Q
Manage Learn to apply best practices and optimize your operations.

How do I deal with negative Agile team members?

Here are ways to deal with Agile team members who are negative or resistant to change.

Change and software development go hand-in-hand. And with any change, large or small, there are people who disagree....

But disagreeing about changes is not necessarily being difficult or negative; it's participating in the discussion to improve the software development team. However, a fine line exists between active participation and being resistant to change. The key is identifying the motivation behind the behavior.

In Agile teams, change occurs regularly and is most effective when reviewed, discussed and hashed out with a goal of reaching a compromise. Everyone's opinion is heard and the result is a consensus. The key to garnering a successful change when negative or resistant behaviors occur is to figure out why there is resistance. You need to identify the behavior and negotiate a balanced, logical collaborative response.

The first step when faced with resistant, negative Agile team members is to attempt to understand their position. What is it they are having trouble with? Do they have a valid reason or are they simply resisting for the sake of resisting? Next, review your own actions with others and make sure it's not you who is being difficult or disagreeable.

Not you? Then try to determine if the person being negative is going through a personal or professional crisis. Are they overloaded and see the change only as more work, or the same work in a different form, or worse -- duplicated work when time is already tight. Determine if this behavior is unusual for the person or a repetitive pattern. If it's new, then it's highly likely something else is going on that is sapping their strength and ability to adapt. Or is it a common occurrence, where aggressively difficult Agile team members are acting like childhood bullies in the schoolyard? Or, perhaps the person is a procrastinator, negative about everything, or manipulative and self-serving. 

The problem with difficult Agile team members is they create havoc and destroy morale. How you deal with them may involve discussions with management, human resources and the individual.  It's important not to be drawn into negativity or aggression and remain calm, steady and assertive. De-escalate behavioral situations, if possible. If you're a manager, refrain from challenging the difficult person directly and meet in private to determine the reason or source of the behavior. 

Often, there are paths to rebuilding a working relationship, but that is not always the case. Sometimes parting ways is the best solution for the company and the individual.

Next Steps

Managing unpopular change

Rehab or reject problem employees

This was last published in September 2015

Dig Deeper on Building Software Project Teams

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Have a question for an expert?

Please add a title for your question

Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.

You will be able to add details on the next page.

Join the conversation

6 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

As I look around my team members, I think that we all have a bit of realistic negativity. It doesn't really come from resistance to change; more like a frustrating lack of change, I would say. When working in a negative environment, I think it's important to do your best to compartmentalize, and don't let work issues creep into the rest of your life. It's just a job; it's not worth sacrificing your mental health.
Cancel
There will always be one person who does not like his boat rocked. It may not be that they are resisting change, just the fact they may not see the benefit of the changes. It is not always the IT team member that may be negative. We  have had a few projects where certain members never provided feedback, requested information or test results in a timely manner. I think it may have been because this was a process to automate their job duties to reduce workload and increase accuracy by eliminating human error, they though their job was in jeopardy. 
Cancel
Negativity is not always a bad thing.  Sometimes people are resistant because they have not been educated sufficiently about what is going on.  When you have self organizing teams but only a few know about certain components, the lack of transparency can metastasize and cause problems.

However, sometimes people are resistant because they have thought through this more than those who just go along to get along.  The people who resist, can be very valuable in teams in protecting it from making bad decisions. 
Cancel
You mentioned a good point Veretax. I will admit I have been negative at times myself. Over the 30+year in IT, I have seen a lot of hit and misses when a company tries to do something. When I have worked for a company that was going to try something I knew was going to fail, from past experience, it's hard to stay positive. I knew it was going to be a waste of time, resources and money. Upper management did not want my advice, thinking they knew better than I what was going to work, even though I had already been through it somewhere else.
Cancel
One person's negative is another's struggling to keep afloat. When I see that there's a negative member on a team (an I likewise try to check if that person may be me), I think it's critical to see what may be the problem. I it overwork? Is it an uneven balance of responsibility? Is it personal challenges that no one else knows about? is it an aspect of who the person is and difficult to adapt (case in point, several programmers that I felt friction with spoke English as a second language, and I tend to be rapid fire when I talk. BY coming to grips with that and slowing down/working to communicate better with those members of the team, our experience working together improved considerably). IOW, if there is a negative influence on the team, seek first to understand what may be causing the negativity, then seek to see how we might help mitigate those issues. 
Cancel
Hi Amy, I think you are "right on". Also it doesn't matter whether the team is agile or not agile. Negative or change resistors can ruin any plan or process. In my experience, all it takes is a few change adverse people who are informally the social leaders and your plans are doomed. You need full support (not just lip service) from management in order to implement change. Good article !
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchMicroservices

TheServerSide.com

SearchCloudApplications

SearchAWS

SearchBusinessAnalytics

SearchFinancialApplications

SearchHealthIT

DevOpsAgenda

Close