The Way We Work

By Holly Regan, Managing Editor at Software Advice

A highly functioning workplace team is made up of many different, yet complementary, personality types. At Software Advice, we decided to find out what makes some of our workplace’s top performers tick—so we enlisted a workforce psychologist to help us understand what makes them great, what they struggle with and how they perform in certain roles.

By better understanding your current and future team members, you too can assemble a “Dream Team” of top performers, placed in the roles they perform best. In our previous post, we described the Savant; here, we’ll discuss another important member of your lineup: the Giver.

Givers: Who are they?

As you probably guessed, Givers are gratified by giving to other people. Whether it’s their family or their co-workers, Givers always put others first. They are hard workers who go above and beyond for the company and its management, no matter what position they’re in.

Melinda Gates speaking at the London Summit on Family Planning

London, 11th July 2012. Melinda Gates, speaking at the London Summit on Family Planning.
Picture: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

However, this doesn’t mean that Givers are capable of being successful in every workplace role. Givers do best when their duties are prescribed for them by someone else: they often have good leadership skills, but a Giver makes a better right-hand man than a boss—and tends to prefer things that way.

A Giver’s desire to please, while generally a positive quality, may also result in an aversion to confrontation, meaning potential problems or conflicts with other team members may go unaddressed. They may also become passive-aggressive when such unresolved tensions are left to simmer. However, as Givers mature, they can learn to overcome these innate challenges and can be your most dedicated and longest-tenured team members.

Famous Givers: Mother Teresa, Melinda Gates, Nelson Mandela and Joan of Arc.

What are their strengths?

Key strengths of the Giver include:                         

  • Loyalty. Givers get personally invested in the company they work for, meaning their turnover rates tend to be low. Common goals come first: they seek to advance the team as a whole, not their personal career.
  • Hard work. Givers are usually the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. They are motivated by helping the organization succeed, and always do their best—no matter how much effort it takes.
  • Doing the right thing. Givers always want to do what’s right for the company and are strict followers of the rules. They believe in the importance of regulations and are very disappointed in themselves and others when they fail to abide. It’s especially important to ensure the rules are fair when Givers are on your staff.

What are their weaknesses?

Among the challenges Givers face are:

  • Giving too much. The strict work ethic and selfless nature that are characteristic of Givers can result in them giving so much that they burn out. They not only tend to take on extra work, they also tend to keep quiet when they’re overwhelmed.
  • Handling confrontation. As mentioned, Givers tend to be confrontation-averse: conflict with teammates or managers is very discouraging to them. If left unchecked, this tendency can manifest itself in passive-aggression, other employees getting away with bad behavior, or the needs and concerns of the Giver going unheard.
  • Overly great expectations. Givers tend to lead by example, which can make them great managers—but can also result in the mistaken assumption that what motivates them also motivates others. Expecting the same dedication they give to the company from their teammates may result in frustrated or overworked team members quitting.

Which roles should you hire them for?

Here’s a glance at which roles Givers perform well in, and which they should avoid:

What They’re Good At   What They’re Not So Good At
Marketing Strategy Sales
Software Development CEO
Administrative COO
Executive Support Creative
Customer Service Engineering


How should you manage them?

There are certain things managers should keep in mind when they have Givers on their team, such as:

  • Look out for their interests. Again, Givers tend to keep quiet when they’re dissatisfied or overly burdened, so try to keep an eye out for their interests. Make sure they’re not taking on more than they can handle and verify that their career progression, salary and benefits are adequate and fair. And remember, looking out for your Givers is a worthwhile endeavor: they’re extremely grateful when they know you have their best interests in mind.
  • Keep the conversation open. It’s up to you to get your Givers talking. If you’re not sure whether they’re happy in their current position, or if you want to hear any suggestions they might have for improvements in the workplace, just ask. Givers will be more inclined to speak up if they can paint their frustrations in a more positive light; the more you encourage open dialogue, the easier it’ll come to them.
  • Make criticism constructive. Givers have such a personal investment in their job that they can become easily upset by criticism. Make sure that any critical feedback you give them is constructive and tempered by positive assessments. Give them suggestions for how they can improve without hurting their feelings, and know that the more mature they are, the better they’ll be able to weather this type of conversation.

If you look out for your Givers, they’ll be some of the most dedicated members of your workplace “dream team.” And of course, make sure you hire a well-rounded mix of personality types, including Savants, Champs and Matrix Thinkers. To read the full profile of the Giver, including ways to spot them in an interview, click here.

Are you a Giver? If so, we’d love to hear what you look for in a work environment. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Holly Regan, Software AdviceHolly Regan is a Managing Editor at Software Advice, where she blogs on a variety of topics related to small business and software products. Born and raised in Seattle, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Washington. She moved to Austin, Texas in 2009, and is here to stay. When she isn’t churning out content for Software Advice, she can be found cycling, cooking, putzing around town with her boyfriend Marc or relaxing poolside with a book. Her writing has appeared online in The New York Times and The Huffington Post.