Are you a giver or a taker?

Hi – another one of my musings. Let me know if you read this as I’m pretty sure I’m writing to myself most of the time. If you like this then please do help to spread the word!

I’m fascinated by how people manage (or don’t) to strike that balance between helping others and helping themselves. There’s no doubt that helping people has benefitted me in my career. Numerous contacts, friendships & professional relationships as well as involvement in surprise initiatives that would never have come about if I’d not helped or assisted someone else with whatever mattered to them. But sometimes I get the sense that maybe, not everyone is operating on the same page. Maybe some people aren’t as interested in returning favours, or *shudder* are actually out to get what they can at the expense of others.

Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist and professor at Wharton, has an interesting take on the reciprocity of people in the typical workplace. Grant divides people up into 3 categories.

  • Takers– Takers are focused on themselves. They’re interested only in what they can get out of a situation and try to gain as much ground for as little reciprocal help as possible.
  • Matchers– Matchers like it equal. They’ll help you if you help them. They’ll take from you if you take from them.
  • Givers– Givers are focused on others. They love to help other people and don’t expect anything in return. They want to add value to others and don’t expect the favour to be returned.  The act of helping is enough for them.

Most people tend to be matchers. They respond to fairness and expect people to be fair to them.Takers are less represented but also have less willingness to identify themselves as takers as most people see such behaviour as undesirable and once rumbled, a taker tends to fare poorly.

So which one should you be? If you indeed can choose your inherently natural behaviour.

Grant’s studies have shown that takers, matchers & givers inhabit very distinct zones of the workplace success scaleTakers & matchers are bang in the middle, so givers must be at the top, right? After all, givers build great networks, relationships and add value to the mission of their organisation. Well that’s correct, givers are indeed right at the top of the success scale – but they’re also right at the bottom.

How can that be? Can being super-helpful be detrimental to your career? Well turns out there are two distinct types of giver – the “Selfless Giver” and the “Otherish Giver”.

Selfless Givers are all about the giving. They’ll help others regardless of their own situation or workload. They rarely say no. And what happens? They end up helping others to the detriment of their own work. Suddenly they’ve been too busy helping others to meet their own deadlines. Selfless givers are also prime prey for takers, who know how to exploit their generosity,

Otherish Givers help loads as well but crucially have a key difference. They set boundaries, so that they will say no to helping if say that deadline is pressing, or they’re busy on crucial projects. They also understand how to recognise and respond to the takers, so don’t get exploited.

I’ve seen both throughout my career. And I’ve managed to make my own transition from selfless giver to otherish giver, which has helped me progress, without compromising my willingness to help people.

Grant suggests a number of ways to proactive being a successful (otherish) giver.

  1. Use 5 minute favours – lots of quick gestures of help is a great way of strengthening relationships, without costing yourself too much time
  2. Ask for help – Asking for advice gives the recipient a warm feeling, and is a great relationship builder.
  3. Give all at once – Grant suggests devoting a block of time to a bunch of giving acts, “chunking” your giving. There’s psychological evidence that this provides the most mental benefit.
  4. Specialise – Pick an area of expertise rather than trying to be a jack of all trades.
  5. Learn to spot the takers – Spot those on the take, and apply more of a matchers attitude to them. That way you can still help, but make sure you get something in return.

I hope that helps. I found my understanding of the workplace dynamic went through the roof once I learned to recognise these reciprocity traits in clients, peers and reports. And as a result I was able to focus my own giving to be more effective.

It’s worth checking Grant’s TED talk as well as his excellent book, Give and Take. See references section below.

And I always like to refer to Tanmay Vora’s sketchnotes for a visual summary.

TiffaniBovaAdamGrantv1600px_thumb

 

References

Adam Grant TED talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_are_you_a_giver_or_a_taker?language=en

Give and Take – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Give-Take-Helping-Others-Success/dp/1780224729

Interview with Adam Grant on the Tiffani Bova podcast – https://podbay.fm/podcast/1262213009/e/1530788400

Tanmay Vora’s summary – http://qaspire.com/2019/02/05/the-art-of-successful-giving-adam-grant/

Thank you! The power of appreciation & gratitude

Well done! Great job! Thanks!

