How to Build Rapport With Your Co-workers
Rapport can seem like a strange term to use when talking about the workplace, and it can be difficult to understand exactly what someone means when they talk about the importance of establishing rapport.
If you look up the word ‘rapport’ in the dictionary, you would find that it means 'a good understanding and ability to communicate with someone'.
So, put simply, rapport is about building relationships with those around you.
People build rapport with others every day, often without realising it.
The person you chat to at the supermarket tills, the other parents in the school playground or the receptionist you smile at in the doctor's surgery. These are all examples of situations where it is possible to build rapport.
In a work environment, the concept of improving rapport specifically means building relationships with your co-workers, clients and managers.
This could look like employees who are also friends outside of the work environment, a harmonious working atmosphere or good communication between departments that work together.
Making an effort to build good rapport with your co-workers is particularly useful when it comes to situations that require teamwork.
If you have a positive relationship with those you work with, then working as part of a team to achieve a shared goal is much more easily navigated.
The need for good rapport is universal. Humans are naturally sociable creatures; plus, all jobs require teamwork at some point.
No matter what your job involves, even if you generally work alone, there will be people that you need to engage with on a regular basis.
This can be a challenge if there are hostile relationships between co-workers.
If people are happy in their workplace, then it naturally becomes an environment where people choose to spend their time and energy.
This, in turn, helps to build a sense of belonging and will encourage employee loyalty.
Businesses which have a strong rapport within the workers will often see a much lower turnover of staff. If the staff are happy then they are much less likely to want to move on.
On a personal level, good rapport can be very beneficial for you as an individual.
Some examples are listed below:
If you are in a position of authority at work (for example, a manager or supervisor) then having a good rapport with your co-workers will help when it comes to offering advice or giving necessary criticism. If you have a good relationship with your team then they will be more receptive to suggested improvements and changes.
If moving on, people will be more willing to give good references if they have had a positive experience of working with you.
Customer-facing jobs benefit from good rapport because the customers will receive a better experience as they will tune in to the positive energy of the workplace. If they are in an environment where the workers all get along, then they are more likely to leave good feedback and return.
When you have good rapport with your co-workers, you can more easily ask for help when you are struggling. Positive relations mean that your co-workers will seem more easily approachable, and vice versa.
Those in sales positions will find building rapport with their customers very useful. Customers who feel listened to and receive a warm welcome are more likely to be receptive to buying products or services.
From a social perspective, good rapport can lead to long-lasting friendships outside the workplace. Some relationships made through building rapport will last long after you have moved on to other positions.
If you are not a naturally sociable person, then the idea of building good rapport with your co-workers may seem a little daunting.
The good news is that you need not be anything other than yourself.
While extroverts may naturally find it a little easier to speak to people they do not know very well, there are some key skills which introverts can use too.
When someone new starts, it will be daunting for them. They will be coming into a new environment with already established relationships, and be unsure of how things work.
Making a concerted effort to be friendly will instantly help to build rapport with the new employee and put them at ease.
Think about how you wish you would be welcomed in a new role.
Ensuring that new employees are quickly made to feel welcome benefits everybody, as it will help to make sure that they settle into their new role quickly with less anxiety.
This may seem obvious, but remembering someone’s name can be vital when starting to build a relationship.
Rather than thinking of someone as 'thingy from accounts' or 'the man with the beard', remembering names helps to make people feel special and valued, like they actually made an impression on you.
If you work somewhere with many employees, it may feel like remembering everyone is a challenge, but it really is worth the effort, even if you only remember the names of your immediate colleagues. Try writing people’s names down as soon as possible after you meet them or connecting their work photo to their work email.
A good trick if you forget somebody’s name is to find somewhere you need to write it down, such as a form, and ask them how they spell it. Or perhaps you could bond with them over the universally disliked ID photos, as a way to sneak a look at their name.
While you cannot spend all of your work time chatting, there are times when it might be appropriate to discuss non-work related things.
A quick conversation about how someone’s weekend was can do wonders to improve rapport. If a colleague happens to be making coffee or eating lunch at the same time as you, try asking about something non-work related (perhaps where they got their recipe from or what type of coffee they like).
Good opportunities for conversation can be:
If you see someone reading a book, asking about whether they are enjoying it or sharing recommendations (however, if they have headphones in or their body language is drawn in, then they probably want to be left alone and it is best not to interrupt them).
Asking about weekend plans or asking how their weekend was – this is particularly useful on Fridays or Mondays.
