On my Team, we do a Retrospective after every Sprint. Usually it's very productive, and the Team discusses what went well, what could improve, and what action items we want to take from the meeting. We use a board for these items.

Lately, for the last couple program increments, one of our Team members has been passive-aggressively launching personal attacks on members by not merely filling out what didn't go well, but also creating action items before the meeting even begins. How do you best approach the situation? From reading a few Scrum articles on this, it doesn't seem like a great way for a Retrospective to be run.

  • Are you the PM or the Scrum Master? Can't be both... its like being a parent and a friend at the same time.
    – Jakub
    Feb 2, 2018 at 6:44
  • What’s your process for ensuring team member concerns are added to the retrospective’s backlog?
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Feb 2, 2018 at 15:45

6 Answers 6


Getting a little meta (no not that meta) here, but...

This should be discussed in the Retrospective.

You state:

one of our Team members has been passive-aggressively launching personal attacks on members by [...] creating action items before the meeting even begins.

There could be many reasons for this. Maybe some/all of the other Team members have been bullying this one, and s/he is lashing out in the only way s/he knows how. Maybe s/he's legitimately trying to help the meeting go faster by filling stuff out beforehand, and you're picking up passive-aggression erroneously. Maybe s/he's just a jerk.

A Retrospective is not intended to be a status meeting where everyone runs through the '3 questions' like robots. It is meant to be an open, honest and constructive discussion on the system and the Team. It sounds like you need to do two things (become aware of this person's feelings, and make this person aware of how his/her actions affect the Team's feelings), and a Retrospective should be a good place to accomplish this.

Note that, depending on the environment, you may wish to speak privately with the person first. If s/he is (for example) being bullied, then ambushing him/her in front of everyone could end badly.

Either way, before you act, you must first learn (what's really going on and everyone's feelings about it) and inform (the Team of your findings).


What I have done is, at the beginning of every Retro I repeat the rules of retrospectives:

  1. Whatever we uncover, we do not blame people.

  2. Whatever decision was made, it was the best the people could do within the context, with information they had and they did their best.

  3. We can discuss about FACTS and FEELINGS and ACTIONS we are going to take.

  4. It's not the people, it's the system.

EDIT: After you have established these rules you really have to call out people when they're breaking them. Not blaming the people outright, but approaching from a different angle. Try rephrasing their passive-aggressive remarks and get to the facts and feelings part. Or you can get there by asking "why did you say that" or something similar.


I think Scrum master needs to play a critical role here to handle the scrum retrospective meetings.

The sprint retrospective is a meeting facilitated by the Scrum Master at which the team discusses the just-concluded sprint and determines what could be changed that might make the next sprint more productive.

So those action items must be captured and used as inputs to make next sprint more productive.

It is important that everyone, including the team, product owner, and ScrumMaster, get a chance to air their opinions in an open, honest, yet constructive atmosphere.

If one of the team member is doing personal attack during retrospective the best approach is to educate this person about the objectives of retrospective meetings which is to discuss,

What went well during the sprint cycle? What went wrong during the sprint cycle? What could we do differently to improve?

Once a person understands the motives, and since he is part of "self managed" SCRUM team, hopefully (S)he would participate with right approach.

  • 1
    The Scrum Guide The Scrum Master may facilitate the event, but is not required. "The Scrum Master participates as a peer team member" Feb 2, 2018 at 14:27

If toxic behavior is happening in the retrospective I want to find out why it's happening. For me, this behavior would then become the main topic of the agile retrospective.

One way to dig deeper is by doing a One Word retrospective exercise. It can help the team to understand why this is happening and get insight into the causes.

Main reason for digging deeper is that such toxic behavior is often not only happening in the retrospectives, and it's hurting the team and the people personally, probably on a daily base. As a Scrum Master you need to deal with this to prevent things becoming worse.


A Retrospective is meant exactly to address this kind of issues around team dynamics (for the product feedbacks you have the Sprint Demo/Review).

If the team member persists in his/her behaviour, even after having being reminded of the Prime Directive ("Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could") then the team’s scrum master needs to take action. Blaming games cannot be ignored nor tolerated.

You mentioned that it was not always the same, so probably something happened to ignite this behaviour and the team member does not feel comfortable to speak about it in public.

The scrum master should start by addressing the team member privately to discuss their concerns.

Possibly it was about private issues or only with another specific team member and could be solved individually or in a smaller group. Sometimes it helps a lot just to listen and acknowledge the concerns.

Only following private discussion and if the team member’s reservations ARE a topic of discussion for the entire team, then the team can be involved by discussing them during the next retrospective. This allows the team to offer their support.

If there is still no change in the team member’s attitude, then this needs to be escalated to his/her direct manager.

If still no change can be achieved, then the team member could be assigned to another team, with different members or possibly a non-agile team/project if the concerns were about this team member feeling to be forced out of his/her comfort zone.


It seems like this is a people management issue, not a restrospective problem.

Let's first think from the Scrum perspective: as others mentioned, the Scrum Master could avoid the ceremony to go for aggressive or non-value-adding topics. Not only the Scrum Master as a facilitator, but also the team itself can help on that.

However, thinking on future ceremonies and team sinergy, this should be addressed for this team-member manager to check what is happening with this collaborator. The manager could schedule an 1:1 to get deeper on what could be disappointing this collaborator.

  • Sprint Retrospective "Inspect how the last Sprint went with regards to people, relationships, process, and tools" (emphasis mine) "The Scrum Master participates as a peer team member" Feb 2, 2018 at 14:32
  • @AlanLarimer not sure if you understood my point. Regarding your first quote, I don't think it would be the best approach to inspect someone's behaviour among the team, I'm considering the scenario, not the framework only. Regarding the second I edited my answer. Mostly because SMs were always in the Restrospectives that I participated. Still, it didn't seemed wrong to get -1 Feb 2, 2018 at 14:49
  • Teams, both Scrum and Development, are self-organizing and should attempt to address issues collaboratively without outside (manager, HR, etc.) first. As Sarov's answer pointed out, side conversation(s) that are still within the team may be appropriate and beneficial with insights brought back to the team. If safety is lacking, than that should be addressed as well. Escalating to personnel management should be just that, an escalation if/when necessary. Feb 2, 2018 at 15:04

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