Are you a giver or a taker? | Adam Grant

Are you a giver or a taker? | Adam Grant


Translator: Leslie Gauthier
Reviewer: Camille Martínez I want you to look
around the room for a minute and try to find the most
paranoid person here — (Laughter) And then I want you to point
at that person for me. (Laughter) OK, don’t actually do it. (Laughter) But, as an organizational psychologist, I spend a lot of time in workplaces, and I find paranoia everywhere. Paranoia is caused by people
that I call “takers.” Takers are self-serving
in their interactions. It’s all about what can you do for me. The opposite is a giver. It’s somebody who approaches
most interactions by asking, “What can I do for you?” I wanted to give you a chance
to think about your own style. We all have moments of giving and taking. Your style is how you treat
most of the people most of the time, your default. I have a short test you can take to figure out if you’re more
of a giver or a taker, and you can take it right now. [The Narcissist Test] [Step 1: Take a moment
to think about yourself.] (Laughter) [Step 2: If you made it to Step 2,
you are not a narcissist.] (Laughter) This is the only thing I will say today
that has no data behind it, but I am convinced the longer it takes
for you to laugh at this cartoon, the more worried we should be
that you’re a taker. (Laughter) Of course, not all takers are narcissists. Some are just givers who got burned
one too many times. Then there’s another kind of taker
that we won’t be addressing today, and that’s called a psychopath. (Laughter) I was curious, though, about how
common these extremes are, and so I surveyed over 30,000
people across industries around the world’s cultures. And I found that most people
are right in the middle between giving and taking. They choose this third style
called “matching.” If you’re a matcher, you try to keep
an even balance of give and take: quid pro quo — I’ll do something
for you if you do something for me. And that seems like a safe way
to live your life. But is it the most effective
and productive way to live your life? The answer to that question
is a very definitive … maybe. (Laughter) I studied dozens of organizations, thousands of people. I had engineers measuring
their productivity. (Laughter) I looked at medical students’ grades — even salespeople’s revenue. (Laughter) And, unexpectedly, the worst performers in each
of these jobs were the givers. The engineers who got the least work done were the ones who did more favors
than they got back. They were so busy doing
other people’s jobs, they literally ran out of time and energy
to get their own work completed. In medical school, the lowest grades
belong to the students who agree most strongly
with statements like, “I love helping others,” which suggests the doctor
you ought to trust is the one who came to med school
with no desire to help anybody. (Laughter) And then in sales, too,
the lowest revenue accrued in the most generous salespeople. I actually reached out
to one of those salespeople who had a very high giver score. And I asked him, “Why do
you suck at your job –” I didn’t ask it that way, but — (Laughter) “What’s the cost of generosity in sales?” And he said, “Well, I just care
so deeply about my customers that I would never sell them
one of our crappy products.” (Laughter) So just out of curiosity, how many of you self-identify more
as givers than takers or matchers? Raise your hands. OK, it would have been more
before we talked about these data. But actually, it turns out
there’s a twist here, because givers are often
sacrificing themselves, but they make their organizations better. We have a huge body of evidence — many, many studies looking
at the frequency of giving behavior that exists in a team
or an organization — and the more often people are helping
and sharing their knowledge and providing mentoring, the better organizations do
on every metric we can measure: higher profits, customer satisfaction,
employee retention — even lower operating expenses. So givers spend a lot of time
trying to help other people and improve the team, and then, unfortunately,
they suffer along the way. I want to talk about what it takes to build cultures where givers
actually get to succeed. So I wondered, then, if givers
are the worst performers, who are the best performers? Let me start with the good news:
it’s not the takers. Takers tend to rise quickly
but also fall quickly in most jobs. And they fall at the hands of matchers. If you’re a matcher, you believe
in “An eye for an eye” — a just world. And so when you meet a taker, you feel like it’s your mission in life to just punish the hell
