In our team of several software developers we have two leaders: me (official title: "Team Leader" - recently nominated, technical) and another guy (official tite: "Scrum Master" - this is the case for a few months already, non-technical) - let's call him Frank.

Frank and I have totally different visions of how the team should work in areas such as cooperation with customer, procedures, communication within the team, etc. I find Frank's attitude highly destructive for the team (it might be that he feels the same about my actions :-) ). Eg. he overcomplicates the procedures without any justification (I asked for it and got none) and then sends the mail to the whole team claiming that it was agreed (while what happened really was that we were arguing in front of the team).

Similar thing happened when I tried to do some procedures improvement: I consulted client (who was in favour), consulted Frank (who was in favour) and one other developer (who was also in favour). But then Frank changed his mind, blocked my idea and the customer later said to me that he doesn't understand the situation because the proposed change was good.

Now the question is:

How do I handle these situations to get desired result (Frank does not get into my way)?

  • Should I talk to our project manager as kind of superior for the two of us (seems obvious, but I doubt if effective)?

  • Or should I ignore his actions in some areas and try to improve situation in other areas?

  • Or should I continue building a relationship with customer representative and then mount a common cause against Frank (based on real problem to solve)?

  • Or should I take any other approach?

Some background about the setup: our team of developers is employed by an outsourcing IT corporation and working for another corporation. Some cultural differences might be involved as customer is from Germany, me from Poland and rest of the team (including Frank, our boss and developers) from Belarus.

  • What is company culture like? Open? Making errors regarded normal?
    – Bookeater
    Aug 6, 2017 at 22:38
  • 5
    You might ask this question on The Workplace SE, as it deals with professional relationships in a business setting.
    – user3169
    Aug 6, 2017 at 23:19
  • 3
    @user3169 Just because a question is on-topic elsewhere doesn't mean it can't be on-topic here. We're dealing with a business problem using interpersonal skills; it's on-topic here.
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 7, 2017 at 13:13

4 Answers 4


You could "solve" this on an interpersonal level, but it seems you have been set up to clash with this person because your organization has not decided on it's processes yet.

Your job is Team Lead. His job is Scrum Master. You have a project manager and no mention of a product owner.

Now your company needs to decide if this is supposed to be Scrum, or not. Half your team is trying to sail the ship and half of it is trying to row it. The fact that sailors and rowers clash is not due to any interpersonal problems. It's the total confusion of who should do what on this ship.

You will need to go to your boss and ask him what his plan for your organization is. Is it Scrum? Then what is your role in it, there is no team lead in Scrum.And who is the PO? Is it not Scrum but something else? Then the job of Scrum Master does not exist.

You cannot solve this between the two of you. Neither of you should be willing to say "oh, ok, I'll just not do my designated job then".

I'm afraid this actually is a question for the workplace because you cannot solve it with interpersonal skills alone. No amount of interaction with the Scrum Master will clear up what your actual process should look like. You need to find that out. The smart way will be to figure it out with the Scrum Master, not against or unbeknownst to him.

Have a talk with your Scrum Master. Tell him you are unsure what his and your exact responsibilities are. Invite him to that meeting with your boss to clear that up, so he does not feel like you are doing this behind his back. Don't leave your bosses office until you know whether you are doing Scrum or not and what your role in it is.


Without any context about company culture and Franks motivation, a rather defensive but hopefully bloodless strategy would be to disengage.

Working with the product manager and through Frank himself, draw your line in the sand: Itemize responsibilities. His and yours. Make sure everything has a paper trail so you can fall back on this delineation when the unavoidable 'confusion' pops up.

Business case would be to avoid duplication of effort; do it once and keep to agreed upon lines. All noses in one direction, synergy, whatever wording works to get your view in place.

Once everyone involved knows what's what your team will come to you for everything process wise that you 'own' and Frank is left to stew in his own little patch of the wood.

Make sure you are present at meetings and in the team workplace to stay available and aware of every false move that Frank now makes, and come down heavily on him every time he steps out of line.

And as soon as damage occurs, escalate.

