Givers vs. Takers: Hiring for Positive Company Culture

June 24, 2024

Discover the three types of people in your office—Givers, Takers, and Matchers—and how they shape your company's culture. Learn how to manage these dynamics to create a thriving, collaborative work environment.

Givers vs Takers: Why Hiring a Giver is Ideal for Your Company's Culture

Create a work environment that wins

There are three types of people in your office: Givers, Takers, and Matchers. Get to know what they are, how they impact your team and company culture, and how you can deal with them to create a winning working environment.


A year before jumping into tech, I read a life-changing book: Give and Take by Adam Grant. It was so good, I shotgun read it in one sitting while on vacation one summer. In it, Adam explains there are three different kinds of people: givers, takers, and matchers. You’ve definitely met all three types before. Here it is, based on my recollection:

The Giver is the person who is attentive to your needs and the team’s needs. These people prepare reports, pick up the slack, and come up with ideas. They are your champions, your allies, and the people who think “we, not me.”

The Taker, on the other hand, is focused on only one thing: their own success. Their favorite topic is their own advancement, even at the expense of others. If they think you’re a threat, they’ll make your life at work a nightmare. You find yourself on guard around these toxic egomaniacs.

The Matcher is the last kind of person, and this is the tit-for-tat guy or gal. If you’re good to them, they’re good to you. If you treat them poorly or throw them under the bus, be prepared for savage retaliation. Whatever you give them, they match you in return.

I loved Adam’s book because it gave me the vocabulary to understand exactly what was happening around me at the different companies I worked at, ran, or owned. And as an executive coach, it created language that was easy for the leaders I worked with to understand the environment and culture they were creating, too.

Think about the people around you for a second. All three types are almost guaranteed to exist at your company. Which person do you know fits each persona? And most importantly for hiring managers — which is the best type to keep around? (Hint: It’s not as easy or straightforward as you think!)

Let’s dive in.

Why hiring is like your relationship status: complicated

Most of the leaders I work with say something that sounds like this:

“Seems like Givers are the best people to have on the team. I only hire Givers. Our team culture is great! And Takers suck! They drain everyone around them. Just keep all the Givers and get rid of the Takers, right?”

Well, sure, but also, not exactly.

Yes, praising Givers, setting them up for raises and promotions, and treasuring/respecting them are all valid behaviors. Since Givers are your quintessential team players, do your best to keep them.

It is also true that Takers are self-centered assholes that love to downplay everyone else’s contributions while believing they’re God’s greatest gift to mankind. And like you, Takers also know that Givers are trusting and generous — so they will do everything they can to exploit that kindness.

But here’s where it gets tricky: it’s not like Takers walk around with a sign on their foreheads that says, “I’m an asshole, don’t hire me!”

The smarter the Taker, the more deceptive they are (and the more they might even pass as a Giver!) They might say things like, “I love receiving feedback!” They might even seem encouraging — as long as the person they’re encouraging has something they want and doesn’t pass them in their ascension to the top.

The reality is, as your company grows bigger and more layers of management get introduced, you can’t directly prevent Takers from entering your company. Let’s be pragmatic about this — screening for Takers at a 25 person company (or even 50-100 person company) is a lot easier than a 5,000+ person company. Takers will go undetected in the hiring process at some point, and you’ve got to enact an autoimmune response to their virus.

You can see now that the “hire Givers, get rid of Takers” is simplistic. The real question is, how do you optimize for the right kinds of Givers, put Takers in their place, and bring out the best in Matchers?

The best people to have on your team

When I started reading Give and Take, I immediately thought that hiring Givers was the no-brainer best move.

Turns out, it’s a little more nuanced than that.

You actually don’t want to hire all kinds of Givers. Let me explain: Givers can be segmented into unhealthy and healthy Givers.

I see unhealthy (or Standard) Givers as the people who give with no boundaries: they are super nice and give to anyone and everyone. This ends up completely exhausting them, burning them out as people take advantage of their kindness. They might even turn cynical in the long run.

On the other hand, I think of healthy (or Adaptable) Givers as those whose giving levels depend on who they’re interacting with.

Adam Grant explains that Adaptable Givers can detect when they’re interacting with other Givers — for these people, they give generously. They also detect when they’re interacting with Matchers — and for these people, they also give generously since Matchers will usually match the efforts of the Giver.

But the biggest difference between standard and adaptable givers is, Adaptable Givers recognize when they are interacting with a Taker. And when an Adaptable Giver meets a Taker, they become a Matcher.

