The landscape of the 21st-century workplace is changing rapidly. Conventional ‘hard skills’ aside, human behavior and interpersonal skills are now driving both individual and team performance. Adam Grant, professor of organizational psychology at Wharton, breaks down modern-day workplace attitudes for us in his bestseller, Give and Take.

Grant groups working professionals into three broad personality types: givers, takers and matchers. Givers care about their peer groups and contribute to its success without expecting anything in return; takers are self-centered individuals who focus on their success even at the expense of others; while matchers mirror the behavior of their counterparts, ‘giving’ and ‘taking’ on a quid pro quo basis.

Givers are, of course, a boon to any organization. Typically, they bring people together, pioneering collaboration in groups. As a result, they advance not only their own success, but trigger a positive chain reaction by taking others along. (The only caveat is that successful givers are never altruistic to their own detriment—they ‘give’ without losing sight of their own goals.)

Grant believes that when groups function cohesively, and givers give, people around them—some of whom will be matchers—mirror collaborative attitudes and go on to build a culture of trust and goodwill. Ultimately, the groups and organizations these individuals form undergo a ripple effect of increased growth and productivity. 

But any story is only half told without an antagonist: enter the taker, throwing a spanner in the works.

Takers are a glitch in the ecosystem because they hamper trust, altering the behavior of those around them. While givers become more cautious in their presence, matchers start mirroring the taker attitude, impeding advancement for both individuals and organizations. However, most takers will also reach a career cul-de-sac, as they will eventually need the backing of a team to achieve results.

There is a potential happy ending here—but only if individuals and teams are willing to learn and unlearn behavior. The same willingness can spell success for the future of the workplace, in terms of fostering better connections between givers and takers, helping takers evolve their working styles, or training givers and takers to finetune their collaborative skills. This is what spurred the Harappa Education team into developing methods to enhance social, cognitive and emotional skills—so employees and organizations can think, solve, communicate, collaborate and lead, better.

Soumya Bahuguna is a graduate from the Shri Ram College of Commerce. A copywriter at Harappa Education, she spends her free time playing the piano, reading, and petting dogs.

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