THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF A TAKER ON
A CULTURE IS OFTEN DOUBLE TO TRIPLE
THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF A GIVER.
Another benefit of matchers is that they will bring some of the
strengths of takers to the table so that if an organization lets some
takers through the cracks, matchers will be really tough on those
people and hold them accountable. Also, if you have clients or sup-pliers
who are takers, again, matchers are the ones who fight fire
with fire. So, you end up getting the benefits of both giving and
taking without having to deal with any takers.
How can organizations more effectively select the givers and
matchers and screen out the takers?
AG: One thing to watch out for is the “kissing up, kicking down”
pattern because references that come from above are typically a lit-tle
more positive for takers than they ought to be since takers are
good fakers when dealing with powerful people. What you want
to do more of are lateral and downward references because takers
tend to let their guard down a little bit when dealing with people
who are lateral and below, so peers and subordinates tend to see
more of the true colours of takers.
Another favourite strategy is when reviewing their career histo-ry,
rather than focusing on their successes and failures, pay more
attention to how they explain them. Takers are more likely to take
personal credit for achievements and blame their setbacks on oth-er
people. Of course, there will be a little bit more balance in givers
and matchers in sharing credit and they will also tend to acknowl-edge
where they made a mistake, what they learned from it and
what they will do differently in the future.
Outside of selection, what are some other strategies that HR
executives can use to build a culture of giving?
AG: HR leaders have a huge influence on onboarding.
Traditionally, socialization basically was about organizations
breaking people in and teaching them about their culture, with
new employees being in passive, receiving mode.
There is some new research by Dan Cable, Francesco Gino
and Brad Statts showing that organizations actually get better
results when instead of saying, “Let’s break you in,” they focus
instead on, “Let’s figure out what strengths our new employees
bring to the table that can contribute value to our culture from
day one.” Their research shows this is a much more effective on-boarding
This approach also gets employees in the mindset of giving right
away by realizing they do not have to gain 12 months of experience
before they have something to offer. The expertise and experience
they are bringing to the table gives them a perspective that is dis-tinctive
and maybe allows them to bring something of benefit to
the organization immediately.
There are lots of ways to do this concretely. For example, for the
first two weeks an employee comes in, an organization could as-sign
this new hire to conduct a culture audit. They can try to figure
out, as an outsider, what is working and also use their prior expe-rience
to talk about certain practices that may be interesting to
import to their new organization. Why not learn from other cul-tures
before an employee becomes a fish in water and does not see
some of the opportunities for improvement as clearly?
You can also think of a reverse mentoring initiative where the
new employee works closely with people who have more experi-ence
than they do, and the new hire tries to highlight – because
they have this fresh perspective – how things might be done dif-ferently
and more effectively. I think this is all in service of getting
people in the mode of thinking like givers from the start.
Socialization should be less about embedding giver values, and
more about engaging people in giver behaviours where they just
get into the habit, and then the values will follow.
What types of challenges might HR leaders encounter in incor-porating
more giving into their culture? What steps can they
take to counter this possible resistance?
AG: One challenge is an organization that has a group of givers,
but the takers are basically climbing up the ladder on the givers’
shoulders. In this case, you have to seriously re-think your reward
system. Many organizations do a really good job handing out per-formance
evaluations, compensation and promotion decisions
based on individual achievements. It is inherently more difficult
to measure, in most organizations, how much people contribute to
others. If you don’t find a way to recognize and reward giving be-haviour,
you are basically dooming the organization to be run by
A great example of a reward system, which I learned about re-cently,
is from Corning Incorporated, the company that makes
gorilla glass for the iPhone and iPad. They have a lot of scientists
and engineers and the highest honour they can earn in these inno-vation-
heavy roles is to be named a “Corning Fellow.”
Corning Fellows are given two privileges that everybody wants.
One is you get a “job for life,” like university tenure. The other is
you get a “lab for life.” Essentially, you get free reign for whatever
projects you think are interesting and meaningful for the company,
and you can work on those with all of the resources and support
you need to make those happen. I cannot think of something that
would be more exciting to a scientist or engineer.
The question is, “How do you become a Corning Fellow?” Of
course, one of the criteria is you have to be the lead author on a
patent that has driven huge value for the business. This is a way of
32 ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL