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It is time to improve your give-index

Are you a Giver or a Taker? The answer to this question may reveal a lot about your career success.

What are Givers and Takers?

To explain you this I’ll use the framework from Professor Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania. Prof Grant defines a giver as the kind of person who like helping others and who help others without strings attached. It is the kind of person who really shares the knowledge, are always ready to give advice and connect people with similar interests together. Takers, on the other hand, are the kind of people who always want to get as much as they can from others without giving anything back, unless it is useful for them. There is no free favour with a Taker, they always need to get something from you. Takers seem to believe in the idea that if you win, someone must lose.

So, after reading these definitions you might think that very few of us are purely one or another. In fact, Grant’s work show that only a minority of people are takers or givers. Most of us are a mix of the two – called Matchers. Matchers are a balance of taker and giver. It is like: I do something for you and you do something for me, keeping a fair balance with moments of giving and taking.

Does it really matter in my career if I am a Giver, Taker or Matcher?

Yes. According to Prof Grant, being a giver, taker or matcher can affect your success. His research investigated who are the most productive and successful type. He found that takers are often very competent, they often rise very quickly in their jobs, but they fall quickly too. The matchers are often in the middle. Then, intriguingly, givers are at both ends. They are the majority of people with worst job performance and the majority of people with the very best results.

One explanation for the bad performance is that givers put other people first, they may have higher risk of burn outs and can be exploited by takers. However, givers make their organisation better, making the environment more open for people asking for help. They also tend to build broader networks by adding value to people around them, building trust and good will. So, to be a successful giver you may need to avoid takers and be smart about the cost of helping others too much. Interestingly, it seems that a lot from the success of givers and fails of takers are mediated by matchers. Matchers can’t see takers taking and getting away with it, so they often “punish” them (e.g. gossiping and spreading negative comments). Equally, Matchers can’t see givers acting generously and not getting rewarded for it, so they make sure to help givers in this way.

ECR Perspective

After reading all this interesting work from Prof Grant, I immediately started to think on the givers, takers and matchers I know and have worked with. And it didn’t take long for me to realise that most of the best researchers I know (which I am very lucky to be surrounded by them) tend more towards the giver end of the spectrum. They are always looking to create opportunities, mentoring and advising others, and often have great relationships in their networks. Plus, they are all very successful in their jobs.

But can we learn to be a giver? Well, you don’t have to be Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Dalai Lama. Being a giver is more about having some time to help others, simple things such as connecting people, giving advice, mentoring or providing feedback (I don’t think doing peer-reviews will count here guys). A good tip is to start thinking more about your Give-index than your H-index.

But what about time to do that? We know that ECRs are always running behind schedule with zillions of things to do (I don’t even know why I’m writing this while there is a pile of things I need to finish). I know it is hard to stop and give some of your precious time to others. Again, you don’t have to be a super hero. One strategy that I read from Prof Grant is the five-minute favour. You should be able to do something that will take 5 minutes for somebody every day. It can be an introduction, feedback or teaching something with no strings attached. This is a great way to start improving your Give-index.

If you need an idea to start with, please share the ICECReam page on your network, or write something interesting for us (that might be a few days’ worth of 5-minute favours).

Being a giver seems to be better for your success and environment, and probably for your happiness. Of course, people have their own personal traits but we can all be more kind and collaborative in our own ways. Helping each other is something the human beings have been doing forever. So, it is time to improve your Give-index!

If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comment box below.

If you want to learn more about these profiles, check it out Prof Grant’s website http://www.adamgrant.net. There is also an interesting test to see if you are a giver, a taker or a matcher (seems less sensitive to spot takers though). Cheers!