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Concerns, complaints, conflict and the agile team

There are always people who complain. As I am in a ‘leader’ position and have been for a few years now, often people come to me to complain about someone else. The majority of people avoid conflict and talking about feelings at all costs. How would you deal with the following situations?

Team Member: “Joe cuts his toenails at the desk, he cares about no-one but himself, I can’t stand being near him.”
Team Member: “Sheila is constantly on the phone. She spends no time working. I know more about her family and their problems than I do about my own! I am not the only one – EVERYONE has had enough.”

A few weeks ago I tried something different and based on a few complaints I wrote a blog post on Cubicle Correctness. The blog post was based on all the complaints I’d heard over the last few years. It generated a lot of chatter in the office and I think many people are a bit more ‘aware’ of their cubicle neighbours because of it.

Today I came across an article on Handling Conflict on Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. What the article made me realize was that by making the blog post I had taken on the problem, when I should have been helping the team deal with these issues themselves.

Why? Because we are adults and talking behind people backs is not ok. To be a healthy team we need to live in a world of courage and respect.

Lyssa gave a 3-step intervention path which I am determined to try next time!

  1. Ask the complainer: “Have you shared your concerns and feelings about this with ______?” If the complainer has not then encourage them to do so, if they are reluctant or unwilling move to step 2.
  2. “_________ should know of your concerns. Would it help if I went  with you?”Make sure the complainer knows that you are their for moral support, not to be the bearer of the news. Plan for when and where this conversation will take place, if they are reluctant or unwilling move to step 3.
  3. “May I tell ___________ that you have these concerns?” If the complainer is still not willing, then cease to consider this a problem.

This was hard for me to read and believe. But Lyssa makes a good point, that most complainers are just needing to vent, some are just trying to add you to the gossip network and some are trying to enlist you for their personal war. Thinking back … yes, I can see how that is true.

It was nice to learn a new people skill today :)


3 thoughts on “Concerns, complaints, conflict and the agile team”

  1. Pingback: Concerns, complaints, conflict and the agile team « Inevitably Agile

  2. Pingback: Conflict | AgilePath

  3. Pingback: Integral Model for Agile Coaching | Growing Agile

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