Active Thinking Topic 39 -  Givers, Takers & Matchers

Tuesday 30 August 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. In your daily life (as distinct from massaging your Facebook profile and CV) have you tended to be a giver, a taker or a matcher? How has that worked out a) financially; b) as a matter of life satisfaction.

2. There is an idealized meme in many cultures that women, especially mothers, are givers while men tend to be takers. Does this meme fit the real world? What are the nuances?

3. It is often said that at people become richer they become meaner, less inclined to give. Is this true or false, or a more complex story? Examples?

4. Australians tend to help strangers in need, but as a group (especially men) often have few or any close friends. What is going on? Are takers always friendless? What is the secret sauce which keeps friendships alive?

5. Some professions are traditionally seen as giving professions. Those choosing this path are (ideally) seen as following a calling, rather than a financially driven career. Examples: nurses, doctors, teachers, policemen, fire fighters ... maybe military personnel. How has this worked out in practice in Australia, and in other countries?

6. Corporate-speak is awash with homilies about givers, takers and matchers. This is reflected in corporate training programs, TED talks, and the daily chatter of HR departments. None of this stuff eulogizes the takers (e.g. meme: "Takers eat better but givers sleep better"). As you view the daily grind of life in organizations, what is YOUR view about who comes out on top?

7. "A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" [Oscar Wilde]. Cynics are generally assumed to be takers. Can a cynic also be a giver, at least some of the time? Examples?

8. Ritualized giving is a feature of many cultures. For example, on 'Teacher's Day' in South Korea, students will give their teachers gifts. However in many, not all, cases there is a strong expectation that these gifts will be reciprocated by good grades. What are the pluses and minuses of giving which is formalize by cultural or religious pressure?

9. In Australia your organizer, Thor, lived through a cultural transition from a world where men were always expected to pay a restaurant bill on a date (for example) to one where some women are quite hostile to any such attempt, assuming it will put them under unwanted obligation. How should men and women navigate this situation?

10. In Australia, historically there has always been a high level of volunteering, although it has declined somewhat recently. In some countries real volunteering (not compelled 'volunteering') is almost unknown. In yet some other countries, volunteering tends to be strictly a matter or religiously required duty. Why have these very different cultural attitudes to giving arisen? What are the wider consequences?


Extra Reading


Team Lemonade (n.d.) "The Surprising Psychology of Givers, Takers, and Matchers - Examining the spectrum of reciprocity styles in relationships". Lemonade corporate website @  / [Quote: "You’re at lunch with a friend who’s looking for a new job. They tell you they’re interested in a company where your college friend works. You haven’t spoken to your friend in a few years. What would you do? - 1. Tell your friend you’ll make the introduction / 2. Tell your friend you’ll make the introduction, and then ask them for help on your own issue / 3. Tell your friend you don’t feel comfortable making the introduction since you’re no longer in touch with your college friend" ]

Adam Grant (April 2013) "In the Company of Givers and Takers". Harvard Business Review @  [Quote: "Every day, employees make decisions about whether to act like givers or like takers. When they act like givers, they contribute to others without seeking anything in return. They might offer assistance, share knowledge, or make valuable introductions. When they act like takers, they try to get other people to serve their ends while carefully guarding their own expertise and time. .. Organizations have a strong interest in fostering giving behavior."]

Bill Sanders (June 17 2021) "There are 3 types of employees. Here’s the rarest one—and why psychologists say they outperform everyone else".
CNBC broadcasting @  [Quote: ".. it’s important to distinguish between passive giving and negotiated giving: a) Passive givers are giving in to avoid conflict, en route to stunted deals and lowered expectations. b)
Negotiated givers are more intentional in their generosity and stay focused on long-term goals".]

