How to deal with a situation when a scrum team colleague wants to cherry-pick interesting topics, manage and oversee the work of others and gets the Manager and PO's unofficial support?
Our company was bought and the new owner implemented the scrum process with the typical flat organisational structure. Former managers and subject matter experts work as regular team members now. It's been two difficult years but we're all better off for that and enjoy the collaboration spirit in our closely-knit team.
During the take over our company was also divided into branches, leaving our branch without experts in some key areas and our PO (who's also our Manager) working crazy hours to oversee (too many) strategic topics. So every team member took on some of the strategic topics as their pet-project to develop.
One of the much-needed experts has just come back to us from maternity leave to work half-day. She is also our Manager-and-PO's personal friend. She always wanted to come back as a PO (she too was a manager before and left prior to the take over and scrum) but the team was adamant that we needed a working bee like the others and not a second manager so our PO promised us to talk to her friend.
In the few days since the Friend's come-back it's become painfully clear that the Friend thinks she's an unofficial PO of sorts: she took over our strategic pet-projects without comment; she doesn't do any team member work, trying to tell others how to do it instead; she even wanted to move desks in one office and plants in another one to suit her taste.
When asked about all that by some team members, the Manager/PO confirmed that the Friend was just a regular team member, also responsible for strategy in her area (just like the rest of us). The Friend's only official objective for this year, however, states "PO in training" of sorts.
So while the Friend lacks team spirit (she didn't get to eat humble pie for two years like the rest of us to find her place in our team of equals), the main issue lies with the Manager/PO who apparently tells half-truths to both sides and elevates a friend to lessen own workload.
What we did:
- Some team members talked to the Manager/PO independently, then the half-truths were uncovered.
- Team members minus Friend agreed in a meeting that no colleague can have an elevated position, no matter how knowledgeable they are (we all are experts in several fields, every one of us could be a PO if based just on that). But everybody's got to do some grunt work. Cherry-picking is unfair and poisons the team spirit.
- Our scrum master talked to the Manager/PO. There's going to be a meeting with the whole team to address these issues.
However, everything indicates that the meeting will be used to stick the new half-PO down our throats.
What else can be done?
- Is it wise to escalate this issue? I mean, favoring one employee over another is just poor work ethics but not a criminal offence. The Manager's boss is the company's CEO.
- Is leaving the company the only wise thing one can do in such a situation?
ETA: When the team suggested the Manager could vacate their own PO position for the new-old colleague, the Manager was adamant to keep it because without it, there's actually nothing to "manage" around here.
ETA2: We have only three levels in the company: CEO, PO/Managers (only one in our branch), team members. There is no room for a second PO or a Manager. There used to be more managers before but all of them/us are regular team members now. I think the current Manager lies to us and to their friend too, trying to lessen their own workload and to secure the Friend's help (unofficially), while having absolutely no intention to promote her in the end. That Friend's personality makes the matters worse (she really didn't have to behave like a boss one day in) and the Manager's poor communication and work ethics (taking away other people's projects without comment) made the situation really volatile. We all are going to have a meeting on Monday and hopefully deescalate the situation.