Givers, Takers, and Matchers

An entertaining TED talk about how to promote a culture of generosity in the workplace and establish help-seeking as the norm.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who studied the performance of thousands of people across different industries. In his talk, he defines three broad categories of workplace personalities: 

  1. Givers - "what can I do for you"
  2. Takers - "what can you do for me"
  3. Matchers - "I'll do something for you, if you do something for me. Quid pro quo"

It's understandable to assume that givers are agreeable in nature and takers disagreeable but he points out that his findings suggest no such correlation.

"it turns out that agreeableness-disagreeableness is your outer veneer: How pleasant is it to interact with you? Whereas giving and taking are more of your inner motives: What are your values? What are your intentions toward others?"

The takeaways? 

  • Protect the agreeable givers from burnout
  • Elevate the voices of disagreeable givers and ensure their contributions are considered
  • Identify takers and remove them if possible

While the personification is helpful, I don't believe that it's as innate or clear-cut in practice. If someone isn't happy at a company (potentially because it's not a good fit), they are bound to become takers while they may in fact be natural givers. Thinking of the categories as more fluid and contextual provides individuals with the agency to change their behavior and environment.