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I work in an Agile/Scrum environment. We are a small team. We start sprint (two weeks) as all teams do, plan work and do it. There are some seniors in the team that basically don't (won't) work.

Senior team members will assign one or two tickets, relatively easy tasks, and hold onto them for the whole two weeks. But they just have some trick to appear busy. We juniors, 30% of the team do all(more than 80%) of work. But as we are working in scrum, whole team gets credit at the end.

At start I kept going this way, just to learn things but now it is just irritating and demotivating. A person working 80% less than me cashes 300% more than me, and most of the credit.

We do have a scrum master but his philosophy is to work as team, (I actually haven't raised this issue in retrospective or in person with him). But I know what his answer will be.

We use 360 Degree Feedback, will definitely give low scores to the problematic senior, but they are about 70% of team and all on good terms with each other so my feedback won't hurt them much.

I want some guidance in this scenario, if you have ever met this kind of problem how did you solve it.

  • I definitely cannot switch my job right now, I'm here for the past 8 months, don't want to quit before getting at least 1 year experience on my CV as it will be bad for me(career). (talking w.r.t my Location)
  • We are web developers, nothing fancy most of the time just some crud work.
  • If you need any more info, please comment I'll add that.

EDIT:

  • I would like to earn more money I think I'm working more than others.
  • Can't ask for more money staying on current job(yep, there is a ladder like every where) and can't switch as said above

EDIT 2:

  • An answer has mentioned that seniors do a lot of other stuff, so it is not good to just measure their performance by assigned tickets. I completely agree with this. The point that I may have missed above is that I do exactly same work as them, we use Scrum so every thing is transparent. I give demo, I discuss requirements with product owners as they do, I do code reviews, I help juniors as (I guess not a surprise, they don't).

tl;dr EDIT2: When I say I do 80% of work I mean all kinds of work, not just the junior level work

EDIT 3:

  • This is getting down votes and it would be great if you can mention the reason if you do the same
  • Some people are assuming that I have not assessed the situation read above
    • I'm working there for about a year?
    • I know what valuable work is, I have said we work in Scrum, so don't just say Seniors might be doing some work that I'm not aware of. We are pretty clear who is working on what.

A lot of comments are just assuming that I don't know the situation or that I may be lying or they simply don't agree with my question, so I guess I maybe working with wrong people(Seniors)! or all the negative comments and down votes are from some other junior's Seniors.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Chris E, gazzz0x2z, Chris G, IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 7 '16 at 19:19

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    This would be more pleasant to read if you summarize the edits into one or two quick paragraph that makes your updated points. Also some "Edits" right now should probably just be comments, e.g. "I completely agree with this" paragraph and "This is gettting downvotes" point. – Brandin Dec 7 '16 at 7:32
  • This is getting downvoted because in its current state is not useful to the community. Good questions are clear and concise with definite answers. – user30031 Dec 7 '16 at 12:17
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings it is not a duplicate. Your question is general. My question is specifically about Scrum teams (remember- No boss, no manager, self functioning teams!). So the answers to your question are to tell the manager(not possible) and let the weak(corrupt, senior) die his own death; it is also not possible, once a sprint is passed it is passed, no one will know who worked and who didn't. – Blue Dec 8 '16 at 17:43
  • @blue Hey there, Blue! You question may be getting a bit of backlash because Junior Developers saying that the Seniors slack off and do almost nothing is, unfortunately, a pretty common scenario on the IT world. Most of the time the Junior lacks some sort of insight about the Senior work, and that makes him or her feel undervalued. While it may not be your case and your senior could be really slacking off, the community is a bit skeptic of those scenarios overall. So, really, don't be upset if people don't really take it at face value. It's not personal, is just the historic of similar cases. – T. Sar Dec 9 '16 at 13:09
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We use 360 Degree Feedback, will definitely give low scores to the problematic senior

Don't do this.

(I want to be clear here that if you think they are committing fraud with regard to fake reporting of work done, or are going to tank an entire project, or something equally serious, then you do need to raise it to the appropriate channels, but it seems like your question comes from a dual "they don't work as hard as me" sour grapes combined with "I'm not fairly compensated or rewarded" sad feelings, rather than serious legal/moral problems, so that's where this answer comes from).

So yeah, don't do this.

Giving them low scores will:

  1. Not hurt them. They will not be demoted, they will not have their salary lowered. If it comes to a head, they will be listened to because they are senior.
  2. Not benefit you. You will not be promoted or have your workload decreased, or your salary increased, for complaining and giving low scores.
  3. Make you look bad, for being unable to get on with your team
  4. Make your team look bad, to the rest of the developer teams and to the wider company, for being divided, inefficient, and less productive.

