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4 May 2015

Problem With Givers at Work

Helping others at cost to themselves is the problem with givers at work.

The problem with givers is that they often help firms at a cost to themselves.

The problem with givers is that Darwin saw them as a threat to evolution. He could not explain why their altruistic trait would survive a battle of the fittest. Others have sought to explain it since then. Their answers have lessons for assessing talent at work.

The Giving Gene

We have long held altruism such as self-sacrifice as divine. It is something higher beings learn to do. We have learned though there is a genetic aspect. The article, “Right On!” (The Economist, September 20, 2014 edition), tells about this. It tells of altruism in animals even insects.

We are also learning where giving occurs in the brain. Sam Kean’sThe Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving” (The Atlantic, May 2015 edition) talks about giving as a compulsion. In the extreme, both articles describe such a state as the opposite of psychopathy.

Givers at Work

How does this connect to work? The answer lies in how evolutionists have resolved the existence between self-interest and altruism:

  • Selfishness beats altruism within groups.
  • Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.

Translating this to work we get:

Problem with Givers

The problem with givers at work then is that they give so much of themselves that their own work suffers. The help they give might not fit well into their MBO’s. Their help though makes the group better.

For example, sales people who spend their time helping others could suffer poor sales. Yet, the people they help could have very good sales. This holds true for many jobs. It is even more so with the rise of on-the-job training.

The End Game for Givers

The problem with givers at work then is that they help others regardless of their MBO’s. When givers give, there is often a strong rise in areas of the brain associated with food, sex and drugs. The man in the above article gave everything away. He was very happy though.

For firms though, letting go of givers because of their poor results could be early signs of their demise. Self-interested people cannot survive without givers. They must take from someone.

History shows that mercenaries lose to patriotic armies. Patriots sacrifice for others. They are givers. Which is your firm?

4 Responses

  1. Interesting paradox: In a world surrounded by people abiding by TVOS, the quest to reclaim the “moral right to your own life”(John Galt) becomes impossible. I’ve heard that Charles Darwin himself believed that “social Darwinism” was wrong and a misuse of his name.

      1. LOL I guess it’s safe to assume you’re not a Randian! To parody Ultima Quest for the Avatar, : We maketh our journey into a deserted town, hoping to find some supplies. We remembered this place as Britannia, the City of Compassion. Disfigured faces abound, screams and moans are heard beneath the rumbling ground. The rivers floweth moldy, some with hot lava, some with toxic byproducts of GMO crops. The sun refuseth to give her light, save for a sickly green glow the cometh through on a clear day. We are greeted by a Russian lady with gray hair, which was strawberry blonde in her younger days. She speaketh, “Come ye not this way, my dear. At all costs, come not (O)f this way. We esteemed (S)elfishness to be a (V)irtue, then (T)he devil taketh us to this horrible dark dimension!”

        1. Mike Lehr

          Thank you, Glade. You present a nice story.

          It’s too impractical and immoral to claim one or the other. It’s a blend depending upon the context and time. Just as with computers, it’s never “1” or “0” but rather some combination of the two. The horrible dark dimension in this story is extremism. That is the moral of this parable. Any simpleton can choose “1” or “0,” black or white. To see the dark side of any concept, just journey to its extreme. If we cannot see a dark side, then we truly do not understand the concept.

          Again, thank you for visiting and leaving your story, Glade. I appreciate it.

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