What Are Takers? Strategies for a Healthy Work Environment

Casey Fenton


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In the diverse ecosystem of any workplace, you'll find a myriad of personalities. Some individuals naturally radiate generosity and positivity, while others, driven by self-interest, might act in ways that disturb the harmony of the team. This latter group, often referred to as 'takers,' can significantly impact the dynamics and overall health of the work environment.

So, how do we deal with takers in the workplace? Is it possible to recognize them? Might we unknowingly be a taker ourselves? In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore these questions and more. We'll delve into identifying takers, recognizing signs of taker behavior in ourselves, and navigating scenarios involving takers. We'll also discuss the impact of takers on teams and strategies to turn takers into givers.

Who is a 'Taker'?

In the context of a working environment, a 'taker' is someone who prioritizes personal gain over team growth. They habitually consume more than they contribute, leaving others shortchanged. They tend to perceive every interaction as a competition, one where their victory necessitates someone else's loss.

Identifying a Taker in the Workplace

Spotting a taker is often a complex task, as they might camouflage their self-centered intentions under a veneer of cooperation and team spirit. However, through keen observation and understanding, you can pinpoint certain behavioral patterns that could indicate a taker. Here are some signs to look for:

Frequent self-promotion

Takers typically have a knack for highlighting their accomplishments and victories, making sure they are noticed. This may involve frequently bringing up their own achievements in conversations or meetings or using others' failures as opportunities to draw attention to their successes. While there's nothing wrong with being proud of one's achievements, a taker's self-promotion often comes at the expense of others, undermining the collective effort and disregarding the contributions of the team.

Lack of reciprocity

A hallmark of a taker is a one-sided expectation of assistance. They are often the first to seek help from others, but when it's their turn to lend a hand, they're conspicuously absent. This lack of reciprocity isn't always obvious. For instance, they might make excuses for their unavailability or promise to help 'next time,' but that time seldom comes. Their habitual failure to reciprocate can leave colleagues feeling used and undervalued.

Manipulative behavior

Takers can be masters of manipulation. They may subtly shift circumstances and people to align with their interests, often at the expense of others. This might involve taking credit for a coworker's idea, coercing others into doing their tasks or bending rules to fit their agenda. While it can be hard to detect, a pattern of manipulative behavior is a strong indication of a taker.

By being observant and aware, you can identify takers in the workplace. This understanding can help you better navigate your interactions and cultivate a more harmonious work environment.

Are You a Taker?

While it's important to identify takers in the workplace, it's equally vital to reflect on your own behavior and recognize any taker tendencies you may possess. Take a moment to consider the following signals that might indicate taker behavior:

1. Inconsistent empathy

Assess whether your empathy extends only to those from whom you stand to gain, such as influential colleagues or higher-ups. If you find yourself showing empathy selectively rather than consistently, it may be an indication of a taker mindset. Remember, empathy should extend to everyone, regardless of their position or influence.

2. Avoiding collaboration

Reflect on your approach to collaboration. Do you frequently dodge group projects or only contribute when your effort will be highly visible? If so, you might be exhibiting taker behavior. Instead, aim to prioritize collective accomplishments over personal recognition. Embrace collaboration as an opportunity for growth and learning.

3. Overstepping boundaries

Take a moment to consider whether you respect the boundaries of your colleagues. Do you take credit for others' work, bypass team norms to achieve your goals, or exploit colleagues' resources without reciprocating? If you find yourself overstepping these boundaries, it's important to recognize the impact it has on trust and the overall work environment. Strive to foster a culture of respect and collaboration.

Navigating Workplace Scenarios with Takers

Recognizing taker behavior within yourself can be uncomfortable, but it is an essential step towards personal growth and creating a healthier work environment. By acknowledging these tendencies, you can consciously work towards developing a more giving mindset and contribute positively to the team's success.

In your workplace journey, you may encounter scenarios where you have to navigate interactions with takers. Let's explore a few hypothetical situations and discuss potential solutions for each:

Scenario 1: Sarah, a colleague, consistently monopolizes meetings, talking up her contributions and diminishing others.

Solution: When faced with this situation, it's important to encourage an environment of shared recognition. As a team member, you can initiate a positive change by suggesting that everyone shares one accomplishment from the past week during the meeting. This gives each individual an opportunity to highlight their contributions, fostering a more balanced discussion. 

Alternatively, if you have a leadership role, you can proactively address the issue by setting clear meeting guidelines that promote equal participation and discourage one person from dominating the conversation.

Scenario 2: John, a coworker, always asks for your help on his projects but never reciprocates.

Solution: When dealing with a situation where a colleague consistently seeks your assistance without offering support in return, it's important to address the issue directly. Approach John politely and express your concern about the lack of reciprocity. Emphasize the importance of mutual support and collaboration within the team. 

If the behavior persists, it may be necessary to manage your time and resources more effectively, ensuring that you prioritize your own responsibilities and limit the amount of assistance you provide to John.

Scenario 3: Emily consistently takes credit for the work you and others have done, presenting it as her own.

Solution: When faced with a situation where someone consistently takes credit for your work, it's crucial to address the issue assertively. Approach Emily privately and express your concerns about the misrepresentation of contributions. Share specific examples to support your claim and calmly communicate the impact her actions have on the team's trust and morale. Encourage open and transparent acknowledgment of each individual's contributions to foster a culture of recognition and fairness.

