The GIVE Model

Building a Positive Personal Identity

The GIVE Model - Building a Positive Personal Identity

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Nurture your reputation, build better relationships, and learn to GIVE a little more at work.

Chris has a poor self image, and, when he looks in the mirror, he sees a disengaged, dissatisfied underachiever, whose career has stalled.

When others look at him, they see someone who seems to have little interest in his job and who saps the energy from his team. Their reactions reinforce his own negative feelings, and this creates a vicious circle.

However, Chris senses that things could be very different. Like most of us, he wants to feel good about himself, and enjoys the rare occasions when he's seen in a positive light. He knows that if he could just improve his self esteem and reputation, his performance would also improve.

By using the GIVE model, Chris could build a new, positive identity for himself, and transform the way that he works and how he's seen by others. This article explains the model, and how to use it.

The GIVE Model and How to Apply It

The GIVE (Growing, Integrated, Virtuous, Esteemed) model of building a positive identity was developed by organizational psychologists Jane Dutton, Laura Morgan Roberts, and Jeff Bednar, and published in the 2014 book, "How to Be a Positive Leader."

It outlines the following four components of a positive workplace identity:

1. Growing

Your identity becomes more positive when you adapt, develop and grow over time, getting closer to becoming the individual that you aspire to be. To cultivate a growing identity, you need to work to become the best possible version of yourself that you can be. This involves mastering the skills that you need to do a great job, and then demonstrating these skills regularly.

Finding an "ideal" role model can be very helpful here. For example, when you see the characteristics that you aspire to have within a colleague, you can use a Personal Development Plan ($) to help you to develop them yourself.

2. Integrated

Your identity becomes more positive when you successfully balance and integrate your various identities – the roles, characteristics, interests, and areas of expertise of your personal and professional lives.

This element is all about seizing opportunities to incorporate various identities into your work – using your everyday experiences (as a working mom, perhaps, or a part-time sports coach) when writing a blog about work-life balance, for example.

Joining a group of people who share your characteristics can also show you how to bring your different identities into the workplace. Networks for women, people of color, LGBT people, veterans, and so on can provide crucial support for their members to be themselves at work.

And at home, attending a weekly book club could help you to appraise marketing reports or promotional material more analytically, for example, and to pick out their flaws more easily.


Being authentically yourself at work enables you to interact with people in a genuine, connected, and emotionally intelligent way. If your working environment doesn't allow you to do this, you should carefully consider whether you're working in the right place for you.

3. Virtuous

Your identity becomes positive when you display helpful qualities and virtuous traits. For example, an "old hand" may go out of her way to help a struggling intern to grasp a complex procedure, and will feel better about herself as a result. This kind of behavior is an essential part of developing a positive identity.

Universal virtues – such as integrity, honesty, generosity and humanity – are central to a positive identity. So, if you don't already do so, aim to model them in your everyday behavior. Practicing servant leadership, for example, is one way to show regard for the people in your team and to demonstrate humility.


People often say that they "don't like to be labelled," and stereotypes can certainly be dangerous and restrictive. When you apply labels to yourself, they can become powerfully self-fulfilling, for good or for ill. But research has shown that identifying with a positive label makes you more likely to behave in a positive way.

To work out what positive labels would best describe you, spend some time reflecting upon your strengths and virtues, and ask for feedback from others. Our Bite-Sized Training™ session on Finding Your Unique Strengths can help you to assess yourself and to identify your "unique selling point."

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4. Esteemed

Your identity becomes more positive when you and your colleagues hold you in favorable or high regard. For example, the salesman who regularly exceeds his targets will be held in high esteem by his colleagues, who note his professionalism, skill and empathy with customers as positive examples to follow.

A positive self-view is the foundation of a positive identity. A poor one creates a negative cycle in which your body language, behavior and others' comments constantly reinforce your worst thoughts. Negativity often exerts a stronger grip on our minds than positivity, so you may need to affirm your self-worth by working to raise your confidence and self-esteem.

This can be a long-term job. However, switching your focus from your personal shortcomings to your positive qualities and achievements will be worth the effort. Cognitive restructuring is a useful tool for this process. Discussing what you've achieved with people – and providing the appropriate evidence for those achievements – will ensure that they see what you're good at, and encourage them to hold you in higher esteem.

Adapted from "How to Be a Positive Leader," edited by Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer. Published by Berrett-Koehler, 2014. Permission pending.


Celebrating your successes will likely help you to build your reputation among your colleagues, as they take note of your achievements. However, take care not to boast. Talking about your achievements in the wrong way certainly won't increase the esteem in which you're held!


Taking on a mentor can help you to achieve your goals, and to understand how others view you. A mentor can help you to recognize areas of your life or character that you don't see as strengths, and develop plans to work on them.

Finding a mentor isn't always easy, but our article on the subject provides some tips for connecting with someone who can make a big difference to you. Alternatively, taking on a life coach, or coaching yourself, may also be an option.

Reaping the Rewards

Dutton, Roberts and Bednar have shown that cultivating a positive identity using the GIVE model can help you to deal with stress and adversity more effectively. You'll be happier, more mentally robust, and better able to develop supportive, high-quality relationship networks.

You'll also likely be more open to opportunity – such as exploring new knowledge areas and becoming more creative – and to receiving feedback.

When you go into work feeling positive, possibilities and opportunities seem to be everywhere! See our article on the Broaden and Build Theory for more detailed information on this.

Having a positive identity, therefore, can help you to be your best possible self, and to make decisions and take actions that bring positive results.

Key Points

GIVE is a model for fostering a positive identity, and it was developed by organizational psychologists Jane Dutton, Laura Morgan Roberts, and Jeff Bednar. It identifies four essential elements that define a positive workplace identity:

  1. Growing: adapting and developing a positive personal identity, and moving toward becoming the individual you aspire to be.
  2. Integrated: balancing and integrating your various identities, roles, interests, and areas of expertise from both your personal and professional lives.
  3. Virtuous: embodying universal virtuous traits, such as integrity, courage, honesty, wisdom, and humanity.
  4. Esteemed: working to ensure that you and your colleagues hold you in high regard.