Givers and Takers: Tips for Managers

Givers and Takers: Tips for Managers

By Christine Hill Hobbi

Every organization’s success depends on the generosity of its employees. Every organization has employees that make decisions every day about whether to be givers or takers. When employees act as givers, they contribute to others without seeking anything in return. This contribution may be offering assistance, sharing knowledge or making valuable introductions. When employees act as takers, they carefully guard their own time and expertise while trying to get others to serve their ends.


Organizations will benefit from fostering giving behavior because this willingness to help others benefits more effective collaboration, service excellence, quality improvement and innovation. The benefits are exponential to the organization. But encouraging this behavior across the board can create a workplace where takers take advantage of the givers.


In a study done by Stanford University professor, Frank Flynn, the least productive workers studied were givers—workers who had done many more favors for others than they had received. But when Flynn turned his spotlight on the top-producing workers, he found that they, too, were givers who did more favors than they received. Those in the middle were the takers. How could this be? What factors account for this finding? What are some ways to turn those least productive givers into more productive givers and encourage the takers to become givers? The successful givers produced 50% more annual revenue, on average, than colleagues who focused less on helping others (takers).


Three things were found that differentiated the top givers from the bottom givers. These three items need to be separated from generosity in the minds of givers. Managers: Below are some tips to assist direct reports in order to be more effective givers:

  1. Timidity—generous people tend to not ask for help on their own behalf. But they will advocate for others. Managers: help givers to overcome timidity by becoming agents for others.
  2. Availability—givers tend to drop everything when anyone asks for a favor and then their own productivity suffers. Managers: Help givers carve out time and space for uninterrupted work.
  3. Empathy—givers can be easily swayed by emotional appeals for their assistance. Managers: Help givers to remove the emotional aspect from their decisions and to consider perspectives over feelings.


Givers are better positioned to succeed when they distinguish these three attributes—timidity, availability, and empathy—from generosity. Managers and supervisors can enable this success (for the company, department and employee) by understanding and incorporating these tips.



*Grant, Adam (2013, April). In the Company of Givers and Takers. Harvard Business Review, 90-97.

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