Team Dynamics: Fostering Altruism for Enhanced Collaboration

Team IIBP Business Psychology, Development Centers, Employee wellbeing, General Psychology, Issue 42, Leaderhsip Development, Mental Health, Mental Health Champions, Volume 4

Have you heard about Forelius pusillus?

Forelius pusillus is a Brazilian Ant. At dusk, these ants defend their homes by sealing off the entrances with sand and every night up to eight workers remain outside to finish the job. Left behind, they die by the next day. Behavioural ecologist Adam Tofilski of the Agricultural University of Kraków in Poland and his colleagues found that these ants were not just stragglers trapped outside. They were deliberately helping to cover the entrances. The findings of their study elucidate the evolution of altruism.

Altruism is thus defined as an act which promotes someone’s welfare even at risk or cost to us.

Though many of us believe that humans are fundamentally self-interested, scientific research suggests otherwise: Studies have found that people’s first impulse is to cooperate rather than compete.

If you assume that being an altruist (a selfless giver) in the competitive world will make you a looser, you are dead wrong according to Adam Grant.

Grant, is a hyper-successful in the world of organizational psychology. He is Wharton’s professor and has been a consultant for clients that include Google, the NFL, Goldman Sachs, and the United Nations.

In his first book, Give and Take, he put forth his scores of studies and personal histories that shows that altruist (a selfless giver) are the most successful people at work.

Grant divides the typical workplace into three types of people: Takers, Matchers, and Givers. Takers are those selfish folks who always put their personal interests ahead of everybody else’s. Matchers (the bulk of us) are fair and balanced, and believe in an even exchange. They believe success hinges on reciprocity and aim to give and receive in equal measure. Givers help out whenever they can, and they give without thinking about what they will get in return.

Are you now wondering how Givers are successful?

Grant’s one of the study on three types of people, looked at salespeople in North Carolina, and found that the least productive salespeople were givers, but so were the top performers. Givers at the top averaged 50% more annual revenue than the takers and matchers.

The research findings proved again and again that the worst performers and the best performers are givers. Takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle. Takers quickly develop a reputation for putting others last. Matchers leave a transactional impression. But givers succeed because they form strong, trusting relationships that benefit in the long run.

What distinguishes givers who experience success from those who barely get out of the starting blocks?

Grant says the winners learn how to give without letting themselves become doormats. Winners do favors with no strings attached, but they don’t overextend themselves to the point that they fail to achieve their own goals.

To give and still get ahead, we need to be more intentional about how, when, and who we help.


–> Grant, A. (2013). Give and take: A revolutionary approach to success. Penguin.

–> Rand, D. G., Greene, J. D., & Nowak, M. A. (2012). Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature, 489(7416), 427-430.

About the Author