Cutting Takers Hurts


Loneliness is a main hardship in any entrepreneurship and leadership journey. Our friends, colleagues and network are key in order to face it. But we should be careful who we allow ourselves to be dependent on. Sometimes, we realize some people are better to cut off from our circles. And when we do it, it hurts. Here’s part II of a story I shared a year ago.

The amazing Adam Grant teaches us that in every workplace, there are three basic kinds of people: Givers, Takers and Matchers. Adam teaches us that in order to promote a culture of generosity and keep self-serving employees from taking more than their share, we must focus on one thing. And it’s not empowering the givers. It’s eliminating the takers.

Why? Because according to Adam, simply put: 1. Takers kill givers. 2. Matchers kill takers. 3. Givers can turn matchers into givers overtime.

Therefore, on the personal level, being a giver can only work if we eliminate takers from our circles of trust as we expose them along the way. This is something that is being talked about by other thought leaders as well, such as Gary Vaynerchuk and more.

One year ago, I shared how I view leadership as being a giver beyond our “charge.” That is to say, trying to be a giver with people we are not in charge of by definition. Not just be a giver with our teammates or employees, but beyond that – with the ones who belong in our core community. And especially, as the Rambam puts it, with our friends of virtue.

Here’s the TL;DR version: A year ago, I had a great business opportunity which was irrelevant for me at first, but was very relevant to a person which I considered a friend of virtue. After sharing the opportunity with that person, my circumstances changed and it became very relevant for me as well. That friend asked me: “Assaf, should I drop the opportunity?” I replied “No“, and added that if it was me who was to take the opportunity, I would definitely want someone like my friend right beside me. And, if it would be the other way around, I would of course love to help in any way I can. That person eventually seized the opportunity, and I of course asked for nothing in return up front. I then posted the story and shared the great Rambam analysis of three kinds of friends, and how to me this is a desired form of leadership.

Well, here are the news: That person never thanked me properly, never helped back, and pretty much disappeared right away. Meaning, after taking a leap of faith with someone I saw as part of my own core community, I came to learn that the person I thought was my friend of virtue was exposed to be nothing more than a taker.

That hurt!

I thought to myself: Should I tell that person that I am disappointed? Should I manipulate the other side to feel a sense of debt and guilt, and ask for help based on it? Or, should I lower my expectations and move on? Maybe better to find out this way, rather than in a future state of potential dependency? In the end, I decided to drop it, adjust my expectations, and move on. Our connection has ended and that person disappeared… At least, until that person will need me next time (well, takers are takers).

When you give with expectation in return, you lose.

– Gary Vaynerchuk

What’s the lesson? Should we not expect anything from no one, not even from who we consider as friends of virtue? Should we cut them off, if and when they are exposed as takers?  and embrace the loneliness of the journey? From my experience, the answer to both these questions might be “yes.” But it does not come without hurt. Perhaps, maybe better to have less friends, than the wrong friends?

What do you think?

About the Author
Assaf is passionate about promoting business in and with Israel, helping and mentoring entrepreneurs, advising young professionals with career planning and self-fulfillment, and more. Assaf acts as a brand ambassador of Israel as 'Start-Up Nation', speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. Assaf also works as a business development and marketing consultant to Israeli start-ups and others.
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