If you see that someone has a picture of a pet, family or hobby, ask about it. Lots of people will love to gush about their beloved cat or rave about this excellent white water rafting trip they went on.
If you happen to be leaving work at the same time as a colleague, ask about their plans for the evening. Offer your plans first, especially if they are a woman and you are not, in case it comes across as creepy to enquire where they will be and when.
If you have seen something good recently on TV, maybe ask if others have seen it, or ask for recommendations yourself.
Christmas parties, team building exercises, after-work drinks, annual awards nights – more and more businesses are finding ways of creating social events and icebreakers for their employees and it really is worth going along to them.
Even if the work Christmas party is not your idea of a great night out, it can be a valuable way of helping to improve relationships. At work events and team building exercises, you get to see people in their ‘off duty’ form. It is a good opportunity to see what people are like in a more relaxed environment and interact with them outside of work power structures.
Team building exercises get a bit of a hard time, but in reality they can be incredibly fun and a very useful way of building rapport.
In recent years, many companies have put a lot of effort into creating team building events that are really engaging and help build relationships between co-workers, such as escape rooms, craft days and even wine tasting.
If you are really not comfortable with the idea of socialising outside of work, consider just popping along for an hour.
Have a reason in mind why you have to leave at a certain time (for example, arrange for someone to phone you then so you can say you need to go home).
Work events really are a good way for your co-workers to see who you are outside of work and can lead to further conversations and better relationships in the future.
If you see someone struggling with something that you know how to do or if you know something that could be useful to a colleague, help them. By taking the time to do so, it makes you seem more approachable and willing to be part of the team.
Helping others has the added bonus of also meaning your colleagues are more likely to be reciprocal and help you in the future when you are struggling.
There is no point trying to be someone you are not. When it comes to building relationships, honesty is always the best policy.
By being true to who you are, you can find conversations to which you can genuinely contribute too. Pretending to be interested in a topic that you know nothing about will get boring very quickly and you will never feel as though you are being authentic to yourself.
Even if you feel as though there is nothing in common between you and your co-workers, there will be some shared interest somewhere.
It could be a shared dislike of mushrooms, something that you have recently watched on TV, unusual pets or growing up in similar places. Or even never being able to find others who share your interests.
If you are dishonest about who you are, then it also means that the relationships you build will not be strong as they are built on a foundation of lies and you will become tired from always spending energy maintaining a facade.
If you are not naturally a sociable person, it may seem impossible to relax when thinking about social situations.
However, relaxed body language makes developing and building rapport much easier.
If your body language indicates that you are not engaged in the conversation, then it will work against creating positive relationships.
Body language tips:
Try not to look distracted. Looking at your watch or phone suggests that you are not really listening.
Make reasonable eye contact. This helps to make you seem more genuinely interested and indicates that you are paying attention. You do not need to always stare at the person, but look them in the face regularly, especially when they have just made an emphatic point or are waiting for a reply.
Try to keep your posture relaxed. This helps to make whoever you are talking to also feel relaxed and encourages natural conversation.
Of course, to build a relationship you do need to tell your co-workers about yourself and share relevant personal experiences, but it is important to make sure that you listen too.
Relationships and rapport are a two-way street. Spending too much time talking about yourself will make you seem self-absorbed and not interested in those around you.
By making an effort to really listen to what your co-workers say, it will help ensure that you come across as more engaging and caring. People can tell when they are really being listened to, so it is important to be genuine.
Everyone wants to feel as though they are being listened to – it helps to make them feel valued as individuals.
Manners really do cost nothing, but they can make a huge difference when it comes to building warmth and relationships within the workplace.
Being polite includes simple things such as saying good morning to your co-workers, smiling, saying thank you when someone offers to help or holding the door open for someone.
All of these small gestures help to improve rapport within a work environment as well as making it a generally more enjoyable place to be.
Relationships and good rapport are vital in helping to create a harmonious working environment.
Whether you feel as though you have something in common with your co-workers or not, there will always be a way to build good rapport.
Even if you do not have any of the same personal interests, there will be some type of common ground where you will be able to start a conversation. If nothing else, you both work in the same place.
You do not have to be a social butterfly. Even small things, such as simply saying good morning, remembering co-workers names or smiling when someone holds a door for you, will all have positive effects on your working environment.
Above all, remember that rapport works both ways. By making an effort with your colleagues, they will make an effort with you.