Seeing, then seizing, the advantages of giving while suppressing the instinct for taking has emerged as a trend in the business world, or at least in the academic and professional literature on success.
Bob Burg’s bestselling Go Giver series of books is an early example of the genre that seeks to reframe business transactions as opportunities to empathize with and help others solve problems, with financial reward a mere “echo of value” that follows naturally from the process of giving.
A new entry in the generosity-is-profitable category is Wharton School of Finance professor Adam Grant’s Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, a new book replete with academic studies buttressing the go-giver argument.
Grant introduces some of these arguments in an article in the summer issue of Strategy + Business, a publication of management consulting firm Booz & Co.
Grant, who teaches organizational behavior and teamwork and leadership classes at the University of Pennsylvania, argues there has been a shift in the contemporary workplace’s organizational dynamics.
In the hierarchical environments of the past, takers could climb to the top on the shoulders of givers. In today’s more team-oriented workplaces, it is givers who tend to thrive while takers find it much harder to prosper.
Givers, Grant writes in the Strategy+Business article, “are the teammates who volunteer for unpopular projects, share their knowledge and skills, and help out by arriving early or staying late.”
The mechanism by which givers earn higher rates of promotion while takers flounder is a third group Grant calls “matchers,” who make up the majority of a company’s employees. Matchers fall in the middle of the giver-taker spectrum but where they do stand out is in keeping score.
Not wanting to see injustice done, they “tax” takers by spreading “negative reputational information,” for example, while providing “bonuses” to givers via “compensation, recognition or recommendations for promotions.”