How does a Scrum Master resolve conflict in a Scrum team?


How Does a Scrum Master Resolve Conflict in a Scrum Team?


Conflict in a Scrum team can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, task-based conflict is essential for innovation and progress. On the other hand, when conflicts escalate beyond tasks and become personal, they can be corrosive and destructive. As a Scrum Master, your role is not to resolve these conflicts directly but to create an environment where team members can resolve them themselves. Let’s explore how you can achieve this.

The Illusion of Control

Understanding Agency

One of the core principles of Agile is that only individuals have control over their actions. This contrasts sharply with traditional project management, where there’s an illusion of control—managers believing they can fix issues or make things happen. In Agile, we discard this illusion.

Empiricism and Control

The essence of empiricism in Agile is that the locus of control lies with the person who owns the data. As a Scrum Master, it’s crucial to clear up any misconceptions about control and help your team embrace this philosophy.

Facilitating Conflict Resolution

Task-Based vs. Personal Conflict

Conflict is essential, provided it’s task-based. When conflicts escalate beyond tasks, they become personal and destructive. We’ve all experienced toxic work environments where trust is low, and conflict is habitual, passive-aggressive, or even aggressive. Such environments are demotivating and challenging.

Promoting Healthy Conflict

  1. Educate on Healthy Conflict: Help everyone understand that task-based conflict is healthy.
  2. Set the Right Environment: Create conditions for life-affirming conflict.
  3. Enable Graceful Exit: Ensure that once conflicts are resolved, all parties feel heard, respected, and understand the next steps.

Building Human Connections

The Importance of Face-to-Face Interaction

One of the beautiful aspects of working in offices is the ability to forge stronger connections through face-to-face interaction. Despite the rise of remote work, there’s immense value in meeting people in person. Sharing a meal or drink helps us see each other as individuals rather than just colleagues.

The Problem with Social Media

Mike Tyson aptly pointed out that social media has made people comfortable disrespecting others without fear of consequences. This anonymity and distance can lead to behaviors that wouldn’t occur in person. For example, during video calls, it’s easy to check emails or social media, something you’d never do in a face-to-face meeting.

Establishing Ground Rules

Setting Expectations

As a Scrum Master, it’s your job to help the team establish ground rules for behavior. These rules should encourage respect and attentiveness, whether in person or online.

Listening Skills

  1. Teach Active Listening: Help team members learn to listen actively.
  2. Encourage Empathy: Promote understanding and playing back each other’s perspectives.
  3. Forge Unified Perspectives: Aim for a synthesis of different viewpoints, leading to better outcomes.

Practical Steps for Scrum Masters

Creating Working Agreements

Shape working agreements that emphasize respect, active listening, and empathy. These agreements should be revisited regularly to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

Facilitating Team Activities

  1. Team-Building Exercises: Organize activities that help team members connect on a personal level.
  2. Regular Check-Ins: Hold regular check-ins to gauge team dynamics and address any brewing conflicts early.
  3. Conflict Resolution Workshops: Provide training on conflict resolution techniques.


As a Scrum Master, you’re not responsible for solving conflicts directly. Instead, your role is to facilitate an environment where team members can resolve conflicts themselves gracefully. By promoting healthy task-based conflict, setting the right environment, building human connections, and establishing clear ground rules, you can help your team navigate conflicts effectively and grow stronger together.

Key Takeaways

  • Task-Based Conflict is Healthy: Encourage and educate your team on the importance of task-based conflict.
  • Create the Right Environment: Set up conditions that allow for life-affirming conflict and graceful exits.
  • Build Human Connections: Foster face-to-face interactions and personal connections within the team.
  • Establish Ground Rules: Implement and enforce ground rules for respectful and attentive behavior.
  • Facilitate, Don’t Resolve: Your role is to facilitate the environment for conflict resolution, not to resolve conflicts directly.

By following these principles, you can help your Scrum team navigate conflicts effectively, leading to a more harmonious and productive work environment. 🌟

Connect with Advanced Product Delivery.

APD offer private, tailored training courses as well as business agility and coaching. Our public training courses are delivered by practicing Agilists: Product Owners, Scrum Masters and coaches who are expert trainers and facilitators.

Whether you are looking to become a #scrummaster or #agilecoach, we have a range of internationally certified and recognised #agiletraining courses that are perfect for you. Visit Professional Scrum Training courses for more information.

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