Workplace rapport in a COVID-19 world

Jaquie Scammell, conversation

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is impacting our face to face interactions and conversations with workplaces shut down and people advised to stay at home wherever possible.

In a service environment, particularly, which is now more often than not a conversation conducted on the phone or on a ‘essential-service’ shop floor, you only have a limited amount of time to enhance interactions that will lead to results, such as mutual recognition of a problem or a sale that could transform the business.

Jaquie Scammell, facilitator and coach working with some of the largest global workforces in retail, banking and hospitality, shares how to build a rapid rapport in these unprecedented times

“The issue is that we’re often squandering that time, trying to knock off tasks on our to-do list and as a result, we rush through conversations. Or we can be so eager to impress others with our thoughts, stories, opinions and ideas, that this actually gets in the way of building rapport with another person,” Scammell said.

A two-way street

rapid rapport

For rapport to be built, both people need to feel there has been a two-way exchange of energy. Often, when a conversation feels one-sided, it’s because someone has been doing all the giving and has left no room for the other.

A one-sided conversation happens if you’re nervous and want to impress the other person so badly that it gets in the way of basic chitchat and getting to know them. Or, you could be so attached to achieving a specific outcome from the meeting or conversation that you rush through it, focusing only on you and your needs.

Every sales meeting, customer phone call or interaction with a colleague is an opportunity to allow the human you’re conversing with to feel important. When you find a conversational vibe in your work, the person on the receiving end of your conversation feels that you’re truly authentic – and that makes it feel like service, not selling. That is what builds trust and keeps people coming back to you time and time again.

A natural sequence


Like a movie, every conversation has a natural beginning, middle and end. In a sales call or a simple service interaction, the beginning, middle and end would be greeting, transaction and farewell. In a meeting, they would be welcome, agenda and next steps. In a coffee catch-up with a colleague, they would be small talk, point of the meeting and thank you.

A large component of forming rapport with others means guiding conversations through these three key stages.

Before you even speak or say hello, you should pay close attention to their body language, facial expressions, mood and gestures. This will give you clues so that you can quickly decide how to approach the other person. It will shift you into a place of presence immediately and dial up your attention towards them.

The middle of the conversation is where the main purpose and intent of the conversation is dealt with. At this point, you may still not have established very much rapport. In fact, if you or the other person has done all the talking thus far, the conversation may feel like a monologue. So this is a great opportunity to break down the walls and relate in a way that shows them, ‘I’m just like you!’

You could ask them the question ‘And what else?’ to ensure the conversation keeps moving and the context has been exhausted.

When wrapping up a conversation, it’s important to check in and notice the other person’s energy and responses. You want to part ways having left a great impression, even if the conversation didn’t have the outcome you would have liked. Bring an energy of gratitude to the conversation at this stage and see the other gains you’ve achieved.

Don’t waste time


There’s always something to gain from a conversation if you view it as a two-way exchange – and while you might think it’s a waste of time, you’ll actually end up saving yourself time.

Learning new information now can help you the next time you meet. For example, it could be feedback about some of their problems and how they view them, and now you’re better prepared for next time the situation occurs.

There’s much to be grateful for when you’re building relationships, and this energy can shift the conversation from ‘I came here wanting to get something’ to ‘I came here and I’m grateful that I did’.

Remember, in service, regardless of what material things people leave with, they most certainly also always leave with a felt energy from your exchange. That is the real secret to building rapid rapport in a challenging and demanding environment.

*Jaquie Scammell has managed and advised workforces of all sizes, from small teams to staff of more than 9500, interacting with millions of fans on a daily basis. Service Habits is the second book in her ‘Service’ series, published by Major Street Publishing. Find out more at

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