Dorotea's Reviews > Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Give and Take by Adam M. Grant
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favourites, nonfiction-monographies, selfhelp-productivity-etc, read-in-english, psychology

Success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people – every time we interact with another person, we have choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?

Intuitively the distinction between takers (not necessarily cutthroat, just cautious and self-protective) and givers is clear: if you are a taker, you help others strategically, when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs; if you are a giver, you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs or alternatively you might not think about the personal costs at all. Research shows that most people act like givers in close relationships but this is not the case in the workplace. Professionally most people act like matchers, operating on the principle of reciprocity.

What is also intuitive is that givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder, however, it’s also true that at the top we find givers again. The worst performers and the best performers are givers, while takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle. This is the fundamental thesis of the book, which explores what separates highly successful givers from givers at the bottom (burned out, exploited, tired and unrecognized):
“Takers score high in self-interest and low in other-interest: they aim to maximize their own success without much concern for other people. By contrast, givers always score high on other-interest, but they vary in self-interest. There are two types of givers, and they have dramatically different success rates. Selfless givers are people with high other-interest and low self-interest. They give their time and energy without regard for their own needs, and they pay a price for it. […] If takers are selfish and failed givers are selfless, successful givers are otherish: they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.”


Now, in purely zero-sum situations and win-lose interactions, giving rarely pays off. “But most of life isn’t zero-sum, and on balance, people who choose giving as their primary reciprocity style end up reaping rewards.”

Success involves more than just capitalizing on the strengths of giving; it also requires avoiding the pitfalls. If people give too much time, they end up making sacrifices for their collaborators and network ties, at the expense of their own energy. If people give away too much credit and engage in too much powerless communication, it’s all too easy for them to become pushovers and doormats, failing to advance their own interests. The consequence: givers end up exhausted and unproductive.

“The fear of being judged as weak or naïve prevents many people from operating like givers at work.” And the purpose of this book is precisely to fight this fear of exploitation by takers. Or rather, to increase awareness of the benefits of a giving style and to give you the tools to prevent being exploited, as to reassure givers of their strength. Honestly? At this point I was hooked.

I think the book does achieve its purpose – it has reversed some of my previous (common) beliefs and has pushed me to embrace a giving approach. My frame of reference has also shifted –I now recognize a significant number of givers at the “top” and I realize that the people I admire are successful not in spite of their giving but because of.

What I found pretty annoying was when the author kept saying “I will explain this”/ “The aim of this chapter” because it seems like filler – I think it’s better to write instead a great introduction where you explain how the book is structured, but well, I didn’t write this book, so.
Chapter 2 deals with networking, Chapter 3 is on collaboration and the ripple effect, Chapter 4 talks about self-fulfilling prophecies and sunk cost bias, Chapter 5 is about influence and communication, Chapter 6 is on motivation and burnout, Chapter 7 is about avoiding being a doormat, Chapter 8 deals with altruistic behaviour in a group setting

A concluding quote:
“Being a giver has contributed to my personal and professional success. It’s liberating to talk about it. I’m not afraid anymore.” What changed her mind? When Sherryann first recognized her giver attributes, she was focused on the risks: people expected her to be tough and results-oriented, and might see giving as a sign of weakness. But when she started taking a close look around her company, she was struck by the realization that all of her professional role models were givers. Suddenly, her frame of reference shifted: instead of just seeing givers at the bottom, she recognized a surprising number of givers at the top. This isn’t what we usually notice when we glance up at the horizon at successful people. By and large, because of their tendencies toward powerful speech and claiming credit, successful takers tend to dominate the spotlight. But if you start paying attention to reciprocity styles in your own workplace, I have a hunch that you’ll discover plenty of givers achieving the success to which you aspire.”

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Reading Progress

October 4, 2017 – Shelved
May 28, 2018 – Started Reading
June 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

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