Quoting a lot from here, but it's worth reading in full:

https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/its-time-to-stop-hating-and-start-learning/

We technologists work harder, tend to bring more in terms of natural ability, and yet “they” (meaning executives) make three or ten or fifty times as much, for considerably less work, and they have a lot more job and career security. We learn new programming languages and tools (as our jobs, constantly evolving, require) on our own time, and sometimes sacrifice weekends to tackle production issues. They, on the other hand, can work 11-to-4, because their bosses care more about in-group cohesion than what gets done. They define their jobs and, unless their assertions are utterly unreasonable, write their own performance reviews, easily justifying raises.

Why are “they” winning? It’s a lesson in collective intelligence. It really matters. [..] Often, we use our individual gifts to compete, stupidly, with each other. We need to stop being resentful of “business types”, and start learning from their superior collective intelligence. What are they doing that we aren’t? We’re working harder and we are smarter, individually speaking, but they are working smarter, which is what actually matters.

[..] Can you even imagine a Harvard MBA justifying his own working time in terms of two-week “sprints” or “iterations”? Of course not. It’s inconceivable. So what did they do right that we did wrong?

[..] A friend of mine worked at a large bank with “360-degree” performance reviews. Ratings were on a 9-point scale with 5 as the intended average. The lowest-rated group was technology, where the average person got about a 6.5. The salespeople and executives and business analysts all gave each other high ratings, regardless of whether they thought each other “deserved” high scores, and so all of the “soft skills” departments came in with averages above 8.5. The programmers gave each other “honest” ratings, which shows collective stupidity, because it showed a willingness to rat each other out to management. The business people had the collective and political intelligence not to put bad scores, even when they were deserved, on the record. In most of the bank, people wrote reviews for themselves and had them signed by peers. There was a mutually beneficial (i.e. positive-sum) trade of credibility going on. Business people are smart enough to give criticism verbally, off the record, and to give glowing reviews when on the record. They recognize that preserving the credibility of the group is one of the most important things that they can do at work. Not so for programmers.

I can imagine that some programmers will read this and say that it proves that we are the honest ones, and that “business people” are corrupt in some way. I disagree completely with that viewpoint. They played politics effectively, and the programmers didn’t. End of story. The business people (traders, investment bankers, salespeople) saw that the executives were trying to collect data that could be used against them, and so they jammed the signal in order to minimize the probability of harm coming to anyone. The programmers played politics poorly, because they couldn’t keep their mouths shut, and probably got hit harder in the next round of layoffs.

[..] Programmers are “honest” when it comes to reviewing each others’ performance (which is not to say that they’re correct) and it tends to have three effects. One is that it creates drama. The business people realized that if everyone got top ratings and glowing verbal feedback, the performance-review system could be rendered a formality and they could all get back to work. Problem solved: it becomes a once-a-year annoyance that takes up half an afternoon, rather than something that people fret and grouse about for months beforehand and afterward. The programmers, by being stupid and back-stabby, gave the performance reviews teeth, and created drama that lasted for a long time. The second is that it creates division. Numerical performance scores lead to false objectivity and that leads to permanent rifts within the company, as people withhold information and form alliances in order to game the system. Thirdly, it makes programmers look incompetent. If they’re getting the lowest ratings (because they’re slamming their peers, reports, and bosses) then the organization concludes that must be the worst people in the firm. They’ll never get respect.


Is your team more likely to get rewards, pay rises and promotions, if everyone gives each other bitchy and 'honest' 360-degree feedback, or if everyone on your team sings each other's praises?

Your number one concern is whether you have enough work, whether you can do it, and whether you feel compensated fairly. This is between you and your employer. What other people do, what they earn, what they get, is not your business unless they are your employees to manage. Seeking to reduce their situation is lame, instead seek to improve your situation.

Your number two concern is keeping everything working well. Make your team look good. To other teams, to other parts of the company. Not by being a doormat, or by doing their jobs for them, but by appearing publically supportive - they are your teammates, your coworkers. Team success is your success, even if they take most of the credit. Angle to get more of the credit for your team and more for you as well, if you need that to feel valued.

Reduce your "doing 80% of the team's work" output, if you need to. Are you paid like 80% of the team? No. Do you get a share in the rewards of the product sales? Probably not. Are you "working hard" or are you "working more than you're paid for, then being bitter at other people who are not"?

You say you can't ask for more money and can't get promoted, but feel you are working more than you are paid for. There's only one thing that can change here to correct this triangle.

Report what great successes you have, to your managers, make sure they know you are working, and make sure they know you know it. Sing your own praises, let others manage themselves. But sing their praises as well, so they'll do the same for you. Seniors singing your praises would probably have more influence than you think it ought.


