Are you a giver or a taker? Andrea shares evidence for why being generous can be an advantage plus 5 specific suggestions for how you can be generous at work starting today.








I’ve been hearing the word GENEROUS a lot lately.  In different contexts. So I started to take notice.


I proactively identified situations or contexts where I saw people being generous – or being selfish.  And I identified people in my network who are generous – the givers, versus the takers.  


What about YOU? Are you a giver or a taker?  Of course we like to think of ourselves as givers, not takers.  But does it actually matter?  I mean, I see a lot of selfish people out there doing pretty well.  Am I right? 


Yes, we are wired to be self-interested.  If we weren’t, we would not survive.

But that does NOT mean that we always ACT in a way that is self-serving.  Research shows that we are very capable of acts of kindness, compassion and yes – generosity, even when we might be acting against our best interests.  Research also shows there are great benefits of being generous.


In this episode, you’re going to learn about the power of generosity and what they call “prosocial behavior”, specifically at work. I’m going to tell you what the research says about the impact of being a giver versus a taker.  Spoiler alert: being a taker might benefit you in the short term, but that’s about it. You want to be a taker.  I’m also going to provide you with five specific ways that you can be more generous at work, starting right now. Are you ready?


Welcome to the Talk About Talk podcast episode number 151, Generous Communication,  This is where I provide you with the evidence for – and examples of – when you should be a giver – not a taker.


In case we haven’t met, let me introduce myself. My name is Dr. Andrea Wojnicki and I’m your executive communication coach. Please call me Andrea!
I’m the founder of Talk About Talk, where I coach communication skills to ambitious executives like you – to elevate your communication, your confidence, and your clarity, so you can establish credibility, and accomplish your career goals.


If you go to the website, you’ll find many resources to help you out. There’s information there about one-on-one coaching, online courses, some amazing bootcamps that I run every few months, corporate workshops, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, AND, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter. That newsletter is your chance to get free communication coaching from me every week. 


Alright let’s get into this. I told you that I’ve been proactively identifying situations or contexts where I saw people being generous – or being selfish.  And I identifying people in my network who are generous – the givers, versus the takers.  


One of the most generous people I know is Sharon Mah-Gin. Sharon’s a successful executive recruiter, and she generously shared her on several Talk About Talk episodes focused on topics like networking and job seeking. Sharon and I also co-lead some corporate workshops together in Toronto. 


One of the most impactful insights I learned from Sharon is how we should “add value” or be generous when we’re networking.

You know that icky feeling you get when you hear the word “networking”? Well, instead of thinking about networking as selling or being selfish, walk into every networking reception or lunch or whatever with the philosophy of adding value and being generous.  Suddenly that icky feeling is gone!


Sharon is very very compelling in her delivery of this message.  People often remark immediately after out workshops and even afterwards, they tell us that this insight of being generous and adding value when networking CHANGES EVERYTHING.


One important caveat here. And this is really important. It’s subtle, but important. In the workshops that Sharon and I have conducted on networking, we noticed that many people equate networking with reciprocity. You do a favour for someone in your network, they feel obliged to reciprocate. (Hold the book.) Yes. Of course, the psychology of influence. Does. Highlight reciprocity as A key motivational factor. Reciprocity is one of Cialdini’s now 7 influence factors. That said, a mindset of imposing reciprocal obligations is anything but generous.  In other words, don’t do it.  Focus instead on creating value and being generous.  Got it?


If someone does a favor for us or gives us something, we feel obligated to reciprocate. That said, if you go out. With this. Motivation in mind of encouraging people to feel their indebted to you, then this whole. Idea of being generous can backfire people., we noticed that a lot of po 


Reciprocity – yes it is a common motivation, The truth is that while shifting your networking mindset away from selfish connections toward providing value benefits you more than just in being a more enthusiastic and effective networker.  There’s plenty of research supporting how generosity can benefit you.  It’s almost ironic, right?


