A recent article in HBR (More on Being Generous without being a Doormat, February 22, 2021) writes about generosity at work. Adam Grant (the author of the article) has written a book Givers and Takers. It describes how the Takers are like “ball hogs” (taking credit, piling on work on others, unconcerned about their impact) and the givers are like doormats (being overly generous in doing things for others, taking on commitments that weigh down their teams). Then, there are Matchers, who likely “trade off” favors, both giving and taking in turn.

It seems Givers are more prone to burnout, as their desire to meet unmet needs combined with their unwillingness/inability to set boundaries mean they overwork—not only themselves but their teams. Takers can be difficult to work with, as meeting your needs is a lot less important than what they want. Matchers appear to provide a nice balance between these types and can be quite effective workers teammates, subordinates, and leaders.

If you are a healthcare leader, look at your staff. Do you have a lot of Givers? If so, recognize they may be already burned out, but they may not be saying anything. Givers are great team players, never complaining about workload and Covid-related stressors. They volunteer and jump in to help at every opportunity. They also work too many hours, feel victimized, do too much, and become resentful of others—patients, colleagues, bosses. Spend extra time listening and caring about the Givers but help them get empowered. If you see Givers start to withdraw, become sad/low energy, or become uncharacteristically short tempered—beware. If you see these symptoms, assure you help these folks set boundaries and priorities. They will not do this on their own. I wonder how many Givers have left healthcare recently? I am sure many have.

If you have Takers, recognize the impact they have on others. They may seem to be your A-players, but is that because they are surrounded by Givers who do the hard work while they take the credit? Is it because they are driving others so hard? Leaders, especially in healthcare, need to show empathy, compassion, and respect. It’s not that Takers lack “heart” or feelings. It’s just that getting the job done and being seen as successful outweighs taking care of the needs of others. For these folks, you need to learn their motivations—power, professional excellence, ambition? Then, tie their ability to attain these to their people leadership. If sharing credit and being a bit kinder and gentler is required to move up the ladder, don’t promote them until they show it, consistently over time.

If you have Matchers, phew. They can make your life easier by giving and taking at appropriate times in an appropriate balance. Colleagues, direct reports, and others other flock to these folks, and they are often your most successful leaders. Reward them, promote them—and continue to support them.

Lastly, look at yourself. If you are Giver, you deserve appreciation but recognize the price you yourself pay. If you are Taker, applaud yourself for your success and recognize the price others pay working with you. If you are Matcher, consider a leadership position or “levelling up” in your leadership role. The Bailey Group works with all kinds–Givers, Takers and Matchers!

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