Leaderonomics: Do you have a feast or famine mindset at work? - Michelle Gibbings

In a highly competitive work environment, people often act as though there aren’t enough resources, rewards or recognition to go around. But collaborating and sharing will get you far.

Read my article about feast or famine mindsets in Leaderonomics.

Collaborating and sharing resources, rewards and recognition will get you far

In a highly competitive work environment, people often act as though there aren’t enough resources, rewards or recognition to go around.


Operating with a famine mindset, people jealously guard their access to the three Rs because they see them as crucial drivers for career success.

The more resources you have the easier it is to get things done. The more rewards you have the greater the return on investment for your work. The more recognition you have the easier it is to rise through the ranks.

People with this mindset worry that if someone else gets the same amount or more than them, it will diminish them in some way.

This has huge implications on how they work, as they approach conversations and negotiations with the intent of getting as much as they can. They are also less willing to collaborate and think about other people’s needs, as the focus is “all about me”.

As the American novelist and poet Wendell Berry said: If you start a conversation with the assumption that you are right or that you must win, obviously, it is difficult to talk.


In contrast, a person with a feast mindset sees a work environment that is filled with plenty of opportunity and enough to go around.

They look to expand relationships and to collaborate with the intent of securing joint outcomes.

Consequently, they aren’t just looking for what they want. They consider what other people need when they enter conversations and negotiations.

In doing this, they reframe the discussion from “I must win at all costs”, to “How do we both walk away feeling satisfied”.

By doing this they take the long-term view of relationships, and recognise that different people have different needs. They also accept that someone else getting what they need doesn’t mean they need to get less or to lose out.

They adopt a different view of what a successful outcome looks like.


Next time you are about to enter a difficult discussion or negotiation, ask yourself:

  • What are the other person’s needs?
  • What are my needs?
  • How do we best balance and accommodate both needs?
  • What does a fair outcome look like?
  • What would I want if I was in the other person’s place?

Answering these questions will give you a good starting point for a conversation that seeks a collaborative and jointly successful outcome.


When you have a feast mindset you also think about how you can best collaborate with those around you and seek to provide value in every interaction you have.

And by value, I mean that the person walks away from their interaction with you in a better place than they were before the interaction.

This may be because of the tone of the conversation, your interest in their needs, the information you shared or your willingness to help them. So why would you want to do this?

There’s a number of reasons. It builds your leadership brand. You’ll be known as someone who is collaborative and able to work with others to get things done.

Also, being genuinely interested in the needs of your colleagues builds deep and lasting relationships. Most importantly, if you can help someone achieve a core goal that they couldn’t achieve without you, your support won’t be forgotten.


The reason for this is the law of reciprocity. Research shows we are hard wired to help people who help us. Robert Cialdini in his seminal book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion explains how this works.

From his years of research in the field, he finds that when we are helped by someone, or given value in some way, we feel obligated to return the favour. This obligation or feeling not only inspires us to give back in equal measure, but it may result in us giving back more than we received.

Cialdini recounts the story of an experiment performed by Professor Regan of Cornell University. In the experiment, there were two different conditions. Participants who were offered a drink of Coke and those who weren’t.

The participants thought they were there to rate some art work, but in fact the test was looking at whether the offer of the free Coke would increase their chance of doing something in return for the person who offered them the Coke.

In this scenario, it was buying some raffle tickets. The experiment found that those who were offered Coke bought twice as many raffle tickets as those who weren’t. It’s important to use this knowledge wisely and with a long-term focus. It’s about securing goals that have sustainable outcomes that are good for all. Not just good for you.