out of that person. (Laughter) And that way justice gets served. Well, most people are matchers. And that means if you’re a taker, it tends to catch up with you eventually; what goes around will come around. And so the logical conclusion is: it must be the matchers
who are the best performers. But they’re not. In every job, in every organization
I’ve ever studied, the best results belong
to the givers again. Take a look at some data I gathered
from hundreds of salespeople, tracking their revenue. What you can see is that the givers
go to both extremes. They make up the majority of people
who bring in the lowest revenue, but also the highest revenue. The same patterns were true
for engineers’ productivity and medical students’ grades. Givers are overrepresented
at the bottom and at the top of every success metric that I can track. Which raises the question: How do we create a world
where more of these givers get to excel? I want to talk about how to do that,
not just in businesses, but also in nonprofits, schools — even governments. Are you ready? (Cheers) I was going to do it anyway,
but I appreciate the enthusiasm. (Laughter) The first thing that’s really critical is to recognize that givers
are your most valuable people, but if they’re not careful, they burn out. So you have to protect
the givers in your midst. And I learned a great lesson about this
from Fortune’s best networker. It’s the guy, not the cat. (Laughter) His name is Adam Rifkin. He’s a very successful serial entrepreneur who spends a huge amount
of his time helping other people. And his secret weapon
is the five-minute favor. Adam said, “You don’t have to be
Mother Teresa or Gandhi to be a giver. You just have to find small ways
to add large value to other people’s lives.” That could be as simple
as making an introduction between two people who could
benefit from knowing each other. It could be sharing your knowledge
or giving a little bit of feedback. Or It might be even something
as basic as saying, “You know, I’m going to try and figure out if I can recognize somebody
whose work has gone unnoticed.” And those five-minute favors
are really critical to helping givers set boundaries
and protect themselves. The second thing that matters if you want to build a culture
where givers succeed, is you actually need a culture
where help-seeking is the norm; where people ask a lot. This may hit a little too close
to home for some of you. [So in all your relationships,
you always have to be the giver?] (Laughter) What you see with successful givers is they recognize that it’s OK
to be a receiver, too. If you run an organization,
we can actually make this easier. We can make it easier
for people to ask for help. A couple colleagues and I
studied hospitals. We found that on certain floors,
nurses did a lot of help-seeking, and on other floors,
they did very little of it. The factor that stood out on the floors
where help-seeking was common, where it was the norm, was there was just one nurse
whose sole job it was to help other nurses on the unit. When that role was available, nurses said, “It’s not embarrassing,
it’s not vulnerable to ask for help — it’s actually encouraged.” Help-seeking isn’t important
just for protecting the success and the well-being of givers. It’s also critical to getting
more people to act like givers, because the data say that somewhere between 75 and 90 percent
of all giving in organizations starts with a request. But a lot of people don’t ask. They don’t want to look incompetent, they don’t know where to turn,
they don’t want to burden others. Yet if nobody ever asks for help, you have a lot of frustrated givers
in your organization who would love to step up and contribute, if they only knew
who could benefit and how. But I think the most important thing, if you want to build a culture
of successful givers, is to be thoughtful about who
you let onto your team. I figured, you want a culture
of productive generosity, you should hire a bunch of givers. But I was surprised to discover, actually,
that that was not right — that the negative impact
of a taker on a culture is usually double to triple
the positive impact of a giver. Think about it this way: one bad apple can spoil a barrel, but one good egg
just does not make a dozen. I don’t know what that means — (Laughter) But I hope you do. No — let even one taker into a team, and you will see that the givers
will stop helping. They’ll say, “I’m surrounded
by a bunch of snakes and sharks. Why should I contribute?” Whereas if you let one giver into a team, you don’t get an explosion of generosity. More often, people are like, “Great! That person can do all our work.” So, effective hiring and screening
