I once overheard a group of veterinary students discussing how their class was very competitive and that they didn’t really share materials with each other.
This discussion made me wonder about their reciprocity style and their potential for success in our field. Would they work well with others in clinics? What about in their first job or internship or residency?
How would this mindset affect their careers long term?
Organizational behavior, styles of social interaction in the workplace and how people function in groups and teams are some of the topics I enjoyed learning about the most in business school yet we never really covered them in veterinary school.
Yet veterinary medicine, like any other service-based industry, is so highly dependent on functional, cooperative and productive interdependent teams that I really think it is worth discussing reciprocity styles (even if it’s just in a few short paragraphs).
One of them most influential books I read in my business school career is called Give and Take by Adam Grant. Give and Take makes it easy to understand how reciprocity styles affect organizations and how they correlate with measures of success.
As the title suggests, organizations are made up of people who are either givers (who give more than they get), takers (who like to get more than they give) and matchers (who believe in fairness and maintaining the status quo). While I recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about business, psychology or just other humans in general, I highly recommend it to veterinary students since our career relies heavily on working together.
Although there are many very important take-away points in this book, I think the most important is this: contrary to what we may believe at first, takers are not at the top of most success ladders. Though they do rise quickly in their careers, they tend to fall quickly too. In fact, givers are more often at the top of success ladders than takers.
Givers make organizations better because the positive effects of their reciprocity style tends to spread to others. But givers are also at the bottom of success ladders too.
If givers give too much and help too often- they can often fall behind in their own work, become doormats or burn out. My best advice to vet students is: be a giver but avoid being a doormat! (This advice comes second only to my other important piece of advice regarding learning styles in vet school: Drop the highlighters- they will NOT help you remember everything you need to know long term!)
This career is difficult enough as it is without other people walking all over you. So be a giver- always be helpful, collaborative and cooperative but do so wisely to avoid getting burned out. Organizations will need you long term so make sure to give more than you receive but do so selectively and intentionally.
The reality is: all vet students are chasing the same dream. We all want to be successful in our careers long term. Let teamwork make your dream work!