This post is not one in which I (attempt) to impart the limited wisdom I have gained from my life. Instead, it’s a post in which I ask for wisdom from you wise ones.
My friend Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at Wharton. This means he knows business. (He knows about other things, like magic and diving, but for the purposes of this article let’s focus on the business.) Thus, when he wrote Give and Take, a business book about why we’ve got to give more if we want professional success, folks took notice. The world loves it as much as I do, and ever since I read it I’ve been thinking a lot about what real giving means in business.
But I don’t yet have it figured out. Not by a million years. And I’ve got one burning recent example that I can’t shake.
I (maybe kinda sorta) have a person in my business life who (I think) is taking too much.
This friend appears every few months with an ask for a favor. And that’s fine. We all ask friends for favors on stuff they might be able to help us with. And I do them. And I do them quickly (they are usually time sensitive.) This is not unusual — many of us like being helpful to friends.
But here’s the thing: the last few times I’ve asked for something, this person has gone magically silent. Nowhere to be found. I’ll send my email ask or leave a voice mail, hear nothing, and then resend. Radio silence. And, since we’re friends, I back off. The last thing I want is to be pushy when I’m asking for a favor.
But then, a month later, I’ll get another ask for a favor that he needs.
Now, I’ve though a lot about what could be going on here, and I seem to see a two main options.
- The person does a poor job of managing communication and genuinely doesn’t see my asks, even when I resend them. (Read: the person is flaky).
- The person unfortunately is more of a taker than a giver. (Read: the person is a taker).
Either option is not great. (Even #1 isn’t fantastic, because surely if the person cared as much as I do about the relationship, he would somehow more easily see my name in his inbox.)
Now, if you want to be a giver in business, you are NOT supposed to take count. This isn’t a game of tit-for-tat. I don’t want to hold out on helping him when I can just because I know the gravy train won’t ever come back to me. (I am not certain that expression works here, so just pretend you didn’t read that if it makes no sense.) Finally, I worry that any conversation about this whole situation would be far too tit-for-tat-ish to be worth anything.
So then what do I do? My M.O. up until this point is to do nothing. And yet it irks me. It does. Oh it does.
What would you do in this situation? Would you hold off on doing the next favor? Would you bring it up? Would you do nothing?