Featured Personality Adam Grant

Givers, Takers, Matchers and Reciprocity Rings

T he nonprofit world has largely been built on the importance of giving to accomplish real needs in communities across the globe. Yet, oftentimes giving (or more correctly in my research, Givers) get

tion to what other people need from them… If you are a giver at work, you simply strive to be gener- ous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.”

a bad rap. The fact that we, in our communities, are surrounded by Takers (see below) makes us a little paranoid. We worry about whether they will take credit for our work, abuse the privileges in our communities, and ultimately suck up the limited resources of our organization. In Give and Take , I shared the results of a decade of research into the three fundamental styles of social interaction: giving, taking, and matching. “Takers …like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place.They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Garden-variety takers aren’t cruel or cutthroat; they’re just cautious and self-protective.” Takers sometimes become antagonistic, using creative rationalization to maintain a positive self- image, badmouthing peers (“My colleague didn’t deserve that”) or overcharging customers (“He should have done his homework”) to improve their own status. They come to view antagonism as an appropriate response, or as opportunities to improve their standing at the expense of others. “In the workplace, givers are a relatively rare breed. They tilt reciprocity in the other direction, preferring to give more than they get. Whereas takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them, givers are other-focused, paying more atten-

Givers often lose ground to coworkers initially, because time spent in helping others leads to decreased productivity in their own work. In the long-run, however, givers are more successful than others because their passion for helping others builds relationships and motivation. If you find a caring salesperson, you are more likely to buy now, to purchase more in the future, and to refer new customers. Helping others enriches the meaning and purpose of our own lives, showing us that our contributions matter and motivating us to work harder, longer, and smarter. “Professionally, few of us act purely like givers or takers, adopting a third style instead. We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on a principle of fairness when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchange of favors.” These styles are important to understand within your organization. It’s likely that you will have individuals within your organization with each of these types of social interaction styles. So how do you work to create a collaborative environment that brings value for all of your team? One method is to create something like a reciprocity ring, as developed by Wayne Baker (University of Michigan) and his wife Cheryl Baker (Humax Networks). Here, 8-30 people are brought together and each is asked to make a meaningful personal or professional request. Other members of the group

18 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine

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