“Being difficult”: How employee comms apps can help with a dissenting voice

Stuart Sinclair - November 3, 2016

Have you got a ‘difficult’ employee in your team who doesn’t seem to connect, engage or respect anyone? They seem to act as an inhibitor for everything you are trying to achieve, be it innovation, productivity or just general day-to-day relations.

Dealing with difficulty

In an article for Forbes, David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom explore various ways that team leaders can turn indifference into trust and respect.

Top of their list is to remember that somewhere in the past that difficult team member was specifically recruited for their skills and/or character. Perhaps since then, the team has changed, and their role within it has shifted. Perhaps they too have issues with other co-workers. As a leader you need to find out what’s biting them, and understand why they appear to be biting back. Once you know that, you can move forward.


Read Eight Tips for Effective Internal Communication

Freedom through cooperation

Let’s say that an employee feels his/her ideas are not appreciated or welcomed by the team. An employee communication app that encourages cooperative and collaborative working could be part of the solution. The freedom to work with other, like-minded people in the organisation beyond the confines of their own team might enable them to rekindle their passion and interest in the job. It would perhaps give them a different perspective on their own position, and in turn allow empathy towards their own team members.

David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom put great emphasis on the need to rebuild trust.

“This step is critical because if a difficult person doesn’t trust you, they will challenge you at every level. So, give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them first… You cannot manage attitudes, but you can influence them.”

Trust and feedback

Trust is not an issue that has a single, simple solution. Re-establishing trust and respect takes time, patience and effort. Sturt and Nordtrom consider positive feedback a major factor in establishing respect, and encourage leaders to speak out loud their appreciation in front of co-workers:

“It’s key to show them that their unique contributions really matter. Appreciate them vocally when they do something great, and they’ll realize how important they are to the team. There’s no better way to build respect than to show that the team — and company — values your employee.”

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Your digital voice

With an intranet-based communications app, you can make sure that your vocal appreciation is heard across the organisation, by using a “shout out”. It’s a common term used on social media, as a way of indicating that the praise or recommendation is personal, genuine and heartfelt. Communications apps with feedback elements can facilitate this, but apps with reward and recognition features that can supply peer-to-peer recognition are much more effective. To paraphrase the quote above, “There’s no better way to build respect than for all the team members to show that they value your employee.”


Read 7 Ways to Improve Internal Communications and Engage Your Employees

Shift your perspective

Finally, David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom suggest that a shift in mental attitude from managers could help them appreciate another viewpoint.

“Instead of labeling that difficult team member as “impossible,” shift your perspective. Think of them as an integral part of the team — maybe the only person on your team that’s willing to challenge every idea, every procedure, and every project. Making that mental shift will change how you speak with them, look at them, and listen to their feedback.”


Those last five words are crucial - “listen to their feedback”. Company communication apps are not a one-way conduit of information and feedback from the top to the junior ranks. Communication systems must provide a safe environment for feedback to flow from the shop floor or coal face of your organisation back up to those in the top offices. 

Combine this with the peer to peer interaction benefits, and employee comms apps can provide your whole organisation with the means to see different viewpoints, and start to build trust and empathy on a company-wide scale.

If your company comms solution is being difficult, we’ll take it aside and find out the reason. For more information on our range of employee communications apps and solutions, call us today.

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