Give and Take – A Key to Professional Success

In his acclaimed, landmark book Give and Take, Wharton Professor Adam Grant breaks down 3 broad categories of people with very different reciprocity styles – Takers, Matchers, and Givers. He then discusses how each reciprocity style affects one’s personal and professional prospects, gradually building an argument for why we should all give more. Grant’s extensive research has shed light on a crucial element of success, debunking some enduring tenets of cultural mythology.

“The principle of give and take; that is diplomacy— give one and take ten,” Mark Twain

Grant Says “According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity. If we want to succeed, we need a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. [But there is] a fourth ingredient, one that’s critical but often neglected: success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people. Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”

Adam’s 3 Categories:

Takers have a distinctive signature. They are fixated on always getting more than they give. They tend to be competitive; this “taking” mindset can manifest in behavior that’s anywhere from cautious (so they won’t be taken advantage of) to cutthroat (so they can extract as much as possible from others at all costs). To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts.

Matchers believe in quid pro quo. They operate on the principle of fairness. They are extremely attuned to fairness and perceived equality in relationship. If they do you a favor, they expect a favor of equal magnitude in the near future. Similarly, they’ll feel indebted to you if they’re on the receiving end of a good deed.

Givers are those who are “other-focused. In the workplace, givers are a relatively rare breed. ” They don’t weigh the pros and cons of others. Instead, they give without keeping score. Simply put, givers seek to enrich the lives of the people they interact with. As Grant writes, “If you’re a giver […] you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.”

Givers, takers, and matchers all can— and do— achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.

Adam builds a compelling argument that becoming a Giver is the best way to approach our relationships. In the long run, Givers end up doing significantly better than Takers and Matchers for a few key reasons:

  • Givers have the broadest and healthiest networks. Givers make connections with others all the time, not only when they need them (as opposed to Takers and Matchers, who can be more opportunistic about networking and thus have a smaller set of contacts that they develop only when they need a new job/introduction/etc.). Furthermore, rather than looking to extract as much value as possible from their contacts, Givers are always adding value to their networks by fostering connections and knowledge-sharing between others.
  • Givers develop great reputations. When you’re known for helping others, people are much more likely to conspire in your favor. To paraphrase Adam: Takers know you’re not they’re competition, Matchers want to see you rewarded, and other Givers know you’re one of them. A good reputation pays great dividends in the long run – others become eager to help you and see you succeed.
  • Givers can accumulate significant knowledge and experience. By helping other people, Givers get exposed to new domains and novel new problems. Over time, this can accrue to become a formidable cross-disciplinary knowledge advantage.

Best of all, giving is contagious – and by becoming a Giver, you slowly infuse others with the same collaborative, sharing values. This translates to a lot more for everyone in the long run.

This article is adapted from here and here