Being a ‘Selfless Giver’ Can Be Bad for You

Recognize This! – Givers find energy when they give in self-protective and personally meaningful ways, and when they are recognized and reminded of how their contributions matter.

It’s not just about giving and taking anymore.

Recent research by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele shows that the type of giving matters – specifically whether you are a “selfless” or a “self-protective” giver.

The selfless types often give indiscriminately, without regard for their own limited resources or time. They can easily become overloaded with requests and are at greater risk of both “generosity burnout” and less effective performance.

“Self-protective givers” – those on the lookout for high-impact, low-cost opportunities to give – can avoid some of those risks. They prioritize requests based on importance, focusing in areas that play to their strengths and contributing in ways that are often personally meaningful.

Consequently, self-protective givers tend to invest more of themselves in the contributions they make, in turn allowing them to make greater contributions.

What kind of giver are you? Take this online assessment to find out.

As Adam and Reb point out:

As giving aligns with your interests and skills, it becomes less stressful for you and more valuable to others. Rather than feeling pressured to help, you’re choosing to help, which is good for your motivation, your creativity, and your well-being. Instead of being known as a jack-of-all-trades, you’re seen as a master of a few. That frees you up to focus on helping where you have the most impact — which replenishes your energy by reminding you how much your contributions matter.

As I wrote recently on Compensation Café, that last bit reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a colleague. He recounted something his spouse, a palliative care physician (and a fan of Adam’s work), had told him about giving in a healthcare setting: When you give, it is more than giving your time, resources, or even “capital” — fundamentally it’s about giving of your whole self.

Giving in self-protective and mindful ways, we all are more personally invested and find greater meaning in the help we provide.  When we are recognized for that investment and reminded of how our giving matters, we are rejuvenated.

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Recognition plays an important role in sustaining the energy of givers, particularly as the level of personal investment and meaning increases. Through a strong culture of recognition, the organization is poised to benefit from the positive spirals of self-protective givers.

How does your organization support giving and the recognition of those givers?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on  Recognize This!