Dealing with an aggressive Scrum Master

Last post 09:43 pm May 20, 2022
by René Gysenbergs
8 replies
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05:02 pm May 18, 2022

Hello All,

I need guidance on dealing with an aggressive scrum master, who lacks respect for the other members of the team.

The Scrum master does not seem to facilitate dialogue, rather does the below:

- Raises his voice, discussions turn to debates and arguments.

- Speaks over the others and does not let anyone complete what they are trying to say is constantly interrupting people.

- Threathens with escalations, when the escalation points themselves are aware of the issues.

- Has no respect for senior staff who have far more knowledge.

- Only tells us that stories need to be broken down , has never once shown us how to do it.

- The Scrum call is the 1st call of the day, which ends up disturbing the entire day.

The only last resort i have left is either to confront him directly or escalate, I have tried talking to the scrum coach to have a work with him, but that did not help.

I would really appreciate this communities guidance on how to deal with such a situation.

Thanks 

08:04 pm May 18, 2022

From what you say, the organizational culture is underpinned by matters of "seniority" and "escalation". It sounds like you don't have a Scrum Master at all, but a command-and-control manager who merely has that label stuck on them. This is likely to be a symptom of the underlying problem rather than the problem itself.

I'd suggest that if the organization had changed to support agile working, the team would be empowered to self-organize and deal with this themselves. Moreover, the higher-ups should pro-actively seek out difficulties of this nature in order to better facilitate agile practice. That isn't happening, and my suspicion is that agile terms of reference have just been layered on to the existing system as a kind of veneer.

I think you need to find out who in senior leadership actually wants agile change and is willing to sponsor it. That would mean creating and reinforcing a sense of urgency for some very different organizational behaviors which better support the Scrum Values.

06:18 am May 19, 2022

Thank you ,I too beleive this is the case , and would see if i can find a amicable solution.

10:58 am May 19, 2022

The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.

Quote from Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

01:46 pm May 19, 2022

Hello Alen,

I've got some follow up questions:

 

The Scrum master does not seem to facilitate dialogue, rather does the below:

- Raises his voice, discussions turn to debates and arguments.

- Speaks over the others and does not let anyone complete what they are trying to say is constantly interrupting people.

- Threathens with escalations, when the escalation points themselves are aware of the issues.

- Has no respect for senior staff who have far more knowledge.

- Only tells us that stories need to be broken down , has never once shown us how to do it.

- The Scrum call is the 1st call of the day, which ends up disturbing the entire day.

 

1) Do you know if this is the first time this individual has worked as a Scrum Master?

2) Had they another position in the company before they became Scrum Master (Project Manager? Lead?)

3) Is this behaviour only visible with him or do other Scrum Masters operate with the same modus operandi?

4) Is this behaviour tolerated within the company?

02:49 pm May 19, 2022

Hello Rene,

1. Its not the first time the person has worked as a scrum master, i did ask around a bit , there have been other projects he has worked on.( I have heard that people have left projects stating him as reason-but cannot validate this, as this could very well be office gossip.)

2. No they have not held another position in the organization before they became a Scrum master, he has recently moved to the organization about a year back.

3. He is the only one that i have encountered with such behavior, and i work on 3 different projects, the other Scrum masters are professionals they merely guide and help get solutions in case the teams are stuck or some dialogue does not seem productive, they even help us escalate and schedule calls and meetings to help us get through the sprints.

4. This kind of behaviour isn't tolerated, as but neither does anyone else want to escalate as most of the team are consultants, As Ian pointed out, I have escalated and have asked for a call with the other senior participants and the scrum master to have a sit-down to discuss the scrum master's role and behaviour.

04:59 pm May 19, 2022

Ian and René have combined to provide the best answer in my opinion.  There is nothing in the Scrum framework about this.  It is based upon a self-managing, self-organizing team of individuals that respect each other.  In your situation, it seems that the respect is not there.  

As much as we agile/Scrum purist would like to believe in the servant-leadership model, truth is that the majority of organizations in this world still use a hierarchy organizational model.  If you have exhausted all of options you know to help resolve the conflict, you should probably escalate this to the Scrum Master's manager or go to HR as they are creating a hostile work environment. 

08:49 pm May 20, 2022

Hello all,

Thank you, I did try to have a conversation with the scrum master.

Brief of the conversation (am paraphrasing )

Thanked the scrum master for his efforts told him that I do understand that he faces pressure from senior management due to the velocity not being up to the mark.

Let him know that if he becomes aggressive it really doest help us achieve our goals and it also stressed us out. Pointed out an instance where he was rude and told him that it was rude and the question could have been asked in a nicer way.

The response i got was more agression, i was asked why should he ask nicely when it was the other person's job to give him a response, (it wasn't i was the one to give the response) i was off and my manager the PO did not have the answer.

The scrum coach tried to intervene let him know that all we want is for him to treat people with respect.

So basically there is no peaceful solution to this particular problem, escalation to his manager and HR seems to be the only solution.

Thank you all again for all your inputs it has been really helpful in guiding me.

 

09:43 pm May 20, 2022

Hello Alen,

Thank you for your replies.

I concur with Daniel that it is better to escalate this to his manager and HR.

Sometimes a new Scrum Master is just unexperienced or misguided, and sometimes they are just a rotten apple. Your's of the second variety and the best that can be done is to remove him from the basket before they spoils other apples.

Wish you all the best with your future Scrum Master.