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Handle difficult people in a scrum team

Last post 08:16 am July 27, 2015 by Anthony Kenny
4 replies
09:14 am July 3, 2015

Hi all,

a new project has recently started at my job, for which I am the scrum master.
I am pretty much satisfied with the team composition, well, it lacks a little bit of coding experience but nothing too serious. The only thing I am really concern about is one team-mate, who has repeatedly in the past proven her inability to do team work. She doesn't like the scrum process and lets everyone know; she won't take any critics of her work and is often offensive; communication is not so good as she barely speaks english; and so on...
So, the question is, what is in your experience or according to scrum the best way to handle such a person, considering that I have no other choice but to have her on the team?

Thank you

12:57 am July 7, 2015

Is the Development Team content to have this person on board? Are they delivering increments satisfactorly, and are the discussions in Sprint Retrospectives honest and open?

02:39 pm July 8, 2015

This one is a tough one as it has many variables some inside some outside of scrum, as Ian has hit on..what are the thoughts of the team?
You are SM so have services, two of the three affected services (Unless its the PO) are below.
Scrum Master Service to the Development Team, coaching, removing impediments,
Scrum Master Service to the Organization, causing change that increases productivity
(Remember the Org also has a part to play in adoption).

Some reflections here:

Good luck with it, and don't forget to post your outcome as this one really is a stinker when you get it.

12:35 pm July 21, 2015

I'd be curious to understand what her reservations are regarding SCRUM, has she experienced a team where SCRUM was poorly implemented and understood or has she just not "bought in" to the culture. Maybe she's expecting something else.

I had a team member once who was explained that in their culture "command and control" was the only way and I should be barking orders. Really took a while to get used to the self organisation that is part of the agile culture and to understand that they really did have a say.

Could it be that she's a little insecure, as you say the team lacks coding experience and some people don't like that laid bare for all to see, after all, who wants everybody to see their faults and failure? Maybe the principle of transparency makes her nervous and some people can become defensive or aggressive in this situation. Add this to her lack of English, as you mention, and the possibilities for misunderstandings are pretty high.

Maybe you can speak with her and ask her for her opinion, ensure that she's aware that her opinion is valued but so are those of others and whilst opinions can be voiced, the team are obliged to follow her advice. Involved her, let her see a supporting environment. It might just work. Better still, can you get her on a scrum master or scrum developer course in her own language where she might understand a bit more and build some enthusiasm?

As a last resort, it maybe simple a "personnel" issue and she's unsuitable, as a person, for your team or company.

Good luck!

08:16 am July 27, 2015

Correction: I missed the word "not", in this sentence. ...the team are NOT obliged to follow her advice. But of course, are obliged to at least listen to it respectfully.

Posted By Anthony Kenny on 21 Jul 2015 12:35 PM

Maybe you can speak with her and ask her for her opinion, ensure that she's aware that her opinion is valued but so are those of others and whilst opinions can be voiced, the team are obliged to follow her advice.

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