Sunday, December 6, 2009

Giving More Than You're Getting?

Ask most employees if they're giving more to their organizations than they are getting in return, 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. But as I learned recently, there's another way to look at this question.

Pepperdine University
professor Vance Caesar told us the 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 Vance ever felt he was giving more than he was getting, he would ask Vance to sign the letter and leave the company.

Whether it's an employee relationship or a client relationship, both sides should be getting more than they are giving. The key is making sure everyone is aware of all the currencies being exchanged. Imagine if your client understood that (s)he was getting more than giving, and that you were realizing that dynamic as well. Why would such an agency/client relationship ever end?

So during this holiday season, with all this talk about it being "better to give than to receive," you should know that investing in the right relationships (giving more), means that everyone receives MUCH more.

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