Book Chat: Are we too nice at work

I stumbled upon this Key and Peele video while procrastinating, and laughed my rear end off!  Aren’t we all this way — trying to one-up generosity?  Or sometimes giving for ulterior motives?  The video was made in conjunction with a New York Times Magazine article about Dr. Adam Grant and his new book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success“.  In part the NYT states:

Traditionally the thinking has been that employers should appeal to workers’ more obvious forms of self-interest: financial incentives, yes, but also work that is inherently interesting or offers the possibility for career advancement. Grant’s research, which has generated broad interest in the study of relationships at work and will be published for the first time for a popular audience in his new book, “Give and Take,” starts with a premise that turns the thinking behind those theories on its head. The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

“Give and Take” incorporates scores of studies and personal case histories that suggest the benefits of an attitude of extreme giving at work. Many of the examples — the selfless C.E.O.’s, the consultants who mentor ceaselessly — are inspiring and humbling, even if they are a bit intimidating in their natural expansiveness. These generous professionals look at the world the way Grant does: an in-box filled with requests is not a task to be dispensed with perfunctorily (or worse, avoided); it’s an opportunity to help people, and therefore it’s an opportunity to feel good about yourself and your work. “I never get much done when I frame the 300 e-mails as ‘answering e-mails,’ ” Grant told me. “I have to look at it as, How is this task going to benefit the recipient?” Where other people see hassle, he sees bargains, a little work for a lot of gain, including his own.

So can one really get ahead by never saying no to something that can benefit others?  I plan to purchase the book — but I’m not so sure that is the way to get ahead for everyone.  I wonder if Dr. Grant took gender into consideration with the success of his altruistic approach?  What about race?  Perceptions of behaviors can differ due to the individuals (both giver and take-er) gender and racial make up combinations.  Once I read the text, I’ll give a more accurate assessment — but any thoughts?

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