There’s the research that you’ve probably heard about that shows how people who give money benefit in terms of psychological well-being.  In other words, it improves their own satisfaction – it makes them happy.  Sometimes even happier than the receiver of the money.  And it’s not just being generous in terms of money.  This also applies to other ways of being generous, other ways of giving. 


What we’re talking about here is what psychologists call “pro-social behaviors”.  

What’ exactly is prosocial behavior?  Well it’s not exactly the opposite of anti-social behavior.

In essence, it’s a fancy term for actions intended to benefit others. This could be as simple as holding the door open for someone. That’s a pro-social behavior. 


Another example of pro-social behavior in a work context could be when a colleague steps in without being asked, offering to lighten your load or to stay late and help you finalize the project. That’s giving without the expectation of immediate return, and it speaks volumes about workplace camaraderie.


Or consider the open sharing of knowledge, like in a team meeting, when someone shares a new technology or an app that benefits your workflow. That’s pro-social. It’s about benefiting others or a group, not just yourself.


Prosocial behavior could also show up in terms of emotional support. When you’re having a tough time, and someone offers to listen or talk it out with you, that’s pro-social.


However, not everyone around us is so generous –  so noble, are they? Let’s talk about the takers for a minute. I’m going to imagine that is NOT you!

Imagine a co-worker who consistently takes the best projects for themselves, leaving the scraps for you and everyone else. Or the one who’s always first to claim credit for a team’s success but nowhere to be found when there’s blame to be shared.


And how about the infamous information hoarders? They keep valuable insights to themselves, thinking it will make them indispensable. But in reality, this just fosters distrust and it’s counterproductive.


I’ve worked with these selfish people. The takers And my clients tell me stories about these people all the time. And at ALL levels. It’s shocking!


I told you at the very beginning of this episode that I started paying attention to real examples of generosity that I came across.  Identifying people in my network as givers and takers. I have two very contrasting examples to share with you.


Recently I was coaching a talented female executive on her personal brand. We were listing her superpowers and she mentioned that she has an incredible network.  Like she knows a LOT of influential people.  Then she said “I’m tired of introducing people to others in my network, then watching them benefit.  I’m going to stop doing that. 


I was careful in my response. I did not mention my fascination with givers and takers,  Instead, I told her about the research on generosity and prosocial behavior,  I asked her whether the introductions were costing her anything?  NO. I asked her whether the other people were grateful for the valuable introductions she made. YES, she answered.  Well, there you go. You actually benefitted in some way, in terms of your social capital or your personal brand, your reputation as someone who’s connected AND generous! We talked about it for a while and decided that these introductions and connections  were a good thing to keep doing. I still think about that conversation. I hope I nudged her over from being a taker to being more of a giver.

The second example is a woman I met on LinkedIn. She’s become a client. Let’s call her Nicole. Nicole was generously liking and commenting on all my posts.  Like ALL of them.  NICE!  Thankyou! Then I was running one of my LinkedIn Lives and she messaged me: “Can I help you with anything for the LinkedIn live?  I was stumped.  And honestly a bit confused.  Like – was she looking for a job?  Then I realized – she’s just being generous. I asked her if she’s mind re-posting my invitation to the LinkedIn Live to HER network.  She did so instantly, And graciously. I can tell you what she also did.  She commented herself in my mind as a giver.  As a generous good human.  And I won’t forget it.


So, what does the research say about all this? Research – mostly in organizational behavior and psychology tell us that generosity pays off, not just in “good vibes” but in concrete outcomes.  I’ve included links in the shownotes to some of the papers that highlight these benefits. Let me summarize with four of the main benefits right ow.


Benefit number one: generosity improves team performance. When people share and help, teams achieve more. Of course they do! And imagine the impact on your corporate culture when you’re generous.  Especially if you’re a leader. You are a role model, modeling generosity and there’s a ripple effect through the organizational culture.


Benefit two: being generous makes us happier. Giving releases endorphins, creating a phenomenon known as the “helper’s high.” This has been shown in research where people are giving money. But them also other contexts, like doing favors, and so on.