It has been said that Sorry seems to be the hardest word [1], but for many people it’s “thanks”.

At my organisation we are encouraged to give regular, constructive feedback to allow us all to improve the areas that we may be weaker at. That’s very valuable, but maybe we don’t spend enough time simply praising or giving thanks to each other?

I’ve always wondered why people don’t seem to find it easy to give praise or express gratitude. It seems to me that people are much more inclined to criticise. Even that “constructive feedback” has an implied criticism and while useful, won’t give the recipient that warm feeling.

In fact a recent survey [2] of almost 8000 managers found that 40% never give praise of any kind, whereas another study [3] showed that high performing teams get on average six times more positive messaging than lower performing teams. And it’s not just in the workplace. It’s long been known that successful marriages and relationships feature a positive:negative feedback ratio of at least 5:1. If that ratio is much lower then it’s a significant predictor of divorce [4].

Seems to me saying thanks is most definitely a good thing. So I’ve done a bit of research.

What are the benefits of saying thanks?

  • Mutual happiness
    • It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. Everyone’s a winner.

 

  • Bridge building
    • Gratitude is a great tool to turn around a bad relationship. If an interaction isn’t going well, then finding a reason to show appreciation can be that starting point for resolving issues and mending your relationship with someone.

 

But it’s not easy. Many people find it very difficult to express gratitude. Why?

  • Cringe factor
    • I know some people that find a praise-giving session tough to deliver. They find it slightly embarrassing. And sometimes the recipients can also [5]. That can be a barrier and mean that praise gets as far as someone’s mind, but no further as no-one wants an emotionally uncomfortable situation. I find that the more you get into the habit if giving praise, the more comfortable you get and you also learn to recognise the reaction of the recipient and tailor your approach accordingly.

 

  • We expect “out of the ordinary”
    • At work we expect excellence from our colleagues. So often, extra praise isn’t given unless someone demonstrates out of the ordinary performance. Like someone who doesn’t tip because the “server is just doing their job”. I try to think more about trust, reliability & attitude rather than going the extra mile. There are plenty of colleagues that I’ve thanked or praised simply because they make my life easier in any number of ways. In cases like these it’s important to be specific and constructive. Praising a particular behaviour gives the recipient more to work with than generic thanks. It also appears more genuine [6].

 

  • We don’t want people to get one up on us
    • Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. “Why should I praise that person, they’ll get better at their job and then they’ll make more progress than me?” Yes this is the wrong attitude in a collaborative firm, but it’s out there, fortunately in small doses. For those that may think that way, I’d suggest reading about the power of givers and takers – something I’ll be blogging about in future.

 

Ok that’s cool – I want to be more grateful, but how? There are plenty of tips for giving effective gratitude.

 

How to express generosity

  • A weekly gratitude note
    • I like this one. I end my week by sending a weekly note to someone that I appreciate. I find it gives me (and hopefully them) a nice warm feeling at the end of a week. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant recommends “chunking” gestures of gratitude for maximum effect. [7]

 

  • Make it public
    • Showing gratitude in public is also powerful. My team has a bi-weekly project update and in it we have a section called “Agile BI Appreciates“, where the team calls out anyone they feel like. See here for an example.

 

  • Keep a thanks diary
    • People easily forget when you’ve either done something well or when they have done something well. Recording experiences boosts the positive feeling. Create an Outlook “Quick Step” to file mails that fall into the “thanks” category for later use.

 

  • Mental exercises
    • Yes you can train your brain to be more of a thankful and appreciative person [8].

 

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading. Comments invited.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_Seems_to_Be_the_Hardest_Word

[2] https://qz.com/work/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764203260208

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201308/why-some-people-hate-receiving-compliments

[6] https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/the-thing-that-many-people-get-wrong-about-giving-praise.html

[7] https://hurryslowly.co/adam-grant/

[8] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/