It is often thought that one has to be aggressive, ruthless and look after one’s own interest in order to be successful in one’s career. According to Adam Grant, a very successful academic and popular writer, the reality is more complicated than that. Grant is the youngest full professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
In “Give and Take”, Grant’s research found hat the least productive and effective engineers are givers. That matches conventional wisdom. However, he also found that the engineers with the highest productivity are also givers. That is counter-intuitive. And the observations proved to be valid in many other domains as well.
When he dug deeper, he found that some givers do become pushovers and door mats. They put too much effort into helping others, to the detriment of performance in their own jobs. They also burn out when they cannot see the positive impact of their giving.
However, if givers focus their giving in areas where they are more effective, give in chunks for better impact, avoid takers, …, then they can avoid the pitfalls and enjoy more the benefits of giving. Researchers found that giving activates the reward and meaning centres in our brains, which sends us pleasure, giving us more energy, motivating us to work harder and be more successful.
On the other hand, takers may gain in the short term, but risk ruining their reputation in the longer term. But people tend to be more generous towards givers.
“Give and Take” corroborates with the experience that we have been having in service-learning.