Sometimes the Scrum-master or any other leader of the team thinks that the team in the process of work increases negative and toxicity. This happens, especially at certain stages of team development. These symptoms should in no case be "let loose", as this is a harbinger of future difficulties. It is here that we need a leader who will help the team go through this stage with the least losses.

What is the main difficulty here? To be precise, there are two difficulties:
1) such a situation really can only seem;
2) if it does not seem what to do with it?

Let's figure it out. I personally advocate several approaches to solving such problems.

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Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The first approach is called "Beauty in the eye of the beholder." That is, toxicity or negativity, like beauty, is also in the eye of the beholder - the Scrum-master may consider that there is a problem, but this is not always true.

Before you take any steps to change the situation, you need to make sure that the problem generally occurs. Toxicity and negativity can be seen out of the blue, simply because the Scrum-master, for example, is used to a different atmosphere in the team or is simply in a bad mood today.

Since I grew up from an engineer, I prefer to rely on some more or less measurable metrics, and not just on my perception.

Of course, such metrics in relation to people do not give a 100% guarantee, because people are difficult to digitize, but this is better than nothing.

We live in a matrix

I think many have heard that the phrase “we live in a matrix” is partly true: what happens in reality and what our brain shows us are two different realities. I will not go into the physiological characteristics of a person, I will only note one fact: each of our eyes has a blind spot that is not sensitive to light, which is not normally detected by us - the brain completes the picture for us.

Therefore, in order to somehow "measure" the reality in relation to negative or toxicity, you can use an empirical metric such as the level of Losad or the coefficient of Losad. What he really is? This is an empirically introduced coefficient that shows the number of negative comments or negative actions in a team in relation to the number of positive ones.

And if this combination turns out to be more than 1 to 3, that is, three positive comments account for more than one negative, then here the problem begins.

It is important to note that there will always be negative comments. This is an evolutionary mechanism designed to save us from the "fierce world around us."

But if such a balance is violated and the ratio of negative comments to positive is 1 to 1, or even 3 to 1, then this is a sure sign that it’s not your perception that’s naughty, but that there is a problem in the team that may adversely affect its performance.

This is the first metric to check before proceeding with the changes.

Separate the grain from the chaff

The second approach is to determine what the problem is and is there any? Even if you notice some increase in negativity in the team, and decide that the problem really takes place, then no. Early. So far this is not a problem, but a fact.

Relatively speaking, the fact that the sun rises every morning is a fact. The water in the sea is wet. The snow is cold. Dirt stains clothes. These are all facts.

For some it’s a problem, for someone it’s not. If a person makes stinging comments about someone or something around what is happening, this is a fact. The question is, is this a problem or not? And if so, what does it consist of? A problem for the team, a problem for the production process, or something else?

I will give an example. At the dawn of the emergence of social networks from colleagues from different areas, I heard that employees are not working, they are sitting in social networks. And that is a fact.But is it a problem? If so, in what?

Maybe they sat in social networks for 10 minutes, but then they issued a three-day norm? Then the social network, it turns out, is not a problem, but rather, is it doping that helps people work better? And instead of closing social networks, maybe you need to open them on the contrary and give unlimited access? This is why it is important to distinguish facts from problems.

If the level of Lozada in your team shows "bad weather", then the task is to determine whether this is a problem or not. That is, who is affected by the current situation, how does it affect what will happen if nothing is changed? In 90% of cases, it turns out that there is no problem or it is in another place. The problem is not that employees are sitting on social networks, but that work is not being done, but this may not be connected with social networks in any way.

Therefore, before solving a problem, make sure that there is a problem, then solve it already.

Leader’s Suitcase

If you determine that there is a problem and it is precisely that someone in the team brings too much negative, then you need to find the right tool for the solution. The set of possible options is quite large, the most universal of them is a one-on-one conversation with a person.

The very first thing that needs to be done as part of such a conversation is to agree with the person before he agrees that there is a problem and what it consists of.

That is, until a person realized that the problem is in his caustic comments that reach the client, the client is dissatisfied, and therefore threatens to take the project away from us, to proceed to discuss solutions early.

Well, for specific decisions, you already need to look at a specific situation, what can be done, what needs to be changed and where to adjust it.

There is also an important rule: if you want to change someone’s behavior, then you need, at a minimum, to know the goals formulated or not formulated by the person that he is pursuing, and to show that his behavior is contrary to these goals. But with this approach you need to be careful, because it takes time, patience and understanding.

If you try to adhere to all of the above tips, then a favorable exit from the "toxic" state of the team is more than likely.

Alexei Kuksyonok, co-author and host of the online course “Profession SCRUM-master” shared tips on working with the team. The first free seminar will take place on July 9 at 7 p.m.

Project Manager at DataArt, Inc. 500 I 5000 (the fastest growing companies in the USA), to the list of 1000 companies "inspiring Britain." He participated in three dozen projects with the number of employees from 2 to 60 people, implemented, as well as using flexible methodologies (Scrum, Kanban), so predictive (PMI-PmBoK).