Thirdly, generous people build stronger networks. This sis a HUGE one.  This is my friend executive recruiter Sharon. This is about being generous with your connections in a way that provides value for them. This is about building up goodwill with many people. 


And last but not last, the fourth benefit of being generous is that it enhances your personal brand – your reputation. 


Here’s your personal branding homework: think about your personal brand superpowers: your passions, your expertise, and your skills. These are your currencies, but currency you can share. Sharing your passions, your expertise and your skills with others is not a zero sum game.  When you share, you don’t lose. In fact, you benefit.  Right?


Now ask yourself, who would benefit from you sharing these things? Then go. 



Be generous.

Be a giver, not a taker.


You might be wondering how. I know this all sounds great, right? 

But HOW, Andrea? HOW exactly can I be generous?  I’ve got a list for you of 5 specific ways that you can be generous.


  1. First, the obvious. It’s sharing resources with others, It might be money, software, staffing capability, office space.  Things you have that others don’t have, but that would benefit them. So that the first way you can be generous. Share resources.  The second way is
  2. Providing expertise and knowledge. This is about sharing technical insight or advice. It could be one on one.  Or it could be publicly – as in sharing thought leadership.  Yes this is one I do through this podcast. One of my strategies is to generously share thought leadership about communication skills. But it doesn’t have to be at that level. This might be showing someone how to do something.  Like coaching them.  That’s the third way to be generous:
  3. Mentoring and coaching – As in supporting someone’ s personal development. This could be someone inside your organization or outside, and it could be formally or informally, it could be a one-off or ongoing.  But coaching and mentoring is a fantastic way to be generous.  It’s also a great way to reinforce your status – your brand – as a leader.
  4. The 4th way to be generous at work is introducing your colleagues to valuable connections – This is networking at it’s best. Introduce your peer to someone more senior in the organization that might help them out.  Or introduce your salesperson to a prospect – someone you know who might become a customer. Or introduce one of your connections to a hiring manager to help them get a job.  You see, the options are limitless!
  5. And the 5th and last way to be generous is Recognizing others – Praising, acknowledging and appreciating the achievements and contributions of others. Ideally publicly, like during meetings or on professional social media platforms. Also providing job references, or writing recommendations or even endorsing posts or skills on LinkedIn or other professional platforms to enhance their profile and career opportunities. There are many ways to generously recognize others.  And really – it doesn’t cost you anything to do so, does it?


Now that I’ve done the research for this episode, I’m so glad I did.  Now I’m motivated more than ever to be generous  To be a giver, not a taker.


Let me VERY briefly summarize. 5 suggestions from me for how to be generous at work.  DO you remember what they are? And then Based on the academic research, four benefits of being generous.


The 5 suggestions for how you can be generous at work include 

  1. Sharing resources with others, 
  2. Providing expertise and knowledge
  3. Mentoring and 
  4. introducing your colleagues to valuable connections 
  5.  Recognizing others – Praising, providing references, or writing recommendations you get the idea.


And the four benefits of being a generous giver:

  1. Benefit number one: generosity improves team performance. 
  2. Benefit two: being generous makes us happier. 
  3. Thirdly, generosity helps us build stronger networks. 
  4. And the fourth benefit of being generous is that it enhances your personal brand – your reputation. Don’t forget your PB homework:
  5. Think about your personal brand superpowers: your passions, your expertise, and your skills. Then ask yourself, who would benefit from you sharing these things? Then share them!


Alright that’s it. I’m going to guess that you were already a giver, not a taker. But I hope the stories and the evidence I mentioned here will make you even more conscious of the powr of generosity and your opportunity to demonstrate pro-social behavior. You can make a very positive impact.  


If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I hope you’ll GENEROUSLY share it with your friends and maybe even leave me a review on whatever podcast app you’re using. It really makes a difference and I appreciate it.


If you want to connect, I’d love to hear from you. You connect with me on LinkedIn and message me there.  You can also go to the website and send me a message there. 


Thanks again for listening.  And talk soon!