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Why Management Rapport Leads to Employee Productivity

Many managers view their role as building control, not rapport.

I always remember a conversation I had a number of years ago with an HR executive. It was about an observation of hers. The company we both worked for was having some management problems at the time. The usual sorts of things: too little recognition, too much turnover, declining engagement scores, etc. The HR exec was especially bothered by one detail she’d noted in her travels throughout the organization: how little many of our managers seemed to talk with their employees.

Many managers basically viewed their role, she felt, as maintaining control. There was little conversation, little genuine dialogue; in fact, managers often seemed uncomfortable communicating. The net effect was an overly formal work environment that neither managers nor employees seemed at home in.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Years later, as I think back now on that old conversation, I’m convinced her insight was a sound one. In all my years in management I never met a good manager who wasn’t a good communicator. Ordinary everyday communication is like business motor oil: a simple lubricant that keeps the engine of management running smoothly. When it’s absent, the machine grinds and breaks down.

From Rapport To Productivity - Now that I’ve been retired from corporate management for several years and away from the operational trenches, I’ve had time to view it from a more macro rather than micro perspective. One thing I quickly realized was that our company’s employee engagement numbers, while not exactly where we wanted them to be, were in fact significantly higher (i.e. better) than national averages. Nationally, studies consistently show that only about 30% of U.S. employees are “engaged” — meaning of course a vast 70% are not, at an annual lost productivity cost estimated by Gallup at well north of $400 billion.

Nonetheless, “better” is by no means great. If half of your employees, let’s say, are engaged, that still means a solid 50% aren’t really committed to your organization and are in various states ranging from “going through the motions” to indifferent to disruptive.

Which is why I know my old HR exec friend was on to something. A chronic lack of communication between management and rank and file just isn’t a good sign. If you want engaged employees who will “go the extra mile” as opposed to “go through the motions,” you need a foundation of relationships.

Fueled by communication, which leads to rapport, which leads to loyalty, which leads to productivity.

So much of successful management is more common sense than rocket science. If you have an army of managers who seem somehow disconnected from the people they’re managing, chances are something in the selection and training process is broken.

If managers fundamentally view their role as building control rather than building rapport, that’s an Old School paradigm.

I think that’s what most worried my HR friend. Without relationships and rapport, it’s a very good bet management results will continue to be average at best.

This article first appeared at

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Victor is author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.