Related: The IT Crowd sitcom, 'team' scene

  • Thanks for detailed answer. Not sure what I was looking for by posting the question here. Just curious, you explained very well, can I ask if it has ever been asked before from you, and what was the question :) – Blue Dec 6 '16 at 20:09
  • @Blue Thank you. :) I've never been asked it before - this was just pieces copied-and-pasted from the linked blog, and the remainder was written off the top of my head. I have read a lot of Michael O'Church's essays on his blog in the past, and it has changed how I think about internal reviews and feedback, why it exists, how it works. It seemed on-topic for your question. – TessellatingHeckler Dec 6 '16 at 21:04
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Senior devs often do much more than "just" development work. So if you only go by assigned dev tickets, it might appear that the Seniors only do n % of the work. But the other work takes the majority of the time - often more than normal hours. For example in my case, my dev tickets fluctuate between maybe 40 - 90 % of the week's hours, but I have constantly more work on the plate than one week has hours. And at least half of those are unrelated to straight development work. Mostly firefighting, bureaucracy, meetings, interviewing candidates, documentation, gathering requirements etc. And I'm not even a Senior developer by title.

  • I agree 100%, but I guess I haven't phrased my question correctly. I'll edit. But for now I know seniors do deployments, discussions with product owners, guide juniors, take responsibility, code reviews and I know I'm missing a lot more, but I also do all the above. We work in Scrum so I know what is happening and how much. – Blue Dec 6 '16 at 19:12
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    One senior slacking off is believable, but 70% of the team doing it and nobody noticing? Unlikely. – DJClayworth Dec 6 '16 at 19:15
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    Agree with @DJClayworth we more semior people are often doing more work than it appears. More so when you're running things through your head or doing rubber duck debugging. – Retired Codger Dec 6 '16 at 19:23
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    @Blue as a junior, you have no idea how much the seniors do, that's why they're seniors. It's not only about what they're doing, it's about what they can do. If things start going south fast and you have emergencies that need handling, you'd better have happy senior people there to jump in. THAT is their value and that is also what you don't see and is also why management often turns a blind eye to less than 100% output because they know that they need these people if a nightmare scenario ends up happening – Retired Codger Dec 6 '16 at 19:26
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    @ThalesPereira While I cannot dispute the fact that this happens in reality, it has nothing to do with Scrum. Then they aren't doing Scrum, they are doing something and calling it Scrum. If they actually were doing Scrum, their POCs and analysis work would be part of the backlog. Or at least part of the capacity planning and transparent. Just doing "something else" and not telling anybody what it might be is not Scrum at all. – nvoigt Dec 9 '16 at 12:39
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I actually haven't raised this issue in retrospective or in person with him

In Scrum, this is the way to go. You've got issues, raise them in the retrospective. As always, do not put blame on persons and focus on the Scrum values. If the seniors are constantly pulling less story points than the juniors, it does not mean they are slacking off. It means you are estimating wrong (either their stories or yours or both) or they have other work to do that you don't see, which means you lack transparency, another Scrum value. Bring that up and ask for opinions on how to improve both estimation and transparency.

Personally speaking, if your seniors hang onto a ticket that was estimated to be done easily in a few days (taking story points and velocity) your Scrum master and your team should ask if they need help if they don't seem to get it done after said time. Make the time it takes to finish a ticket transparent. For example, we just mark a ticket as it's on the board when the daily comes around with a pen. It stands out if there is a ticket in progress that has a lot of marks but a small amount of story points. People will see it and people will ask. That's Scrum. Transparency is one of it's pillars.

  • I could do that, but they are majority, it will just be a political mess for me to say any. Even if I point out this in retrospective, they will know whom I'm talking about (of course about all of them). – Blue Dec 6 '16 at 19:46
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    Scrum values openness and courage. So be open and courageous. Or duck and cover and get a new job. It's your decision. Nobody here will be able to give you a magic-anti-slacker-raygun. – nvoigt Dec 6 '16 at 19:51
  • +1 interesting question and answer - I was having exactly the same problem in my Scrum team. Retrospective helped us identify why it was happening, developer didn't break his stories down thoroughly enough and estimated incorrectly. – bobo2000 Mar 17 '17 at 15:35
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All the others post are stating that the seniors must have some workload you are not seeing. In the case that the seniors are really doing less work than you:

You must takes the high road. Blaming others will get you nothing in the workplace. Work your share or work more than your share if you want to get noticed. You are young (less than 1 year of experience), as time passed by, you will only found that the workplace is (most of the time) unfair. It not about how much you do but about how much is noticed and by whom it is noticed.

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