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Givers, Takers and Matchers

The three personality types in every organisation

By Martin Kahn

Martin is Oakwood's Associate Learning Consultant and works in our Associate Team
More from Martin >>

Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist in the area of human resources and employment, has a theory for identifying personality types amongst employees. Through years of research, he believes there are three types of people in all organisations, and identifying them can help improve an organisation’s performance.

The three personality types Grant proposes are:

1. the givers
2. the takers
3. and the matchers

Grant defines these types according to their inner motivation, not according to how they present themselves externally to the world or other employees. Here are the differences:

Givers ask themselves: “how can I contribute?”
Takers ask: “what can I get?”

Matchers, which is the category that most of us fall into, will be motivated by the idea of a fair and just environment, where employees give and take from each other equally to get their respective jobs done.

The problem with givers is that they tend to burn out, especially in organisations with powerful takers. This is largely due to the fact they are more likely to oblige and say “yes”. Takers that realise this will develop a tendency to dump their work onto a giver.

What we find interesting from Grant’s research is that organisations who are more successful, or have the highest levels of employee engagement and retention, are those who support and nurture their givers. If the culture of the organisation focuses on supporting giving personality types, givers will naturally rise, which benefits the organisation in many ways, such as a more engaged workforce and higher profitability.

To identify givers and therefore support them, it also helps to identify the takers in the organisation, too. However, the problem with takers is that they often hide behind what Grant calls “reasonableness” or “politeness” which can make them harder to spot. A taker will often give the impression of wanting to contribute to the organisation, however it will solely be for the purpose of looking like a hard worker and getting ahead.

To help identify who is a taker or a giver, Grant presents a simple four box model using the concept of “reasonableness”:

In the top right you have Agreeable Takers. Agreeable Takers are the employees who are often polite and seem genuine on the outside but are more interested in how they can succeed, even at the expense of other employees.

In the top left are Agreeable Givers. These are the individuals who will often sacrifice themselves or their work to support co-workers with their needs or problems.

Bottom left are Disagreeable Givers, who may present as “prickly” on the outside but have the best intentions of the organisation at heart. They will often be bluntly honest and give tough feedback without feeling the need to be diplomatic.

In the bottom right you have the Disagreeable Takers. Disagreeable Takers are easy to identify, as they try to build and lever relationships with those in positions of power, being promoted or rewarded because of a connection instead of work. They can also be identified by meteoric rises and falls in their position.

Those that do not fall into any of these boxes can be labeled as a matcher, either disagreeable or agreeable.

If you’re struggling to identify where an employee sits in the model, here’s a test that can quickly determine who is a giver or a taker. Ask your employees the following question:

“Can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved?”

The corresponding positions of the people an employee mentions can hint at one of these personality types. A taker will almost always provide the names of four people above them, as that is where they are focused – getting ahead. A giver will instead provide names of people below or at a similar level to them. These are the people who help, out of genuine kindness and concern, even if it does not directly benefit their careers.

We hope this short guide has given you insight into how your organisation can increase productivity and performance by identifying employee personalities. For more assistance with your human resource management, Oakwood International offers in-house training and a range of tailored HR corporate solutions

Get in touch with us today at info@oakwooddubai.ae or call +971 4 359 9020.