27

I am a new developer and have landed a job where most of the developers are also recent college graduates. While the position is not ideal, I view it more as an opportunity to become a stronger developer and build my resume so that I may get the job I want. However, I would like advice on dealing with a difficult scrum master. Here are the specific challenges:

  1. They frequently talk about members on our team to other teammates rather than talk to that person directly. While they do not have any technical experience, they are quick to put us down, label us as lazy, and openly berate us for issues that are not in our control.
  2. They do not respect their developers' time. We are frequently asked to write emails or manage communications to get our code deployed/QA'd on their behalf, which interrupts our development work. If we do not do this, they criticize us as being lazy or not doing our work. In order to complete tasks, most developers work in the evenings or weekends, even though we are hourly workers and are essentially working for free.
  3. They are unable to communicate effectively with our superiors to get work done, so they ask us to do this on their behalf. They openly complain about our superiors even though we need the scrum master to have a good relationship with them to get our work done.
  4. They struggle maintaining a professional demeanor and blow up over every set-back. As they also micromanage, they are included in everything we do. Every comment on a code review is analyzed and often complained about to other people on the team.
  5. They are quick to get developers fired. In the short time they have been on the job, they have rotated through five new developers. They openly complain that they cannot find 'good developers.'

Ultimately, the development team is stressed out. Since this is my first job as a developer, I would like to know if this is normal behavior. Also, does anyone have tips on how to deal with this type of personality?

  • 11
    It is a good idea to wait a day before accepting to get additional answers. – paparazzo Jul 16 '17 at 18:57
  • 8
    This is a bad, BAD situation, and it is not normal. Spend as long as you can stand at the company gaining experience, as well as looking for new work at the same time. If you next company asks why you leave, simply tell them that your current company expected hourly workers to work for free. – Jeff.Clark Jul 17 '17 at 0:06
  • 20
    The Scrum Master's job is literally to protect the team from people like this Scrum Master. :( – Erik Jul 17 '17 at 5:48
  • 9
    RUN. A company that employs and empowers people that call themselves "Scrum Master" but very obviously have no idea what Scrum is, is doomed to fail and worse, make you miserable in the process. Stay as long as you have to to not starve and find a better job ASAP. – nvoigt Jul 17 '17 at 8:10
  • "They are quick to get developers fired. In the short time they have been on the job..." Out of curiosity, how long have they been there? Not that it has any bearing on their failures as a SCM, your vague wording has me curious. – krillgar Jul 17 '17 at 10:56
30

No, this is definitely not a normal behaviour, and should never be the way to write software. There are generally three options:

1) Discuss the issue with the upper management
You will need support from the whole team to do this, but the output may be even worse culture, and you may lose your job. If you go with this, be really careful; try to find out what the PO/management thinks on how the development should be done.

2) Spend few months in the company to gain relevant experience, then run away
This is what I would recommend you. And don't be afraid to tell this situation in your following interviews; a good interviewer would definitely understand this as a perfectly good reason to change jobs. Just practice for your interviews, and you will be fine.

3) Run away now
Start immediately to seek for your job; however as a junior this option is too risky in my opinion, and however bad is the situation, you would significantly gain from 6-12 months experience in the job before leaving.

What is your country btw, are you from US? This sounds pretty much the worst way to work on software I can imagine.

  • 3
    Ok! For US, expecting overtime work may be more common thing than here in Finland, where it is very rare. American friends may provide more inside on that. – satellink Jul 16 '17 at 19:13
  • 4
    If you're in the US, they may be breaking the law if you are hourly workers and not being paid overtime. – Daenyth Jul 17 '17 at 1:06
  • 10
    The limitation of Option 2) is that the OP is unlikely to be learning a lot in this environment, especially since they have to work overtime and weekends. IMO, Option 3) is totally reasonable. – Akavall Jul 17 '17 at 5:52
  • 4
    Regarding (2) - even with this situation, it is worth practicing a positive "spin" on the reason why you are looking for work. Complaining about your recent job at an interview - even if justified - is risky because it is often taken as a negative point by the interviewers. Unless the interviewers know the company in question they cannot tell the difference between it being a bad place to work or an overly-negative employee. – Neil Slater Jul 17 '17 at 6:39
  • 1
    Regarding nr. 3: (...) you would significantly gain from 6-12 months experience in the job (...) - those would be 6-12 months of misery in which you'll be constantly stressed, overworked and it will basically make you miserable in your personal life as well. Also, how valueable is the experience at such a company? I'm not really sure it's worth it. Personally, if it's relatively easy to get another job in that location, I would just quit and look for another company (in that order, if your savings allow it). – Radu Murzea Jul 17 '17 at 13:58
20

Show your management this answer, telling them that if your description is right, then this is about the most incompetent "scrum master" I've ever heard of. And that person is indeed not a scrum master.

The scrum master's responsibility is to make sure that there are stories ready, make sure that these stories have reasonable story points, to make sure that the right amount of stories go into the next sprint, and keep track how many stories the team is doing. And their responsibility is to communicate progress with everyone who needs to be involved.

The scrum masters responsibility is NOT to comment on the quality of anyone's work. Actually, the quality of your work is none of the scrum master's business. If they think it is, they don't know what a scrum master is. And if your scrum master can get someone fired, then your management doesn't understand what a scrum master is. A bit of training would be helpful.

Now what you should do for yourself, stop doing unpaid overtime and instead use that time to look for a new position.

  • 3
    "The scrum master's responsibility is to make sure that there are stories ready, make sure that these stories have reasonable story points, to make sure that the right amount of stories go into the next sprint, and keep track how many stories the team is doing. And their responsibility is to communicate progress with everyone who needs to be involved." -- absolutely not. What you are describing is the Product Owner. – AnoE Jul 17 '17 at 11:28
  • 1
    Well the Product Owner is responsible for coming up with the content for stories. However, it is the job of the Scrum Master to make sure that stories are ready to be worked. So that might mean taking a story to the dev team to see if it's ready to be pointed, and if not, then take it back to the PO for more details. Also, no the PO has nothing to do with how many stories are being worked on / are in the sprint. – industry7 Jul 17 '17 at 13:57
  • 1
    @industry7 "However, it is the job of the Scrum Master to make sure that stories are ready to be worked." Please read the Scrum Guide by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber: "Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items. The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done.". So it's the responsibility of the team, although the Scrum Master should facilitate the process. – Arjan Jul 18 '17 at 19:59
11

Anything less than a year is going to look short term so you might as well start looking now. Don't take just any job. You might want to go through a recruiter so jobs can be screened and you don't have to take as many calls at work. This job is not going to get better any time soon.

Learn and ask questions during the interview process.

If you go over his head he is likely to find a reason to fire you.

Try and keep the overtime down but let him beat you out the door.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.