Personal Development

Giving More Than You’re Getting?

Ask most employees if they’re giving more to their organizations than they are getting in givingreturn, and they’ll proudly say, “Of course. I’m working 80 hour weeks and responsible for adding millions of dollars of extra top-line revenue to my firm.” They hear the question in terms of justifying the company’s investment in them and then unabashedly, if not defensively, touting their worth. There’s another way to think about how to answer this question.

Pepperdine University professor Vance Caesar once told a story of when he was once asked the same question earlier in his career and how he provided an answer similar to what I described above. Instead of Vance’s supervisor beaming with appreciation, he was furious at his response. Vance was at a loss, wondering what he said that was so wrong. Just before the weekend, his supervisor posed the question again. Vance offered the same reply and received an even more enraged reaction. The supervisor told Vance if he didn’t have a better answer by Monday morning, then he should be prepared to clean out his desk.

Totally perplexed, and extremely worried about Monday’s meeting, he called one of his mentors and asked why his answer was so wrong. His mentor replied, that it was highly unlikely that Vance was giving more than he was getting. As Vance began to defend his position, the mentor stopped him and asked, ” Are you developing professionally? Are you building relationships that can help you grow? etc, etc… He continued to ask questions that defined all the currencies besides salary and bonus that Vance was receiving because of his work at the firm. Vance quickly realized he was getting much more than he was giving.

On Monday morning, Vance met with his supervisor who was waiting, with Vance’s resignation letter in hand. When he asked the question for a third time, Vance answered, “No, I’m getting more than I’m giving.” “Why?,” replied the supervisor. Vance then explained all of the ways he benefits from being an employee. Pleased with Vance’s answer, the supervisor explained that Vance was being groomed for a leadership position in the company and that when employees believe they are giving more than they are getting, the seeds of resentment are planted and begin to grow. He said he would keep the resignation letter in his desk drawer, and that if he believed Vance ever felt he was giving more than he was getting, he would ask Vance to sign the letter and leave the company.

When you put this in the context of peer groups, the math is easy. One leader contributes and then receives a 15-16 fold ROI from his/her colleagues. Who wouldn’t take that all day long? So as we enter the holiday season, with all this talk about it being “better to give than to receive,” you should know that by investing in the right relationships (giving more), it means you will receive much more.

Category: Personal Development

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Avatar About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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  1. Jeannette Hobson

    November 29, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Reminds me of Simon Sinek’s: Start with WHY. When we have a clear purpose around what we do and why we do it, far beyond any reward bestowed by others (money, promotions, medals, etc.) then it is easy to understand who is getting more from an experience or activity. In CEO Peer Groups, when one person gets new insights, so do all the others in the conversation.

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