Skip to content

How NOT To Build A Rapport

June 3, 2016

Social media has changed the way we get our news. Facebook is one of the biggest news platforms. Traditional newspapers have had to adapt or die. We have a local paper. It’s local to Provo, but it covers all of Utah county. The paper will publish regular news stories, but its Facebook page will also post questions to try to get readers engaged. Most of the time it’s questions like,

What’s the weather like where you are? Post a picture.

What do you think of the look of the new LDS temple in downtown Provo?

But, last week they posted a question that made it obvious that they didn’t understand their audience. They missed their target group so badly that the group of people they were asking a question of commented not to answer the question, but to talk about how inappropriate the question was.

We are all familiar, or should be familiar with the questions you can’t ask in an interview. No questions about married status, or number of kids. No questions about religion or politics. Even asking someone about the origin of their name can be construed as potentially discriminating on national origin, another no-no. 

But, what about after you hire them? Can you talk about family then? Ask them where they are from? Invite them to the church BBQ? 

Of course you can. And you should. But, like anything, you have to use judgement. I have 13 kids. When I go into an interview, it’s not something I bring up. And as mentioned, interviewers cannot ask about it. Of course, I expect that interviewers will Google me, and they will see this blog and my signature block. But, in the interview, we all pretend that no one knows about it. 

I’m very proud of my family. But, I don’t talk about it during the interview for a couple of reasons. First, some people have the idea that the world has too many people. If I have 13, clearly I’m being irresponsible. They wouldn’t say that, of course. But, I’m not trying to give them a reason to reject me. I could talk about the fact that ten of my kids are adopted from orphanages all over the world, so really I’m helping not hurting, in the eyes of the “overpopulation” crowd. But, it’s not a conversation I’m interested in having. 

The second reason is that people assume that if I have that many kids, I will be taking more sick time. That I’ll need more time off to deal with kid issues. Again, I’m not interested in giving them a reason to pass me over. 

But, once I join a company, discussions about family are great. But, as a new employer, you have to ask. I once went to work for a small company. I had been working there for a couple of months when the COO and I were driving to Salt Lake City for a meeting with the client. We passed a 15 passenger van. 

That’s going to be my next car.

Really? How come?

Well, we are finalizing an adoption of three girls from Colombia and with 13 kids, the kids will no longer fit in my Suburban.

Wait. You have thirteen kids.


How come I never knew this?

He didn’t know that because he didn’t ask. Especially if you are the boss or the supervisor, you should not expect that your employees will share the details of their life with you. And you need them to share. Not so that you can figure out if they will have more time off for kid events, but so that your employees feel like you care about them. They need to know that you see them as more than just a cog in a corporate process. That change only happens when you communicate. 

In fact, not asking tends to make them feel the opposite. They feel like you don’t value them as an person. And it’s not a big stretch to extend that to not valuing them as an employee. But, ask the right questions. 

The mistake my local  paper made? Well, they were trying to spark a conversation. Summer is a time for fishing in Utah so they asked, 

Tell us some of your favorite fishing holes.

Are you crazy? So that people can overrun them? Not a chance. But, if you ask me about my family, I’d love to talk. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply