Being a manager or supervisor is not an easy job. Apart from making sure that work is getting done and that deadlines are being met, you also have to invest time and resources in building team spirit and fostering a healthy working atmosphere.
And establishing rapport with your employees is an important part of that.
You might be wondering why you should bother. After all, shouldn't relationships in the workplace be professional? The answer is: yes and no.
It's true that professional relationships should be upheld, but a good working relationship with your team also has its advantages. Employees who feel connected to their managers are more likely to be engaged, trust their leaders, and be motivated to perform better.
And there's no better way to build strong relationships with your employees than by developing a good rapport.
In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of building rapport with employees and show you how to do it in a way that is both professional and enjoyable.
What is rapport?
The easiest way to describe rapport is as the type of connection or relationship we feel with people that we "click" with.
You know the charismatic people you meet sometimes, with whom you feel a connection even before you've had time to really get to know them? That's rapport.
It's a sense of trust and understanding you get with people you feel comfortable around - A harmonious energy if you will, that helps people understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate more effectively.
Building rapport is the process of establishing that connection. And yes, it's something that can be learned.
Why should you build rapport with employees?
As mentioned before, having strong relationships with your employees has its advantages. Here are some of the most important benefits of building rapport in the workplace:
Improved communication: Improving communication in the workplace is essential, and rapport can help foster an open environment in which everyone feels comfortable discussing important topics.
Increased trust: When your team trusts you, they are more likely to take risks, innovate and offer creative solutions – all of which can help move the company forward. And in order to make them trust you, you need to establish a strong rapport with them.
Increased motivation and cooperation: When employees feel like they are being heard, and their opinions and ideas are valued, they will be more likely to put in extra effort and cooperate with their colleagues towards achieving the same goal.
Enhanced loyalty and retention rates: There are numerous reasons why employees quit, but one reason that has held steady for years is people not liking their boss, so building rapport can help keep employees happy and loyal.
Increased job satisfaction: Job dissatisfaction can also have a lot of different reasons, but more often than not, it's related to issues with management. Building rapport can not only help employees feel valued and appreciated, which can lead to increased job satisfaction, but also make it more likely for them to speak up when they're having an issue, so you can address the problem quickly and effectively.
In short: good rapport is good for business. Not only does it help with employee productivity, but it will also lead to higher team morale, engagement, and job satisfaction.
So, how do you build rapport with employees? There are quite a few ways, but let's first go over the basics.
What are the three key elements of rapport?
Rapport is quite a big deal in business and has therefore been researched for decades. The Nature of Rapport and Its Nonverbal Correlates is one of the most cited papers on the topic and in it, the authors outline three key elements of rapport:
Mutual Attentiveness: Mutual attentiveness refers to the amount of time two people spend paying attention to each other. This can be through eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and even how long they linger after a conversation has ended.
Positivity: Just like it sounds, positivity means looking for opportunities in conversations to make things better rather than worse. This could be through using positive language, trying to find solutions to problems, or focusing on what makes people feel good rather than bad.
Coordination: Coordination is the ability to adjust your behavior in response to another person's behavior. For example, if someone is speaking more slowly than you are used to, you can adjust your speaking speed to match them.
Interestingly, the importance of different aspects of rapport changes as a relationship between people develops.
In early interactions, it is more important to be positive and attentive. As the relationship develops, however, it becomes more important to be attentive and coordinated.
Although this is a great place to start, the importance of rapport in the workplace extends far beyond these three elements.
8 Ways to Genuinely Build Rapport With Your Employees
Most of the time rapport happens spontaneously and naturally when we meet people that share the same interests, sense of humor, or other qualities.
But it can also be cultivated with effort and strategy. Here are some tips to build rapport with your employees:
1. Get To Know Your Employees
The first and most important step in building rapport is finding a way to connect with your employees and in order to do that you need to get to know them as people and not just as workers.
This means learning about their ambitions, hobbies, families, and any other topics that they show genuine interest in. This will help you find a common ground and foster conversations that build trust.
The simplest and also most effective way to do that is to create an informal environment where conversations are encouraged.
