Adam Grant, Ph.D.
Adam Grant, Ph.D. is the youngest tenured professor at the prestigious Wharton School of
Business. Last year, his first book, Give and Take, was published to international acclaim
and became a Wall Street Journal and New York Times best seller.
The fundamental premise of the book suggests that there are three categories of people,
determined by their interaction style with others: givers, takers and matchers. As their names sug-gest,
takers look to maximize their return while matchers look for an “even trade.” Givers are relatively
rare and desire to assist others without any promise of return.
Referencing his own groundbreaking research as well as other fascinating work, Dr. Grant high-lights
how these relationship styles directly and profoundly impact our success. Although the good
nature of some givers is exploited to their detriment, others thrive and end up at the top of the suc-cess
ladder. I had the privilege of interviewing Adam about his pioneering work to identify how his
findings fit within an organizational context.
Given the audience for HR Professional, I was hoping you could share how HR leaders and exec-utives
can incorporate the primary messages of Give and Take within their organizations.
Adam Grant: From my standpoint, a primary role of HR leaders is to build a culture of successful
givers. That means two things. One is motivating people to give and setting norms and values around
helping others. And second, it is creating a context whereby when those behaviours occur, people ac-tually
rise instead of suffer as a result.
Most people think that if you want a culture of givers, you should hire givers. But, the data shows
this is not actually the most important step. Rather, you should focus on screening out takers. I am
fond of putting it this way, “One bad apple can spoil a barrel, but it’s not so common that one good
egg makes a dozen.”
The negative impact of a taker on a culture is often double to triple the positive impact of a giver.
Also, if you allow takers into your organization, then a lot of givers will hold back, because they fear
getting exploited, and rightfully so. If you can screen out takers effectively, you are left with givers and
matchers. In this environment, the givers will be generous because they do not have to worry about
the consequences. The beauty of matchers is that they will follow the norm. So, in the presence of
givers, matchers become givers and then the whole culture of the organization shifts towards giving
without having to focus on it that heavily.
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2014 ❚ 31