When grouped by reciprocity style, people fall into three general categories. Takers like to get more than they receive and are typically willing to help others only when they expect the benefit they receive will outweigh the personal costs of helping. Matchers, by contrast, keep track of who gives and receives, and prefer an equal balance of giving and getting. They help others when they owe a favor or when they may want to call in a favor in the future. Givers prefer focusing on others. They are content to give more than they receive and help whenever the benefits to others outweigh the personal costs of helping.
Psychologist Shalom Schwartz surveyed thousands of adults across 12 diverse countries about their guiding life principles, and in every one, participants reported caring more about giving than about traditional markers of success like power, achievement, excitement, freedom, and security. But as Adam Grant explains in Give and Take, despite this widespread acceptance that giving is an admirable quality, we draw on different values in the workplace. While Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree may make appearances when we have kids on our laps, books about gaining influence and control top professional self-help bestseller lists. Givers are “a relatively rare breed” in the workplace, according to Grant, likely because people perceive giving to be a high-risk/low-reward professional strategy.