We can all identify the givers and takers in our lives. Those classified as givers offer assistance, share knowledge, or make valuable contributions without seeking anything in return. Those classified as takers consume knowledge, do not contribute, and try to get other people to serve only their needs. This behavior is also translated in the professional world. Every day, employees make decisions about whether to act like givers or takers.
Firms that foster a culture of givers where a willingness to help others achieve their goals is at the center of collaboration, innovation, and service excellence reap multiple benefits, including increased productivity. When employees behave as givers, they facilitate efficient problem solving and build a cohesive, supportive corporate culture that appeals to customers, suppliers, and top talent alike. Additionally, multiple studies have revealed higher rates of giving are predictive of higher unit profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction, along with decreased costs and turnover rates.
However, even as firms acknowledge the significance of a culture filled with givers, employees receive mixed messages that lead them down the path of behaving like a taker. For instance, when competing for a promotion, only one employee advances, while the others who helped that employee succeed are left behind. In competitive bonus pools, more money to those high performers means less for those who were supporting them. These situations foster a culture of takers, encouraging employees to undercut others rather than support the team.
So, how can you promote generosity without cutting into productivity and discouraging fairness? Part of the solution must involve providing incentives for takers to collaborate and establish consequences for exhibiting extreme taker behavior. But more importantly is the other side of the coin, helping givers avoid giving away too much of their time and resources so as to not lose productivity. A corporate culture fostering giving employees is more likely to succeed when separating generosity from three other attributes that are commonly associated with it – hesitancy, a willingness to help, and compassion.
Givers typically exude a high level of hesitancy when it comes to advocating benefits for themselves. However, when advocating for others, a giver becomes assertive and more productive in order to fulfill their responsibility to those they are representing. Managers can teach their givers who are uncomfortable with self-advocacy to shift their frame of reference and advocate for others to produce results.
Givers are inclined to accommodate all help requests that come their way, but occasionally to the point of neglecting their work and taking on too much. Instead of accommodating every request for help, givers need to set boundaries. Managers should help these employees establish limits on when, how, and whom to help. For instance, assign certain days and times where addressing help requests is restricted or even prohibited. This will provide the constant giver time to do their work and increase productivity. Managers can also assist givers by holding takers accountable for their behavior, helping them only if they agree to reciprocate by helping others in return. Givers often have the flexibility to decline help requests without losing respect due to their track records. This can help givers set boundaries on when, how and whom to help.
Although compassion is an admirable trait and has many benefits, it can make life harder for givers. When an employee feels empathy, they are willing to put others’ needs before their own, spending time doing favors they cannot afford, and run the risk of being manipulated. Managers can teach givers to shift their perspective by not relating to others’ feelings but rather their mindset and interests. Givers excel at understanding other people’s thoughts and interests. They allow themselves to become pushovers when they fail to gather and use knowledge about others’ interests. By implementing this skill, it is possible to transform from a win/lose scenario to a win/win position.
Developing a refined view of a givers role will help resolve the dilemma professionals face today: Although giving behavior is beneficial to firms, it often comes at the expense of those who engage in it. With strategic management, caring for others can become the best approach to achieving the highest productivity. Givers can become comfortable asking for favors as well as granting them. Time can be allocated to helping others’ projects, but also protected for their own. Compassion can be guided in the direction of greatest impact, and firms can gain increasing benefits from constant give-and-take. The result? A stronger culture, more productive teams, and a genuine sense of caring that will translate into greater levels of client service.
Posted on Sat, November 1, 2014
by Christine Hollinden