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In my current role, I am responsible for managing several teams, for where I am accountable for their performance and how they work together to deliver work. I am the scrum master.

In one team I have a colleague (product owner) who does the following:

  • Withholds key information from me, or slow to give it to me.

By not inviting me to key meetings.

Giving me misinformation/bending the truth so that I am not able to assess the situation properly where all of the facts are presented to me. Then using that as a way to influence the outcome in their favour.

  • Publicly tries to put me in a negative light in front of other team members to increase their influence in the team they are working in.

They have done this by sharing confidential information with team members that I have shared with them in confidence, whenever I have had concerns over team performance.

When confronted, my colleague would justify their action by mentioning that they have not done anything wrong, and their action was justified, since 'the team should know'.

  • Tries to take perform aspect of my role, using any work carried out by them to improve their profile as a basis for performance review.

i.e. Leading discussions and making decisions with the rest of the team over how they should be working without me being involved.

  • Ignores any of my advise or feedback over how they should be doing their job, based on their areas of responsibilities - making it more difficult to influence and shape how the team is working, affecting their performance.

Where when there are issues with team performance ends up coming back onto me.

The issue I have is where management have not been particularly supportive with this colleague and are continuously encouraging them to work in this way. They seem to be getting credit for anything positive that happens with the team, but are never held accountable for anything negative that happens to them. I am the one that is. So this eventually leads to me being overlooked for promotions, with management taking out their frustrations onto me.

Anybody else on here been in this situation, how did you handle it so that you could create a fairer environment?

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    You need to clarify the hierarchy a bit. Is this colleague a subordinate or a peer ?
    – JayZ
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 13:58
  • Can you clarify the team structures? You are the manager... how do teams manage themselves? Surely they have a sub-manager for each? Whether you call that a team lead or your are doing something like Scrum and you call it a Product Owner... who is responsible to report the teams output to you? And how does the person in question fit into that hierarchy?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 15:11
  • Have you tried reflection? If someone's acting in a certain way, perhaps there's something you've done or are doing to promote it. For example, I find it interesting that you felt justified in sharing a performance concern with someone and then got upset when they shared it with the very person/team it's about. I absolutely stand by their decision to tell the person and would do the same myself in a heartbeat. re-read and realized I assumed it was about a person - could be about the whole team
    – user83977
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 19:20
  • Sorry if I was the clear. I’m the scrum master , they are the product owner. Where I work the scrum master is accountable for team performance.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 22:43

2 Answers 2

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It sounds like some change is needed from both parties here. Some of the team leader's behaviours sound poor. As their manager, you are ideally placed to raise this with them, coach them into better behaviours or discipline them if they are incapable of change.

I have some sympathy with your team lead on some of your other points. It does sound like you're keeping them on a very short leash, expecting to be involved in day to day running of the team. While that is your prerogative as the manager, it seems inefficient. You won't have enough hours in the day to micromanage a number of teams. And why even bother with team lead positions if you need to be involved in the day to day decisions?

If you back off from some of the detailed decision making, you might find your team lead is more amenable to your suggestions in other areas. It would also help if you agree key targets with your manager then give your teams targets that align with yours. That way, there will be far less future debate with your team lead about whether things are currently going well or need improvement.

In response to your specific bullets:

Withholds key information from me, or slow to give it to me.

This sounds unacceptable. If you have evidence of this happening, I'd raise it (verbally) immediately, following up with an email summary. If this continued to happen, involve your HR team and investigate a performance improvement or disciplinary plan.

Publicly tries to put me in a negative light in front of other team members to increase their influence in the team they are working in.

I can see merit in the team lead telling an underperforming team member "bobo2000 is concerned about your work. What can we do to make you more productive". Mentioning your conversation helps deal with an issue quickly and quietly.

If this happens in other, less justified cases, stop sharing so much information. If the team lead asks why they don't hear as much from you, explain that this is because you can't trust them to maintain confidence.

Tries to take perform aspect of my role, using any work carried out by them to improve their profile as a basis for performance review.

This sounds entirely appropriate. I'd expect a team leader to be taking responsibility for the day to day running of their team. The majority of your interaction should be with the team leader. Otherwise, you might as well be leading the team directly. I wonder whether you need to take a step back here?

Setting up shared goals should ensure that the team lead is trying to make decisions you'd approve of.

Ignores any of my advise or feedback over how they should be doing their job, based on their areas of responsibilities - making it more difficult to influence and shape how the team is working, affecting their performance.

It would be reasonable to give your team leaders some amount of freedom to run their teams as they see fit. If they do this and meet all company goals, everyone should be happy. If the team lead's way of doing things is causing company goals to be missed, you have evidence to show them why change is needed.

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  • Nowhere in the original post is it said that this team member is the team leader, unless I'm being blind. They could just be the most senior member, but not in any formal leader role. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 14:23
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    I'd assumed this person was a team leader but I see what you mean. I'll delete my answer if the OP clarifies that it is a team member
    – simonc
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 14:25
  • I initially thought it sounded like a team leader but it started to sound more like a rebellious team member when I continued. I am really not sure. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 14:39
  • It's also possible that the colleague is a peer manager. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 15:53
  • Sorry if I was not clear. They are not a team leader, Product owner, where I’m the scrum master accountable for the teams performance. That’s why them doing my work is a problem.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 22:45
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Put them on a Performance Improvement Plan.

Simply put, it sounds like your subordinate isn't fulfilling the responsibilities of their role, and you have an itemised list of areas where they are failing to do so.

So, take that itemised list, and write it up as a Performance Improvement Plan. For instance, if one of the areas of deficiency is "sharing information told in confidence", then one of the areas of improvement should be "appropriately maintains confidence of private information". Then, put a timed deadline on it, like three or six months.

At the end of the time period, you assess whether or nor they've improved their behaviour; if they have, great. If they haven't, you now have a justification for firing them. Either way, the problem had now been solved.

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