Something’s Gotta Give


At the heart of collaboration is the desire to give. How can we encourage employees to give so that everyone benefits?

Give, Take, Match

Author and thought leader Adam Grant identified three types of behavior patterns people display in the workplace: giving, taking and matching. Giving means all the ways we contribute to others (such as provide information, service, connections, and so on) because we want to help and without expecting anything in return. Taking refers to trying to get others to work toward our own ends while carefully guarding our resources. Matching is the mentality that when we receive something from someone else we owe them a debt, and if we give something to another person they owe us a favor.

We see these patterns play out every day at work. Think about yourself and the people you interact with regularly. Which patterns have you noticed most often? Do people around you tend to give freely, or are there strings attached?

While personal traits may play a role, the organizational culture will also influence the decision to give, take, or match. People are more inclined to give in a culture of kindness than in an atmosphere where rudeness reigns. It’s important to know how to navigate giving, taking, and matching in ways that enhance our collaboration and our career.

Barriers to Collaboration

At work, some of us feel the need to guard our resources closely. Perhaps we have been burned or taken advantage of by someone at work. Maybe resources have been scarce for so long that we have harden against sharing with others. However, this mentality leads to taking rather than giving. Collaboration is difficult when we demand more from others than we are willing to contribute.

Giving strengthens relationships with others and brings a feeling of personal gratification. But giving can become a problem, especially when it gets in the way of meeting workload demands or leaves us feeling burnt out. Being intentional with our generosity allows us to collaborate without keeping score or losing sight of our own goals and needs.

Give Smart

More detailed research into giving behaviors shows something really surprising. Across a variety of industries, the highest performers and lowest performers tended to be givers.

What set the successful givers apart? The high performers got their own work done and found ways to give to others without self sacrificing.

The key is to give, but give smart. By managing our time and expectations we can give and collaborate so everyone benefits.

It’s not necessary to help everyone with every request every time. The highest performers set aside time for giving. This may mean blocking out windows of time for helping others, and creating space to focus on your own tasks.

Consider specializing in certain ways to help others. Give to others from an areas of expertise or passion. This way you can help them while doing something you love (talk about a win-win).

Also make a mental note of the takers in your midst and consider “matching” with them so you can still collaborate without being taken advantage of.

Something to Try: “5-Minute Gives”

This week, look for at least a few opportunities to give. How can you add value to others’ lives at a low cost to your own? Think about the knowledge, resources, contacts or time you have at your disposal. For example, set aside five minutes to share a little knowledge or information, make an introduction, or simply listen to a colleague. A “5-Minute Give” like this can go a long way to promote collaboration and kindness, and helps not only your colleague but also yourself and your career.

What “5-Minute Gives” will you try this week?

Danielle Metzinger is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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