Most jobs involve some concessions and compromises, giving discretionary help or offering support. We look at recent research to discover what type of person is likely to achieve long-term success
Most jobs involve a fair amount of give and take and many people work on this basis, knowing that a few concessions or compromises on their part are necessary in order to get the job done. Of course, by its very nature, give and take also means there should also be some understanding and support flowing your way. After all, what goes around comes around, right? You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
But not everyone works this way. Some people are naturally giving, willing to help others with no strings attached and without keeping score, while others are more identifiably 'takers' in their professional life, always calculating 'what's in it for me?' before they go out of their way to help others. Maybe you are neither of these extremes? Perhaps you are intuitively a 'matcher', a little cautious about the concessions you make and the help you give, but you do it on the basis that favours given will be repaid, and that a little reciprocity will go a long way in ensuring your long-term success.
Dr Adam Grant, a behavioural psychologist and business professor at Wharton University, is a specialist in this area. He has done extensive research into the subject looking at groups as diverse as engineers, medical students and salespeople to see which of these styles is most likely to lead to long-term success. And his conclusion? It's the 'givers' who are the most likely winners. He noted, for example, that the engineers classed as 'givers' got the best performance reviews; that the medical student 'givers' got far better grades; and that the 'givers' among the salespeople secured 50% more revenue than their less generous colleagues.
Rather satisfyingly, Dr Grant's work suggests that being a 'taker' isn't a sound long-term career move either. Though a 'taker' may progress in the short to medium term, eventually their behaviour and/or reputation will catch up with them, and their career will likely stall. Their inwardly-focused behaviour will mean they are less able to inspire or lead others, and the failure to 'pay it forward' in helping others or contributing to the collective good will eventually mean their 'luck' runs out. Want to spot a taker on the make? One indicator is a tendency to only 'kiss up' to seniors and only 'kick down' to those being managed?
But we all know the happy ending that giving is good and that all the nice guys and gals who give freely will always win doesn't actually hold true. That's because what Grant also discovered was that the least successful type of people are ultimately not the 'takers', but also the 'givers'. They either led the pack or lagged way behind. Among the engineer 'givers' were also those who made the most errors, who had the most unfinished tasks and who missed the most deadlines. It was a similar story with students and salespeople. These were, ultimately, not just 'givers', but 'over-givers' those that gave too freely and in doing so didn't focus enough on achieving their own goals and objectives.
In his studies, Grant asked participants to keep diaries at work and note down when, why and who they helped. He observed that what differentiates the successful givers from the unsuccessful ones are a few key rules - consciously or subconsciously observed:
Time is also a key factor. Grant noted that by giving too freely, without blocking out time for your own important work and goals, means that you're likely to sabotage your own chances of success and achieving our own goals
Who you give to also matters.
Above all, they are cautious about not spreading themselves too thinly and being unable to meet their own required deliverables.
Of course, unless you're Santa Claus, your role probably does involve some 'take' as well as 'give'. The key take-away is that whatever your dominant natural style - giver, taker or matcher, it may well be that by developing the traits of a 'strategic giver' you will not only be more successful in your own work but more valuable in your organisation.