 

When it comes to cutting edge performance, effectiveness, and business prowess he emphasizes the importance of organizations that foster a culture where professionals can thrive, grow, learn, ask and receive help.  These businesses flourish in customer satisfaction, profit margins, retention and many other metrics where the cultural norm is NOT to “take” at all costs.

Taking can translate differently depending on the industry–Using others for your advancement, operating with a cut throat mentality, or even implicitly or explicitly refusing to ask for or offer help.  We have all experienced a person or business environment where this was the unspoken modus operandi or applauded as a competitive edge.

The key for individuals and businesses is to learn how to find that balance of giving, taking, and matching (quid pro quo–you do for me and I do for you) and most importantly where asking for help is not a sign of incompetence or annoyance.  Redefining giving means it is no longer synonymous with playing dead so others can succeed or allowing colleagues to step on your back to get to the next level.  Grant cites a few examples of effective giving in the business world:

  1. Making an introduction for someone or connecting a colleague with a person of value or help
  2. Offering constructive feedback
  3. Making a referral
  4. Or simply taking time to recognize someone’s hard work that’s gone unnoticed

The TED talk also explores the difficulty of identifying takers in our working relationships and during the interview process specifically.  Grant offers one question that slices to the core of these personality traits. Can you give me the name of 4 people whose career you have fundamentally improved?

In 2017 it might serve our professional and personal life well  to take a longer look at this concept and how it’s harnessing or hindering success.  To learn more check out the piece it’s well worth the 13 minutes!







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  1. James Blue says:

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    • K S says:

      James we are so glad you enjoyed! Would love to have you check out our posts! Let us know if you have interests or ideas for things you’d like to read more about.

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