and team building is not about bringing in the givers; it’s about weeding out the takers. If you can do that well, you’ll be left with givers and matchers. The givers will be generous because they don’t have to worry
about the consequences. And the beauty of the matchers
is that they follow the norm. So how do you catch a taker
before it’s too late? We’re actually pretty bad
at figuring out who’s a taker, especially on first impressions. There’s a personality trait
that throws us off. It’s called agreeableness, one the major dimensions
of personality across cultures. Agreeable people are warm and friendly,
they’re nice, they’re polite. You find a lot of them in Canada — (Laughter) Where there was actually
a national contest to come up with a new Canadian slogan
and fill in the blank, “As Canadian as …” I thought the winning entry
was going to be, “As Canadian as maple syrup,”
or, “… ice hockey.” But no, Canadians voted
for their new national slogan to be — I kid you not — “As Canadian as possible
under the circumstances.” (Laughter) Now for those of you
who are highly agreeable, or maybe slightly Canadian, you get this right away. How could I ever say I’m any one thing when I’m constantly adapting
to try to please other people? Disagreeable people do less of it. They’re more critical,
skeptical, challenging, and far more likely than their peers
to go to law school. (Laughter) That’s not a joke,
that’s actually an empirical fact. (Laughter) So I always assumed
that agreeable people were givers and disagreeable people were takers. But then I gathered the data, and I was stunned to find
no correlation between those traits, because it turns out
that agreeableness-disagreeableness is your outer veneer: How pleasant is it to interact with you? Whereas giving and taking
are more of your inner motives: What are your values?
What are your intentions toward others? If you really want to judge
people accurately, you have to get to the moment every
consultant in the room is waiting for, and draw a two-by-two. (Laughter) The agreeable givers are easy to spot: they say yes to everything. The disagreeable takers
are also recognized quickly, although you might call them
by a slightly different name. (Laughter) We forget about the other
two combinations. There are disagreeable givers
in our organizations. There are people who are gruff
and tough on the surface but underneath have
others’ best interests at heart. Or as an engineer put it, “Oh, disagreeable givers — like somebody with a bad user interface
but a great operating system.” (Laughter) If that helps you. (Laughter) Disagreeable givers are the most
undervalued people in our organizations, because they’re the ones
who give the critical feedback that no one wants to hear
but everyone needs to hear. We need to do a much better job
valuing these people as opposed to writing them off early, and saying, “Eh, kind of prickly, must be a selfish taker.” The other combination we forget about
is the deadly one — the agreeable taker,
also known as the faker. This is the person
who’s nice to your face, and then will stab you right in the back. (Laughter) And my favorite way to catch
these people in the interview process is to ask the question, “Can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have
fundamentally improved?” The takers will give you four names, and they will all be more
influential than them, because takers are great at kissing up
and then kicking down. Givers are more likely to name people
who are below them in a hierarchy, who don’t have as much power, who can do them no good. And let’s face it, you all know
you can learn a lot about character by watching how someone
treats their restaurant server or their Uber driver. So if we do all this well, if we can weed takers
out of organizations, if we can make it safe to ask for help, if we can protect givers from burnout and make it OK for them to be ambitious
in pursuing their own goals as well as trying to help other people, we can actually change the way
that people define success. Instead of saying it’s all about
winning a competition, people will realize success
is really more about contribution. I believe that the most
meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed. And if we can spread that belief, we can actually turn paranoia upside down. There’s a name for that. It’s called “pronoia.” Pronoia is the delusional belief that other people
are plotting your well-being. (Laughter) That they’re going around behind your back and saying exceptionally
glowing things about you. The great thing about a culture of givers
is that’s not a delusion — it’s reality. I want to live in a world
where givers succeed, and I hope you will help me
create that world. Thank you. (Applause)

