You may not love them but your business needs them!

Everyone loves a helpful, cheerful worker… their manager, the owner and the customers. After all, enthusiastic optimists are wonderful colleagues. Reliable, pretty much trouble and conflict free, they can always be counted on.

But are they great for your business? Are they really the asset you think they are? According to organizational psychologist and Wharton professor, Adam Grant, they may not necessarily make the best employees.

Is ‘The Grouch’ better for your business?

Addressing the the annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management, Grant said he separates workers along two axes: givers and takers, and agreeable and disagreeable.

Givers share of themselves and make their colleagues better

Takers, on the other hand, are selfish and focused only on their own interests.

The agreeable/disagreeable spectrum is exactly what the label says: some employees are friendly while others are grouchy.

Of course we all have good and bad days where we may feel friendly or grouchy but Grant is describing personality traits.

In his research he’s found no correlation between being friendly and being a giver, nor being a grump and a taker. Givers and takers both can have either agreeable or disagreeable personalities

The worst employees are the disagreeable takers. Grant compares them to the vicious Lannisters in the Game of Thrones series.

The epitomy of disagreeable takers… the Lannisters from Game of Thrones

Agreeable takers are deceptively terrible. They have colleagues believing that they are generous and caring when they are really secretly undermining the business.

Grant uses this simple matrix to define the options:

AgreeableAgreeable giversAgreeable takers
DisagreeableDisagreeable giversDisagreeable takers

Intuitively, the agreeable giver probably seems like the ideal employee. But Grant’s research has found that their sunny disposition can make them averse to conflict and too eager to agree.

On the other side of the coin, we have the disagreeable giver. These workers can be challenging and even a frequent thorn, but according to Grant, they can be valuable employees.

The disagreeable giver is far more likely to fight for what they believe in. They will challenge the status quo. They are capable to highlighting growth constraining problems and will push the decision makers to make painful but necessary changes.

And when a disagreeable giver offers rare praise, it will be genuine and heart-felt whereas praise from an agreeable taker is probably designed to get, not to give!

According to Grant, the typical disagreeable giver “can get more joy out of an argument than a friendly conversation” and be tough to work with. But if you want to avoid complacency and improve your organizations performance and profitability, they also can be invaluable.

What’s your take? When you look at your team, have you employed enough disagreeable givers to give your business the future you want?



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