What Can You Say About Your Team? Giver, Taker Or Matcher?

December 12, 2018

Have you ever wondered what is your company culture? When your colleagues are helpful with each other, or on the contrary, they’re on a tight race to get that yearly bonus, it says something about the team dynamic in your company. Moreover, did you know that your team/ company culture can have have a negatively impact on your health? Team culture can influence your health status, placing you at the risk of getting a burnout.

Here are some guidelines to find out your team’s status: giver, taker or matcher

According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, in every workplace there are three basic kinds of people: givers, takers and matchers. Analysing these dynamics offers the possibility to discover the culture of your company. The next logical step is to guide your culture in the right direction. That would be a culture of generosity where employees are selfless, rather than preoccupied with personal concerns and gains. Asking for a constant hand-out and sucking the energy of their colleagues is not the key to succeed in your work. But let’s breakdown these concepts.

Taker culture a.k.a the overly-needy colleagues

People with a Taker mindset are competitive, self centred and focused on personal gains. As Grant says, in such a culture “the norm is to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in return. Employees help only when they expect their personal benefits to exceed the costs”.

Here are three characteristics to help you figure out if your colleagues are takers.

Matcher culture

The matcher culture might seem at the first sight the most desirable behaviour among colleagues in an organisation. As the name “matcher culture” points out, it is a transactional behaviour, doing something in exchange of something else. It is a sort of a barter routine. As Grant says, most organizations are placed somewhere at the centre of the spectrum with the margins taker and giver. The norm in this culture is to provide help only to those who have helped you in the first place.  It looks like a compromise between colleagues, I am sacrificing my time to help you because you have done the same for me. Or I expect you to help me back at some point. This type of interaction might seem appealing and somewhat efficient, however the conditions for this information exchange make the interaction bounded in closed loops. It is an unproductive way of exchanging favors. Interaction means much more than this. And that’s when the mindset think out of the box comes in. Sharing knowledge with people you haven’t interact professionally before, actively promoting communication across teams and departments can bring up new elements and spark new connections and ideas in your work.

Matcher team behaviour is represented by:

Giver culture

In the giver culture, as Grant describes it, employees operate as the high-performing intelligence units do: helping others, sharing knowledge, offering mentoring, and making connections without expecting anything in return.

The giver culture can also be related to how employees think and act at the workplace. The way the colleagues make the distinction between “I” and “We” in their language and behaviour, tells us about their view upon the work. Meaning that when they start picturing the team/company as a whole entity, their perspective also changes. This can be recognized in their behaviour. Building a giver culture comes with benefits. While employees are not focused anymore on individual performance, they’re in fact willing to contribute to the wellbeing of their colleagues, and ultimately contribute to achieving effective teamwork. Recognising the giving behaviour  makes employees feel more appreciated and impacts their attitude towards work. According to Globoforce, 34% of the interviewed employees, that were recognised in the last month, are more likely to say that their company culture is fun and enjoyable. Having in mind that cooperation is more valued and rewarded, generosity will slowly take over in the behaviour of the employees.

You may recognize your giver colleagues by spotting these three ways of behaving at work.

No recipe is perfect

The advantage of choosing the giving instead of matching or taker culture is that you gain access to a wider network of support, as everyone is open and available to give a hand without expecting anything in exchange.

If the benefits of the giver culture are obvious, then why don’t more organisations embrace it? The answer lies in the organisational structure, where leaders promote competition by rewarding individual performance. Thus, being open, helping and sharing your knowledge with your peers doesn’t seem so appealing anymore when you’re focused on climbing the career ladder. Unless, you’re expecting to gain seething in return.

However, being a giver at work also has a downside. Although givers are the most valuable people in the organisation, they can easily get a burnout. The altruistic nature can get givers a hard time. That’s why givers should become aware of their generous character and start protecting themselves from getting too much work on their hands. As givers put the needs of others first, they exhaust themselves trying to respond to every request they get. This energy investment in others can make givers feel overloaded and exhausted. In this situations it is natural to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Thus your employees should strive to become effective givers. Calculating their time and effort in a way that doesn’t prevent them from achieving their personal goals. They can keep their generous character while they’re aware that they can say “No” to some help requests and “Yes” to those which matter the most.

Do you want to become an effective giver?

We invite you to play WeQ, to find out how generous you are in your work. Maybe you're indeed too generous which makes you too vulnerable to the takers mentality. If your team members are not generous enough, then your team performance suffers. If one of your colleague is too generous, he/she might be at risk to get a burnout. Play WeQ to stay balanced. app.wequ.co


Adam Grant is a Wharton Professor and author of the book Give and Take. As an organizational psychologist, he studies how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives.

Ted talk Adam Grant


Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/givers-take-all-the-hidden-dimension-of-corporate-culture

In the Company of Givers and Takers https://hbr.org/2013/04/in-the-company-of-givers-and-takers

Beat Generosity Burnout


eBook Globoforce- The Psychology of Recognition at Work



Andreea Stegarescu
Andreea Stegarescu is brand ambassador at WeQu, where she preaches about fun ways to make teams smarter. Born in Romania, living in the Netherlands, Andreea graduated from the University of Groningen with a Masters degree in International Relations.

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