100 Comments

  1. my dad is a giver. He worked at METRO (DONT SHOP THERE) and they told him to manage the entire dairy department unpaid, promising to pay him later. He manages this thing for years unpaid, and then gets laid off. He quits after that. Then, without a free dairy manager, the store decides they don’t need one. Later, my dad finds out that that metro lost millions of dollars in revenue after he quit. Sucks to suck don’t go to metro

  2. How to make givers succeed:
    1. Protect givers from burnout.
    Solution: five-minute-favor (find small ways to add large value to other people's lives)
    Benefits: it helps givers to set boundaries and protect them.

    2. Encourage help-seeking.
    Solution: don't be afraid to ask for help.
    Benefits: getting more people to act like givers, and give them more space to contribute to this world.

    3. Keep the wrong people off the bus.
    Solution: It's not about recruiting taker/giver, but either keeping the taker off the place.
    Benefits: there will be matchers and givers, and they'll collaborate with each other and make a good combination.

    Also, don't forget that success is not about winning the competition, but rather about contribution.
    The most meaningful way to success is helping other people to success.

  3. Ahh, this makes me feel a bit less guilty.
    Typically, I am by and large a giver. Sometimes I will develop some sort of relationship with a taker and I feel so taken advantage of that I become selfish around them and in the end I always feel at least a little bit guilty if I had an opportunity to help but didn't. I thought it made me a bad person. I feel a lot of relieve knowing that is the most understandable and reasonable way to respond to greed.

  4. Wow! Pronoia. What a discovery !!!!! Definitely some people are pronoic. They allow others to interfere with their life, others step in and help as much as they can but at the end of the day are accused of not doing much enough or of doing it not as perfect as they have expected -) a pronoic would never appreciate the help and engagement but would perceive his most close people like a spouse or friends – tue biggest enemies !!!

  5. I’m legitimately an agreeable giver . The worst kind of person .

    To prevent burn out , I moved to a cabin in the woods away from everybody . The isolation has saved me . I can be the most agreeable giver at my job because when I’m done with work , I go home and don’t have to deal with anybody else .

    I have found my own way of bringing balance to my life . 😜

  6. Giver or taker …. The sillyness of dichotomies. Chess board reality. You have no data behind your claims – this is banalities. Not science. This is self absorbed narrow minded Americanism.

  7. Looks like there was enough variance on that chart to indicate that there is no correlation, and the idea of categorizing people within these 3 groups is silly. This is entertainment, not informative.

  8. It took a maybe 10 seconds into this video to 100 percent see the paranoid person. Actually 3 seconds in the another 7 to verify. I watched the video but couldn't really listen bc I'm like your the pot calling the kettle black. Wish you hadn't started with point out the paranoid.

  9. Always help yourself before you help others. True, because how can you help people when you're still in trouble? But then, that doesn't mean they are givers. Real givers are those who give without thinking of what the other person can return for them. They give because they want to, not for the benefits that it entails.

  10. Wonderful lecture! Law of Karma works. Now always fast and immediate, but definitely works!!!

  11. The takers: They possibly lack the ability or empathy to show genuine appreciation and reciprication which leads to likability. It's good in both business & relationships. Takers need to study up more about EQ and gain a deeper understanding of their weakness in that area.

    The matchers: I think I'm more of a matcher now. I used to be a nice guy who gave too much of myself and what I had too naively. Now, I'm suspicious and feel stupid being so generous and easy going as a child being taken advantage of. I remember the girls in my elementary school ask me, "Can I borrow a dollar, please?" I never saw any of that money again that I would use to buy myself pizza or extra food and treats for myself. I got nothing back in return.

    The givers: The givers do need protection. They also need to learn how to protect themselves so they don't continue to burden the ones that are protecting the givers.

    I have taken an online Giver, Taker test and I scored around 66 towards Giver.

