Don’t Mix Friendship or Politics with Testing

There were times in my testing career when I found myself in a complicated spot as a result of my attempts to be a “good friend”, and in some cases a “team player”.

team playerThe problem is that when we are testing and we find issues, sometimes we feel bad communicating these bugs or even problems to everyone in the team or the organization, because of the repercussions these findings may have.

It may be the case that we feel it may be better to keep it quiet and tell “only the people who are directly involved” on it, so they can fix it quickly.  This person may be a friend who we do not want to harm with our findings.

Other times it may be more political than this, and we may even be asked by Team Leaders or Managers to keep this “within the team” because we do not want to cause any unnecessary noise with management or other stakeholders.

Is this categorically wrong?

Here is the issue, sometimes it is OK to keep this quiet or within the team.

Yes, there are circumstances when communicating to everyone will end up causing noise that was not needed or beneficial overall.   Or even worse, what you did may only be helpful for people who did not want the best for your project or your team (and if this is hard for you to imagine, then bless you as you are not aware of dirty company politics!).

team player

But other times hiding this information is wrong.

I have been in situations where, because I did not raise this flag on time to the management team, the company was not able to make the needed decisions to correct the damage.

In these situations, even though in the short run I might have done a good deed to a friend or behaved like a team-player, in the long run, I did not fulfill my job as a professional tester in order to detect and communicate the issues and the risks in the project.

It is tricky…

It is not always simple to understand what course you need to follow.  But this does not spare you from the obligation to make this decision.  To own the call.

My only suggestion, and it is far from bulletproof, is to be very careful and to try to be as objective and professional as possible.

When you decide who needs to know what, and when, make it about the benefit of the project and the company, not about friendship or team-comradery – and do all you can not get involved in workplace politics.

Be straight, be professional, make sure people know upfront what your reasons and rationale for making decisions are.

bringing news

Think of a doctor giving a hard and depressing prognosis. The reason they do it, the way they do, is so that the patient knows what to expect and how to react.  You can be realistic and provide the bad news together with the good ones, pointing out not only the issues but also how the team can overcome them.  But in the end, your job is not to be a professional friend or a professional team player.

You are a professional tester, so better be professional about it.

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