In a team of 9, 2 of the Senior Developers do not see eye to eye, professionally and personally, the relationship has deteriorated even before a Scrum Master has joined the team. What is the responsibility of the Scrum Master here? What is the responsibility of management here?

3 Answers 3


It does not matter about the development methods or the titles of roles that the development method creates. Leadership needs to intervene between two team members in conflict. They don't need to like each other but they need to work well together. Leadership should, at first, enable them to work out their differences on their own. If that fails, then leadership needs to facilitate as a mediator to resolve whatever ails them. If that fails, remove and replace...either both of them or one of them, whatever makes the most business sense.

  • Who tries to intervene first, is it the SM in one of the teams, or a manager who hears it first? We're struggling with weak management, feels like Scrum Masters are accountable for everything and not just coaching Agile and Scrum and leading the team and org to deliver value. Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 14:43
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    I know agile has some set of rules around organization structure. I don't really know all of them. In my world, an employee reports to someone. It is that someone who bears the responsibility of resolving conflict. Whether someone else jumps in to help before it gets to that person is immaterial. But when a formal intervention is required, it needs to go up the reporting chain. Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 15:26
  • I take a similar but different viewpoint in my answer: management has a role, but only after the scrum master has exhausted the possibilities for resolving this within the team. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 7:38
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    @TobySpeight, I attempted to keep my answer development methodology agnostic. That's why I wrote "leadership." However that gets defined, leadership should cover it. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 11:12
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    Sure: both our answers are useful (I was more specific because of the scrum-master tag on the question). And I did misread "leadership" as implying "management", when that's not necessarily the case. Leadership is certainly one of the attributes of a good Scrum Master. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 14:35

Part of the Scrum Master's role is to coach the team towards higher performance. To this end, you should be helping developers find ways to accommodate disagreements and advance the Team's goals rather than getting stuck on personal differences.

This is the kind of individual coaching that's best done mid-sprint, when you are less involved with the team-level coaching you tend to be doing at the start and end of each sprint. Keep it low-key, rather than calling out the behaviour in public. And listen as well as speak - find out whether these two really have a personality clash or whether they are both genuinely trying to promote what's best for the team and its product.

It's also important to know when to stop. Coaching is a two-way thing, and if some of your developers are totally uninterested in being part of a team, and don't accept the need to work together, then you will need to involve their line-management. At that point, however, you'll be able to explain to the manager(s) how you have attempted to resolve the problem, and that it really is an issue that needs to be escalated.

  • Very good. This is something I usually avoid, individual developer coaching. I usually focus with the teams and the org. I leave individual behavior issues to line management. It's something I should work on, currently I have too many teams. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 7:49

Very often the responsibilities of the management and the scrum master overlap, and this is good as it shows they have an alignment on team goals. I'm a firm believer that all managers should know how to coach their team members, not only on career growth, but also on conflict resolution - and this is something scrum masters should also promote and do. So this is how I approached the same issue in the past; I hope it will spark some ideas for your current setup:

Root cause

  • I think the most important thing here is to understand the root cause of the issue. Why are these 2 developers having issues when working together? Is it an expectations management problem, or are they competing for something? By figuring this out first the next steps will be clearer.

Scrum Master as a mediator

  • On the team level, the scrum master can aid the relationship by acting as a mediator in a meeting to ease the differences between the 2 developers and coach them to understand that it is okay to disagree with each other, but that they should commit anyways to work together.

Democratic agreement

  • Include them in the decision making: go into a meeting room and show them the problem on a white board and actively ask them for ideas to make the situation better. How the best case scenario looks like? And the worst? By making them part of the solution you'll get a much more longer commitment to whatever outcome they decide.

Experiment mindset

  • With these kind of interpersonal issues it is always recommendable to keep an experiment mindset, so you don't need to solve the issue and make them love each other; your goal is to make the situation 1% better by trying something out that may change if we see it is not working. Keep the ball rolling, keep the solution alive, changing and adapting.


  • All of the above also applies to management, it is a collaboration between the scrum master and the management to make the situation better. The management should use the 1on1 meetings to go deeper into the root cause of the problem and help them find middle ground - perhaps even adding it as an item in their career goals to work on this.

Let go

  • Having said that, we should also accept that sometimes people cannot work well together and investing the time and effort on fixing this may not be the best thing for the business or the team. Sometimes it is better to have a hole in the team, than an ***hole

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