Thor May (2013) "Ethical Behaviour is Harder for the Rich". Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "This little essay is about (my ideas of) the behaviour of the rich. Of course all kinds of people are rich for all kinds of reasons (ditto for the poor). Nevertheless I will argue that rich people demonstrate ethics in ways which are consistent with broad human tendencies. Depending upon the social context of their wealth (e.g. corporate versus inherited) that wealth might influence them to exhibit particular behaviours. Yet those habits will merely be a subset of something much more general. Ethics, at bottom, is sourced in the evolutionary behaviour of the species.]

Rob Harris (August 18, 2022) "How Twiggy Forrest drove first humanitarian grain shipment out of Ukraine" . The Age @  [note: Twiggy Forest is a self-made Australian mining billionaire] [Quote: "... the executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, determined to put his vast resources and networks to good use, had talked his way into a face-to-face meeting with Zelensky in the presidential palace in Kyiv. The meeting was supposed to be brief, but it went for over an hour and was followed by several phone calls in the following days. Storage and shipping, Zelensky told Forrest, were the two critical things needed to save his country’s record harvest and help feed an increasingly starving world. .... So, when The Brave Commander, a Lebanese-flagged freighter, left Ukraine’s Yuzhny Port on Wednesday morning, Forrest was a relieved man. The shipment of 23,000 metric tonnes of wheat grain is the first for humanitarian needs out of the conflict-hit country."]

Lindsey Kennedy and Nathan Paul Southern (August 21, 2022) "The online scammer targeting you could be trapped in a South-East Asian fraud factory". The Age @  [Quote: "Every year, Australians of all ages and backgrounds are scammed out of billions of dollars, with fraudsters developing more sophisticated and persuasive tactics all the time. But the financial and emotional devastation wreaked on victims of scams only tells half the story. All across South-East Asia, heavily guarded, sinister compounds have sprung up to house these industrial-scale scam operations – and to trap people forced to work for them in terrifying conditions".]

Jim Bright (August 20, 2022) "Hidden agendas: Why team building helps the sneaks in the workplace". The Age @  [Quote: "Trust historically was not something people necessarily expected to find in the workplace. Managers in hierarchical organisations (i.e. nearly all of them) could leverage the power of their position to promote their agendas. With the advent of the human resources movement, and the faddish adoption of “teams” as an organisational unit – and nowadays, God help us, as a form of address – trust was placed firmly on the agenda. It was held that for teams to be successful they had to develop trust in their team members. Trust, it was declared, could be engendered by the open sharing of information. Information is power, and failing to share it inevitably creates power imbalances. ... The problem with trust building is that it provides an excellent cover for the sneaky. Building expectations of open and even communication can create a room full of naive suckers ripe for manipulation by the sneaky".]

Nicola Davis (10 October 2017) "Stereotype that women are kinder and less selfish is true, claim neuroscientists". The Guardian @  [Quote: "Women seem to get more of a chemical reward for generosity than men, though the team say it is not clear whether the gender differences they see are “innate” or the result of social pressures."] [Thor, comment: After decades of teaching young women, and having had numerous female bosses, I have deep doubts about the proposition that 'women are less selfish than men'. In a maternal context they may be more involved than men in an infant's welfare. In other contexts ... well it hasn't been my experience. Part of the research design problem may be in equating social activity with selfless behaviour. These are different].

Thor May (2011) "Snow Flower and The Secret Fan." The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Thor, comment: When Wendi Deng (邓文迪 ), from China magically fell into the pan-national world of international business and married the media billionaire Rupert Murdoch, (who had abandoned Australia for the same stateless realm of five star hotels), at once we recognized that age old story of the gold digger and the sugar daddy. Perhaps though our belief in a simple storyline was, if not wrong, at least incomplete. Origins matter after all. ... As a teacher to young women in Zhengzhou, central China for three years recently, I could sense the conflicting currents of duty, ambition and the hope for love that tossed them about in relationships. The mix for each modern girl was individual, and Deng herself is a product of those choices. It is surely no accident then that Wendi Deng and another high profile Chinese-American transplant, Florence Sloan, were co-producers of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a film which deals directly, though often through a veil of tears, with just these dilemmas."




Givers, Takers & Matchers  (c) Thor May 2022

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