Tips for Dealing with Takers

When it comes to dealing with takers in the workplace, it's important to have strategies in place that promote a healthy and productive environment. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate interactions with takers:

1. Maintain boundaries

Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries is essential when dealing with takers. While it's important to be helpful and cooperative, it's equally crucial to ensure that your own well-being and performance are not compromised. Setting boundaries helps protect your time, energy, and resources, ensuring that you strike a balance between supporting others and taking care of yourself.

2. Communicate assertively

When encountering taker behavior, it's vital to address the issue directly and assertively. Express your concerns calmly and constructively, using "I" statements to communicate how their actions impact you and the team. Avoid personal attacks and focus on the specific behavior that needs to be addressed. Clear and assertive communication can help set boundaries and encourage a more respectful and collaborative work environment.

3. Foster a giving culture

Actively promote a culture of giving and mutual support within your team or organization. Encourage collaboration, empathy, and recognition of each other's contributions. Celebrate collective achievements and create opportunities for everyone to shine. By fostering a giving culture, you create an environment that is less conducive to taker behavior and more focused on collective growth and success.

4. Lead by example

Be a role model for giving behavior in the workplace. Demonstrate empathy, generosity, and collaboration in your own actions and interactions. By leading by example, you inspire others to adopt a similar mindset and contribute to a positive work environment. Your actions can influence the overall dynamics of the team and encourage others to prioritize collective success over individual gain.

5. Seek support

If you find yourself consistently dealing with a taker or facing challenges in addressing the issue, don't hesitate to seek support from trusted colleagues, mentors, or supervisors. They can provide guidance, offer perspectives, and help you navigate the situation effectively. Remember, you don't have to face taker behavior alone, and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively deal with takers in the workplace and contribute to the creation of a healthier and more harmonious work environment. Remember, change takes time, but your commitment to promoting a giving culture and addressing taker behavior can make a significant impact in the long run.

Impacts of Takers on the Team

The presence of takers in a team can have both positive and negative impacts on the overall dynamics and productivity. Understanding these effects can help raise awareness and address taker behavior more effectively. Let's explore the impacts:

Positive Impacts:

Occasionally, takers may contribute to high-stakes tasks where their self-interest aligns with the team's goal. Their competitive nature can spur innovation and drive. They may be motivated to excel in challenging situations and achieve outstanding results. In these instances, their relentless pursuit of personal success can lead to exceptional performance that benefits the team as a whole.

Negative Impacts:

More often, however, takers create an atmosphere of distrust and hinder collaboration within the team. Their self-centered actions and behaviors have several detrimental effects:

1. Decreased morale

Taker behavior can negatively impact team morale. When individuals feel undervalued or taken advantage of, their motivation and enthusiasm may decline. The lack of recognition for their contributions and the unequal distribution of workload can lead to frustration and demotivation among team members.

2. Lower productivity

Takers often prioritize their personal goals over team objectives, which can impede overall productivity. Their tendency to focus solely on their own success can create bottlenecks and hinder the smooth flow of work. The lack of cooperation and genuine collaboration leads to suboptimal outcomes and can slow down progress.

3. Increased staff turnover

Takers' self-serving behavior can create an unhealthy work environment that drives talented individuals away. When team members consistently feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, they may seek opportunities elsewhere, leading to higher turnover rates. This can disrupt team dynamics, affect institutional knowledge, and result in the loss of valuable contributors.

Turning Takers into Givers

Fortunately, you can help a colleague with a taker attitude to adopt a giver mindset. Here are ways to guide them toward a more cooperative disposition.

1. Promote a giving culture

Repeatedly highlight the importance and benefits of a collective win.

2. Constructive feedback

Regular, constructive feedback can help takers realize the adverse effects of their behavior.

3. Leverage compensation packages

Equity compensation, for instance, aligns an employee's interests with the company's success. If an employee gains as the company does, they are more likely to become givers.

Leveraging Equity Compensation

Equity compensation—receiving a share of the company—can be an effective tool to convert takers into givers. It shifts their focus from individual gain to the company's collective success. For this strategy to work, it's essential to understand the terms of your equity compensation and seek opportunities to leverage it for personal growth and the betterment of the team.

The goal is not to ostracize takers but to foster an environment where everyone thrives. Instead, by recognizing, addressing, and finding solutions to taker behavior, we can cultivate healthier, more productive workplaces.

Embrace the Power of Ownership

Recognize that equity compensation gives you a stake in the company's success. This ownership mindset can motivate you to work collaboratively and contribute to the overall growth and prosperity of the organization.

Share the Benefits

Instead of solely focusing on personal gain, consider how your efforts and contributions can positively impact your colleagues and the team. By sharing the benefits of your equity compensation, such as knowledge, resources, and mentorship, you can foster a culture of generosity and collaboration.

Lead by Example

Demonstrate giving behaviors by actively supporting and recognizing the contributions of your colleagues. By acknowledging and celebrating their successes, you create an environment that encourages reciprocity and a shift from a taker mindset to a giver mindset.

Collaborate for Collective Success

Seek opportunities to collaborate with your team members and work towards shared goals. By leveraging your equity compensation as a unifying factor, you can motivate others to join forces, share ideas, and work together for the overall success of the organization.

Your equity compensation is not just a financial reward but also a catalyst for transforming taker attitudes. Embracing ownership, sharing the benefits, leading by example, and fostering collaboration all help to maintain a workplace environment that values giving and cultivates a sense of shared success.

For more on this topic and ownership mindset for the workplace, check out our blog here.

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Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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