Do nice guys finish first?

Do nice guys finish first? This is the question asked by Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who identified three types of employees— givers, takers and matchers— then studied which personality type performs better on the job.

Takers are the people who approach most interactions wondering “what can you do for me?” while givers ask “what can I do for you.” Most of us fall somewhere in between as matchers, aiming for a “quid pro quo” style where we attempt to generate a nice even balance of giving and taking.

Grant found, surprisingly, that the worst performers in the workplace are givers. Givers are so busy doing other people’s jobs that they literally ran out of time and energy to get their own work completed.

But on the other end of the spectrum, the best workplace performers are… also givers. “Givers are over-represented at the bottom and at the top of every success metric that I can track,” says Grant. If givers are so critical, what can a leader do to build a culture where givers succeed? Grant has three suggestions:

1. Protect givers from burnout (watch the video or subscribe to the ODA newsletter for tips on how to do this)

2. Encourage help seeking. Make it OK for everyone to ask for help, which sends the message to givers that it’s Ok to be a receiver, too.

3. Get the right people on the bus. This means managers want to focus on hiring givers and matchers, and weed out the takers. (watch the video for tips)

While it may not be easy to completely transform our workplace style, numerous studies have shown that anyone, even matchers, can reap great benefits by making more an effort to help others. Subscribe to our newsletter for an activity that can help your team cultivate an attitude of giving.

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