When organizational benefits outweigh the personal costs

Giver's wanted 

It is widely accepted that corporate culture determines a business success, or at the very least, employee turnover. There are a bevy of management and organizational leadership books that highlight a variety of telling factors, and qualities organizations should strive for. 

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, has a simpler way to determine a businesses success within the corporate culture framework: do you have a culture of 'givers'?


Organizations benefit when employees freely contribute their skills and knowledge to others. These companies operate as high-performing intelligence units do: helping others, sharing knowledge, and making connections without expecting anything in return. 

Takers operate on the opposite end, offering as little as possible to get what they want. Takers will help when the personal benefits exceed the cost. Does this sound like anyone you know? 

Matchers are somewhere in the middle - as are most organizations. These are collaborative companies. Matchers tend to seek out people they trust, regardless of expertise. Givers will often count on help from the most qualified person. It is the level of expertise sought which is the differentiating factor in Matchers and Givers. . 

The simplicity of the research and theory is attractive. Although work behaviour, relationships, and culture are much more complicated, the culture of givers does provide an easy check on who your teams are made of - and a fairly simple plan: 

  • Hire givers
  • Reward givers
  • Foster giving and help-seeking

A word of warning: the expression 'one bad apple spoils the bunch' seems appropriate based on Grant's notes. "Over time, employees anticipate taking-behavior and protect themselves by operating like takers or by becoming matchers". Having an idea stolen, or being taken advantage of can make even the most generous team member a bit weary. The emphasis on givers is perhaps for good reason in Grant's plan. 



The leadership lesson here is a tried and true one: "if you want it, go and give it". 

In 1985, a film company facing financial pressure hired a new president. In an effort to cut costs, the president asked the two leaders of a division, Ed and Alvy, to conduct layoffs. Ed and Alvy resisted—eliminating employees would dilute the company’s value. The president issued an ultimatum: a list of names was due to him at nine o’clock the next morning.

When the president received the list, it contained two names: Ed and Alvy.
No layoffs were conducted, and a few months later Steve Jobs bought the division from Lucasfilm and started Pixar with Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.
Employees were grateful that “managers would put their own jobs on the line for the good of their teams,” marvels Stanford’s Robert Sutton, noting that even a quarter century later, this “still drives and inspires people at Pixar.”