Are you a giver? Or are you a taker?

I was recommended this Ted talk by Adam Grant on the difference between givers and takers. It really made me consider whether I am a giver, a taker, or the third type of person mentioned in the video – a matcher.


Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he writes about success, motivation, and psychology. His TED Talk was focused on the types of people in the workplace and how the different types affect workplace dynamics.


There are 3 different types of people in the workplace:

Givers: like doing things and helping others

Takers: like things being done for them without reciprocation

Matchers: like mirroring the behavior performed towards them

The key takeaway of the TED Talk, is that takers are poisonous for an organization and it’s vital to keep takers out of the company by not hiring them in the first place.

When employing takers, the matchers in the organization will mirror the actions of the taker (why should I help you? You’ve never helped me before.) creating an everyone-for-themselves culture, meanwhile, the givers burn out trying to meet the never-ending needs of the takers.

By having a workplace of only givers and matchers, the givers encourage the matchers to also become givers themselves, (this person always helps me when I’m feeling stressed, I should reciprocate!) and the culture transforms into a more collaborative environment which encourages teamwork and mentorship.

I really recommend you watch the TED talk for yourself, it’s worth the 13 or so minutes.


Am I a giver, a taker, or a matcher?

I asked my friend what she thinks I am, and we both decided that we are matchers. We will reciprocate when in the presence of givers, and similarly we will reject or shun the selfish attitudes of takers. Neither of us could think of real life ‘takers’, which my friend concluded was a good thing. I definitely have encountered some in the past and am glad they are out of my life.

Maybe it was my previous interactions with takers, but I’ve always had a bit of paranoia when encountering new people. I will wait to see what people’s intentions are before I engage them in a friendly manner.

My thought process goes something like this:

“Well. I know I am a good person. But I don’t know if you are a good person, so rather than doing all the work at the beginning and having it all go to waste, I’m going to conserve the energy until I figure out whether you’re a good person or not.”

This way of thinking is in line with the definition of ‘matching’ – waiting to see how the other person treats you before reciprocating.


My take-away from the video:

I used to think that the majority of people are either givers or takers. Yet, the majority of people are just like me – over 50% of us are matchers.

Just as I am wary of new people, they might also be wary of my intentions. As matchers, it’s in our aggregate best interest to approach unknown people as a giver. By making the first move as a giver, other givers and matchers I meet should reciprocate my action. If they are a taker, they won’t reciprocate – they will expect me to do all the work for the remainder of the relationship.

By keeping track of the other party’s response, I can determine whether I should continue to ‘give’ to them or if I should cut off the taker.

This train of thought wasn’t inspired by altruism, but by the realization that we are all better off by emulating givers. In a society where people look to others as to how they should act, why react when you have a chance to set the tone?

In the famous game theory situation, Prisoner’s Dilemma – even though self-serving people are always expected to look after their own best interests, they actually end up better off if they cooperate.


So how about the Givers?

Grant stressed in the video how important it is to protect the Givers in your workplace (and also your life!) from burn-out.

When you see someone repeatedly doing something for you or for others at the expense of their own well-being, gently remind them to take care of themselves first. We matchers need givers after all, and no doubt givers are enormously valuable and necessary in our society. Givers have a hard time saying no to takers (they love to give and takers love to take) so as their friends and co-workers, we should look out for when someone else is taking advantage of them.

Do you consider yourself a giver, a matcher, or a taker? Why do you think so? 


2 thoughts on “Are you a giver? Or are you a taker?

  1. Hmm .. not sure whether i am a matcher or a giver. Before working, i always keep in mind the motto “do unto others what you want others to do unto you”. Giver perhaps? But i think it actually depends on the situation? In the workplace, i am more of a giver. However, outside, im most prolly a matcher. If you’re good to me, then i will be good to you. If not, then, likewise haha

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    1. Hi April, that sounds like me as well! I am more of a giver at work than I am outside. There are always those people who just have their heads buried in their own work and responsibilities and never extend a helping hand to anyone, and I definitely don’t agree with that philosophy.


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