    How this applies to me:
    Why I can't possibly afford to be a "Giver" currently. I don't have the financial means to do that. I'm also narcissistic and have mental disorders. I've never been checked because my narcissistic parents refused any psychological evaluation for a proper diagnosis even though I was always a special ed student since the 2nd grade. I still don't have any government aid or benefits and I work as an online entertainer because I don't have a degree & I have oppositional defiant disorder. I'm a mentally disturbed individual that can't be simply categorized as a giver, taker or matcher. I'm also an apathetic INTP-A so I'm more obsessed with playing and nurturing ideas, and theories more than socializing with humans I've recently discovered. This must be the reason why I'm addicted to video games. Playing with systems with rules and limitations and finding ways to surpass playing at the normal limitations.

  12. I have often noticed that takers beleive they are the givers and complain about the givers. Cause they feel their work is always more valuable
    than the other's. If they give you one little thing, you own them two or three cause what you do can never compare to what they do (in their minds).

  13. i loooooved the video. im a disagreable giver. not because everybody hates me. because i love friendly arguing.

  14. I think people are givers and takers differently in different situations. I am more of a giver at work, and more of a taker in my relationship. Being a giver in past relationships got me burned, and never again allowed that to happen. I have been very calculating in what I give in a relationship. At work its never done me wrong. I've still been promoted and still get awards.

  15. Well, I’m giving this video my time, yet I’m also taking away my sleep by bingeing on TED Talks late at night. It’s a double edged sword really.

  16. I think we need to create positions for givers to give effectively, accommodate their skills, particularly the critical ones who are willing to say the things that are the most difficult but also the most beneficial.

    They have the heart to give & the mind think about & to know how to do it best.

  17. the race baiters of the country totally fall in line with this. Its funny as takers they are also the most racist people by far.

  18. I’m a giver unless you include that one time in college. But that was only a finger so I don’t think that counts.

  19. I find it hard to be in the middle, so I usually end up being either more of an giver or a taker, and neither extreme is healthy. I am working on finding the healthy middle ground: being good to others, but also myself!

  20. Id consider my type as a hunter one. I dont give nor take almost anything, all i do is hunting for my prey, my goals. I tend to ignire others completely and i am very good in it. That doesnt mean i am bad with teamwork, rather the exact opposite, its just that interactions take way too much time and energy and most of the time actually do not get you anywhere.

  21. “If we can weed takers out of an organization. If we can make it safe to ask for help. If we can protect givers from burnout and make it OK for them to be ambitious in pursuing their own goals as well as helping other people, we can actually change the way people define success. INSTEAD of saying it’s all about winning a competition, people will realize success is REALLY MORE ABOUT CONTRIBUTION. I believe that the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.” Well spoken truth. Givers & matchers will always serve a far greater purpose than someone who is just a taker. One of the best things to take from a taker who never gives or only gives when it serves them is exactly what not to be like.

  22. So what happens to the takers who are refused by the givers good human company so they can improve? They become criminals.

  23. I like to think about what we can do for each other. Definitely a matcher but only for less intelligent individuals.

  24. Someone suggested me to watch this because they thought I'm a giver.
    They wanted me to feel better about myself.

    I was feeling very good too. Because I felt I was a giver when I saw this video.

    Then he asked the question.
    Name 4 people whose careers you have fundamentally improved.
    2 names instantly popped into my head.
    They were people at better positions than I am. More influential than me.

    Ouch 😶

  25. Do takers even realise that they are takers? I feel like I'm a giver or a matcher, but maybe I'm a taker without realising it?
    But I do ask myself very often what I could do to make someone happy, or how I could help. Often it's small things, for example if someone asks me if I had a tissue for them and I look in my bag and see that I ran out of tissues. Then I will think "Oh man, if I would have packed tissues in my bag this morning, I could have helped this person out." Maybe I'm just weird..

  26. Hard to believe that a majority of people would be considered "Matchers." Also hard to believe that anything other than mediocrity will ever be rewarded in a feudal capitalist system. #contributionism

  27. Him: if you’re a matcher you believe in a just world.
    My brain: a just world is a sane world. There was nothing sane about chernobyl.

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