Are you overdrawn? Understanding the rapport bank

Building rapport at work is important
Building rapport at work: are you expecting to receive before you’ve given anything?
Building rapport at work is something that is critical to be an effective leader. If you have a good rapport with someone, it is generally a combination of mutually respecting, trusting and often liking the other person. Without good rapport, work can become difficult and tiring. Convincing people about your great new idea becomes almost impossible. Getting your team to work hard for you is a constant uphill battle.
It’s good to think of your rapport as a bank account. When you build rapport at work, that’s a deposit in the account. When you push back on somebody, make mistake, ask a favour or have a confrontation, you are making a withdrawal. What you need to do is ensure that you have enough funds in your rapport account to do an effective job.

Depositing rapport into your account

Building rapport at work includes actions that engender trust and goodwill, such as:
  • Buying someone a coffee
  • Supporting a decision
  • Lending a helping hand
  • Listening to somebody else’s opinion; or
  • Showing interest in someone’s personal life

It takes time to build up the funds in your rapport account – it won’t happen overnight. Listening to feedback from your team and adjusting your approach accordingly can be a good way to build rapport at work.

Cashing in your rapport

Once you have rapport in your account, you don’t need to cash it in – but it’s there when you need it. Things that might require a withdrawal of rapport include:
  • Disagreeing with a decision
  • Challenging a course of action; or
  • Asking for a favour.

Think about it – if you have made no effort to help others first, why would they try to help you?

Balancing the rapport account

Your rapport account is a balancing act. When you meet someone for the first time, you often have zero rapport. People who start with no rapport and try to enlist favours from others will likely overdraw their rapport account and be met with resistance.
Without the time and effort spent to build rapport, you’re unlikely to be able to accomplish very much. Having a negative balance in your rapport account means that people don’t want to help you, and if they do, it’s because they feel as if they are obliged to do so because of your authority or some other factor.
If your account is overdrawn, you aren’t able to pay for anything. Imagine the service you would expect to receive if you only gave a gardener $20 when the job actually costs $100. Without rapport, people will put in minimal effort for you, because they aren’t receiving the funds that they are entitled to.
Those who take time building rapport at work will be able to selectively withdraw from their account to do what they need to do. This is extremely important in roles that involve influencing people or have a high degree of stakeholder management. One of the secrets to being able to push back effectively is to have built respect and rapport beforehand.

Being genuine and authentic is the best way of building rapport at work

If you try to build rapport by “schmoozing”, being a “yes person” or via other sycophantic behaviour, this is likely to be ineffective. Observant people will realise you’re trying to “butter them up” and you may actually be withdrawing from your account when you are really trying to make a deposit!
When you overdraw your account, you receive an overdrawn notice and a corresponding fee from your rapport bank. The fee for overdrawing your account may be a lack of willingness to work with you again or even open conflict and argument. Continuously overdrawing your account will certainly result in some hit to your reputation.
Are you the type of leader who is asking for a lot, without having spent the time and effort to build up your bank balance? Make sure you do it the right way – save your rapport pennies before you try to withdraw them, or you may incur a fee and be met with significant resistance.

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