This could be anything from team-building events, meetings over lunch or coffee, or even a designated platform where employees can get to know one another in a casual, stress-free atmosphere.
2. Reveal Your Human Side
Often times leadership can seem cold and unapproachable, simply because they are trying to uphold authority and respect.
But it's important to remember that your employees are not just workers. They're people, and they will be more likely to trust and respect you if they can see that you are human too.
Share stories about your personal life, talk openly about mistakes you have made in the past, and show vulnerability when appropriate. This way your employees will feel comfortable coming to you with their own concerns, opinions, and ideas.
And if that seems too intimidating, remember that you don’t have to divulge too much. Even something as simple as talking about your favorite sports team or cracking a joke can help break the ice and create a more comfortable atmosphere for conversation.
3. Be Authentic
Authenticity is key when it comes to building rapport with anyone, so be genuine and sincere in your conversations and actions.
Trying to hide behind a false persona, for the sake of seeming more professional or intimidating, will only create distance. So be open to criticism and able to admit mistakes, but also be honest about your own strengths and abilities.
Stand by your decisions, but also be willing to listen and consider different perspectives. And most importantly, uphold the values you believe in and be consistent in your behavior.
4. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Empathy is the single most important factor in building meaningful relationships.
You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your employees and understand their perspectives. This means being patient and attentive when they’re talking, trying to relate to their struggles, and being understanding if they make a mistake.
It essentially comes down to treating each of your employees as an individual and not just another worker on the payroll. Understanding why they do the things they do and approaching them in a way that makes them feel respected and valued will go a long way in creating a positive rapport.
5. The Power of Nonverbal Communication
Remember the three key elements of the building report we mentioned earlier? Here's where they come into play.
Attentiveness, positivity, and coordination are all essential elements of creating a strong bond with someone. And these things don't come through words alone, but also through body language.
Especially when meeting new people, most of our communication is done through body language. A simple smile, eye contact, and even a light touch on the shoulder can make a huge difference in how someone perceives you.
So try and remember to stay conscious of how you come across to your employees. Even if it feels a little awkward or uncomfortable, these small gestures can be the difference between feeling respected and being taken seriously or not.
6. Show Appreciation for Contributions
If there is a surefire way to make someone feel comfortable in your presence, it's appreciation.
Whether it’s praising a job well done, thanking someone for their insights, or simply recognizing the time and effort they put into something, small acts of appreciation can go a long way in building rapport.
So try and find creative ways of expressing gratitude for each contribution made by your team, whether it be through words of affirmation, rewards or simply showing interest in their ideas.
Encouraging them to share success and celebrate wins, including their own, will create a stronger sense of togetherness and connection, while also helping to foster a positive work environment.
7. Respect their Skills, Time & Boundaries
Showing respect is another major component of creating a good working relationship and building rapport with your team.
Respect their skills and expertise; trust in their judgment and don't micromanage them. Respect their time by avoiding unnecessary meetings or delays in communication. And respect their boundaries by being mindful of personal space, language and topics discussed.
By showing respect, you will also be demonstrating your trust in them and by doing so, you will be creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation.
8. Establish Trust with Transparency and Honesty
Creating a healthy transparent workplace is the key to success in any team environment; and this is especially true when it comes to building rapport.
This means being upfront about expectations, not withholding important information or details, and being transparent about decisions and the reasoning behind them.
This also means being honest and open about what’s happening in the company—from successes to failures, changes in plans and strategies, or any issues that arise. This will help your employees feel included and valued as well as establish a sense of trust between you and them.
Additionally, allowing your employees to be honest with you (without fear of repercussions) will also help build rapport. Letting them share their opinions and ideas openly, regardless of how well-received they are, creates an environment where trust can thrive.
Your job as a manager, team leader, or even CEO isn’t just to steer projects to a successful end while staying within budgets and timelines. It’s also to build and maintain positive relationships with the members of your team.
Your employees are not machines. They are your colleagues and partners in achieving the mission of your company.
That's why it’s important to build rapport with them. Doing so will not only lead to better results in your projects but also help create an enjoyable and productive working environment, resulting in a well-coordinated team that is able to reach its goals together.