  • Timing suggests you have been appointed as damage control for Frank's shortcomings. IMHO that is not a good space to be. In an ideal world the above will allow Franks qualities to emerge. In a less ideal world you will avoid (most of) the flag when the bubble bursts and heads begin to roll.
    – Bookeater
    Aug 7, 2017 at 8:34
  • It's multicultural organization aka corporation :-) We tried to create RACI matrix, it did not help (I did not get consulted on process change, even if specified in the matrix). I take part in almost all meetings (which I absolutely hate as a profound waste of time), but thanks for reminding me that - the next step would be to get rid of Frank from those meetings based on synergy, saving time, etc. Any strategy I should take to make the patch of the wood smaller and smaller?
    – Tomek
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:20
  • In a way, Bookeater's suggestion here, of clearly delineating responsibilities, is very similar to @nvoigt's answer, except nvoigt suggests the delineation needs to be primarily done by your superior. Mar 29, 2018 at 15:11

I am a young working professional who has been in this kind of situation before. I think there are a few things that stand out here.

  1. Based on your description, it appears Frank is fighting you for real leadership position. You have 2 choices, let him win or fight him for it.

  2. For example if you think he is a decent, capable guy and you care more about finishing the project, you might consider letting him win (but first talk to him and let him know directly or indirectly your sacrifice). You could also indirectly let your superior know, this shows real maturity for you and in the long run, you have won.

  3. On the other hand if he is a real jerk and incapable. for the health of the project, you need to win and finish this project successfully. This involves talking to Frank a few times to lay out ground rules and areas of responsibilities. If this doesn't work, bring it up to the boss and focus on your fear that this project won't be finished rather than how bad frank is.

  4. Your info about frank changing a customer agreed order is alarming. You should be careful here, approach your boss and ask whether this was something your boss or the higher ups approved. If it is, it means frank is on their good side and you are possibly not. If your boss did not approve, it means frank seriously overstepped and this can be used to get the boss on your side. Next time you approach frank you will have more leverage to negotiate.

Good luck! We need it in the corporate world :)

  • I would say Frank has good will, but completely flawed way of thinking that is destructive for the team. So basically I have to fight. The client is more on my side, the boss inside our company is more on Frank's side (it's not black and white in either case). I guess open fight (get it on case by case basis and trying to prove I was right by using logical arguments) is not the way to go. Thanks for the tips.
    – Tomek
    Aug 7, 2017 at 20:10
  • That's tough, especially since boss not on your side. Good luck man!
    – Bqin1
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:35

The more you fight against Frank, the more defensive he will become, which will manifest as things like additional obstinacy and power grabs - precisely the sort of damaging behavior you are trying to avoid. Although you may not be the root cause of the problem here, be careful that your actions do not inadvertently escalate it.

You need to give Frank some extra validation and emotional security. Make sure you compliment him on the things he does do well. If these are hard to find, then start with small things, or use things you work on together as an excuse to publicly give him credit and thanks.

Use these things to start to build a better relationship with Frank, so that you can talk to him openly about what you - and he - think you should do to make sure your differences of opinion don't get in the way of the project and your relationship. I think having this conversation explicitly might help to dispel some of the tension and start you on the right road. But for this to work, the conversation has to be on a meta-level: I notice we have differed on a few things, how should we handle that going forward? Rather than about particular specific causes of contention, which risks opening emotional topics about that particular disagreement. Emphasise that you are looking for what Frank thinks, and that a major goal is to make sure he is happy, successful, and gets to exercise the power that is rightfully his.

Hopefully this will start the process of him being able to trust, to sometimes ask your advice, and to admit his mistakes on those occasions when he becomes aware of them. This has to be reciprocal - he has normal human pride and doesn't want to be forced into a subordinate relationship. Ask his advice too! Talk to him about it in the spirit of understanding where your differences of opinion stem from, rather than demonstrating "who is right."

Maybe you will even find some topics on which you learn something and change your own mind. Maybe your boss will perceive that you have demonstrated good leadership by resolving a difficult situation by working with people to find workable solutions that are acceptable to people with different points of view.

I very much like other answers on this page, about clearly delineating responsibilities and involving your superior. I make this suggestion in addition to those ideas, not instead of them.

  • In this same vein, pick your battles - if you can see he is wrong about a particular topic, but it doesn't seem to affect the project in a critical way, then let him have his way. You cannot fight about everything, it will only damage the relationship further and be bad for the project overall. Only by making our own mistakes can any of us learn. Mar 29, 2018 at 15:27

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