Do you have a taker in your organisation?

Takers are self-centered egoists and they come in many forms - some of them are openly selfish and even rude (and thus easy to detect), while other takers are friendly and nice on the surface, but selfish on the inside. They are the best friend as long as it serves their interests, but they’re ready to turn their back as soon as it serves them better. The friendly takers are the most difficult ones to recognize.

Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at Wharton, researched different styles of behaviour in social interactions. Have a think about yourself and how you are when interacting with others:

  • Are you willing to share and give without expecting something in return?

  • Do you follow a “favour for a favour, eye for an eye” type principle?

  • Do you just expect to get as much benefit for yourself as possible?

In other words, are you a giver, a matcher, or a taker?


In this blog we will concentrate on takers - what it means, who they are and what damage they can cause. Takers can come across nice and smiley towards their bosses but then treat their colleagues and team mates poorly. They are the ones who may let others do all the work and then they take all the credit to themselves. Takers may reject someone else’s idea and then present it as their own later. Takers are the ones that always think: what’s in it for me.”

Takers can make life very difficult. They can ruin the team’s emotional climate and turn the workplace into a battlefield. With their “me first” – attitude they can undermine and destroy the co-operation everyone else has worked so hard for.

We all may know one (or more) takers but do we know what is the best way to handle them?

Below are a few tips on ways how to deal with takers:

1) Give them feedback on their reputation

This may sound simple but it is often challenging to do. For example, by stating ‘this is your reputation’ to a taker, it makes them think. This may hurt the taker but truthfully, no one would like to be seen as a selfish egoist.

2) Find their unselfish areas

No one is always selfish (except sociopaths). Takers also have moments and situations when they are less selfish. Find those areas. For example, if the taker is an enthusiastic golfer, he is probably much more willing to share his experiences and tips on golf; he enjoys talking about his area of passion.

3) Be a matcher towards them

Research (Adam Grant) has shown many of the world’s most successful leaders are givers. Givers often succeed in the long term, because people trust and like them. People know that they really care and will be there in tough situations. They also normally have a large network of people who want to help and assist and this helps them succeed. It is important to remember though that when a giver meets a taker, they must change their behaviour and become a matcher by for example asking them a favour in return.This way the takers learn that you can’t be exploited. Either they agree to the deal or then they find other targets to exploit.

4) Connect with their goals

In today’s connected world, getting a reputation of being selfish can be very harmful. The word goes around very quickly, and the takers actually harm themselves with their excessive self-interest. Say it out loud to them, and they are quite likely to realise the damage they can do to themselves.


5) Avoid recruiting takers

Takers can be very costly for organisations and they may even destroy the company culture and its emotional climate. It can be quite challenging to spot a taker in the recruitment process but by asking questions like “Tell me an example where you succeeded because other people helped you” or “How have you helped other people succeed?” can help you to identify a taker.