Adaptable Givers actively set boundaries when dealing with Takers - by morphing into Matchers, they give only in the ways that force Takers to give them something in return — in the process, turning Takers into Matchers.

It’s no surprise, then, that the best people to have on your team are the Adaptable Givers. Not only are their giving stores steadily replenished, but they also do an excellent job in weeding out Takers from your culture. Takers think twice before messing with an Adaptable Giver, because they know Adaptable Givers have the support of everyone around them and aren’t here to play games.

If you’re curious why Adaptable Givers are better than Matchers, it’s because their default is still to provide support. This is the kind of behavior you want in your company, because everyone is incentivized to help each other, kindness and “we-not-me” attitudes are rewarded, and Takers want to barf at the wholesomeness and lack of ladder climbing, getting them to leave.

Have a No-Asshole Policy, please

Brian Chesky at Airbnb said he personally interviewed the first 300 employees to ensure they were deeply aligned with the company’s mission and values. He understood that people played a direct role in the company culture.

And in all the most successful companies I’ve coached, the ones that thrive the most are filled with Adaptable Givers, where Takers simply can’t thrive.

Here’s why I believe in a no-asshole policy: when one enters the team, especially within the first 100 employees, their actions are the rotten apple that spoils the barrel. This eventually causes your Givers to leave and creates a culture of distrust. (Remember: the same way a Giver can sway a Matcher into becoming a Giver too, a Taker will sway a Matcher into becoming a Taker.) Soon, all you’re left with is an unsavory group of people who will cause your company to implode.

When interviewing new applicants, if they exhibit signs of being a Taker—being too self-centered or taking credit for others’ work—do not proceed. Your team is better off without them. In your hiring process, you can watch out for applicants who often excessively talk in the first person (“I,” “me,” “mine,” etc.) when describing their previous work experience. You can also have your prospective talent pool collaborate in a test project to see how your prospective candidate does working with a team. Generally speaking, Takers want to hog all the spotlight and take all the credit for someone’s work.

I hear what you’re thinking now: “But Regina, what if a Taker is really good at what they do? What if I need them? Or — what if they’ve been a part of the team for a really long time, and own a lot of functions and responsibilities?”

I totally hear you. The story you’re telling yourself is that you need this person to succeed, and that the road to replacing them seems impossible. In these cases, the long game is your ally: groom Adaptable Givers for higher positions to eventually replace the tenured Takers.

In the event that replacing a Taker is truly not possible — (and I mean, they have to be one of five people on earth who know how to use whatever technology you’re using, and even then, tread carefully) — the best course of action is to limit their sphere of influence by siloing them into a team of one, creating a crystal-clear definition of what success looks like, and being the direct manager to this person. (Be careful that you don’t get burned out in the process…this is like playing with a pet lion. Unadvisable.)

Rewarding Adaptable Givers

The best way to motivate Givers is to create and maintain a culture of giving.

Recognition is usually a Giver’s best friend: Givers work hard without desiring recognition or praise, but when it’s given to them, they feel warmth and happiness, creating a virtuous cycle.

One tactic my coaching clients have really enjoyed is using a #celebrations channel on Slack, where everyone is encouraged to recognize the Givers who put others and the company first without burning themselves out. Through this channel, you’ll also be potentially surprised at who is doing all the hard work quietly in the background without making a big deal out of it (unlike Takers, who like doing big presentations and showing off every chance they get.)

Reward Givers by praising and giving recognition, but also put your promotions where your mouth is: allow Givers to rise the ranks, even if they might not be the most charismatic people. Givers are mission-oriented in nature, so if their contributions are recognized through promotions, raises, and more responsibility, they will feel even more motivated to help you and your company succeed.

Here’s what not to do: please do not provide lavish rewards or performative gestures. Handing out excessively huge sums can cause Givers to feel like you’re buying their loyalty, which makes them see you as a Matcher or Taker. It also turns the Giver’s intrinsic motivation into something that can be potentially bought, which ironically morphs them into a Matcher.

Remember that Givers freely give to each other. Ideally, you surround them with other Givers and remind them why they care so much about their work, the team, and your company to keep them driven.

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Regina Gerbeaux

Who’s Regina Gerbeaux?

Regina Gerbeaux (@_rpgbx) is the executive coach to some of the fastest scaling startups in the world. She is also a founder currently interested in the food delivery and logistics space.

Regina was the first person trained by Matt Mochary (executive coach to the CEOs of Coinbase, Brex, and many more) in the Mochary Method Curriculum.

Her tactical templates and operational write-ups have been referenced and used by fast-scaling companies, including BioRender, Tembo, dYdX, and many more.

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