Helping to resolve a long-standing conflict

Simon Cohen

Software Engineering manager at Spotify



"I had two senior engineers with very different views about engineering. One was a pragmatist, while the other was a perfectionist. They had mapped out their territory to be able to work together, but one day a pull request would not go through, as they were arguing via comments over a technical decision."

"The argument escalated very quickly, and by the time I heard about it, it had reached a point where the team was afraid to push their own code. Moreover, this argument went on for weeks, slowing everybody down and blocking the team from working on other issues."

Actions taken

"The day after hearing about this problem, I held a 1:1 meeting with both of them. I pointed out to them that due to this argument the whole team was now afraid of them. It appeared that they had not considered this. They apologized to the team at a stand-up meeting and I made the call to move forward with the technical decision. We also decided to add a 'PR blocked' status check to our daily stand-ups to prevent future issues."

Lessons learned

"Everyone wants their team to succeed, so helping someone to see the negative effect of their behavior on the whole team can help them find empathy for the team and find the motivation to behave in a constructive way. It's a powerful technique, as people may not realize the impact their behavior can have on their teams, unless it is pointed out to them."

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Simon Cohen

Software Engineering manager at Spotify

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseIndividual Contributor RolesAgile, Scrum & KanbanRoles & TitlesTeam & Project Management

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