Adam Grant divides workers into givers, takers and matchers - and his research suggests that givers are in some cases the most effective workers and in other cases the least effective.
The book is full of stories of successful givers and tips on how to become a successful giver: look to sort out other people's problems and it will pay off (sometimes serendipitously), you will be better at HR decisions (you're not so determined to be right; you want what's best for other people and the organisation), you can be good at influencing (don't do this through a power play but through modesty - stammering can be helpful), and you can keep from burn-out through making sure you see the direct results of your giving and through 'chunking' it so it happens in big bursts and not through a drip feed of good actions. As to why some givers end up at the bottom of the heap, that's because they are 'selfless' rather than 'otherish' givers - that's to say, they don't set any boundaries and aren't good at asking for help for themselves. It's amazing just what people will do to help you - or others - if you ask them. And they'll be likely to go on helping once they start...
So far so good - and I certainly enjoyed reading this - it's persuasive and surprising.
If I felt less than 100% convinced, though, that's partly because Grant has so little to say about 'takers' (and yet he acknowledges they sometimes make the world go round - Michael Jordan is one example he quotes) - and on this, there are other books (Maccoby's book on narcissistic leaders, which points to the highs and lows of the taker in working life). It's also because he doesn't really go into what makes people 'takers' or 'givers' in the first place - is it a given or does it depend on what you learn in your family as you grow up about 'how we behave round here and what gets us what we want in this environment'?...Perhaps there will be a sequel..