Don’t let other people’s unprofessionalism affect your attitude

Unprofessional     It is your first day in a new job, contract or assignment, so you don’t know the people, processes or politics of the new work-place. However, you have your own way of working, things that go well for you and professional standards which you have brought with you – one key item in your conceptual briefcase.

Then you hear the words that will become common place during your time there: “We don’t do that here”.

The first two or three days in a new workplace can be a whirlwind. Names to remember, trying to recall whether you turn left or right down the corridor for the bathroom facilities, arrival times, dress codes, where the photocopier is …… Wow!
It is all the little things that are just part of the working environment. It is also the time that you stamp your mark on how people will remember you, and a key is your response to the spoken and unspoken “We don’t do that here”.

An important point is that you will make a first impression in those early days. You only make a first impression once.

I have been hired on a contract basis for the major part of my working life, so very often have come into a workplace as a ‘new boy’, where the team is established.

This has sometimes been when all eyes are on you as the new-comer, and one thing I have learn is that you need to quickly establish credibility. Some long-standing working friendships have grown from a mutual respect that was originally born out of suspicion of the new kid on the block from others who were there before I was.
Establish that you know what you are talking about with a developer in the early days and you have a wonderful ally to bounce ideas off and together work through some of the stony roads that jointly lie ahead for you both.

So, how do you react to “We don’t do that here”? First of all, by example.

The first time you hear the words, you may be surprised. It is a document review meeting, and you have prepared your comments in advance, when you are confronted with the words. Experience has shown me that the more preparation you do before a review meeting, the better the result will be for the overall document quality. I will carry on doing it!

Passionate about quality until the end, it will actually save me time in the end.

Not every “We don’t do that here” is a battle to be fought, it least initially. It depends upon your role in the company. Being brought in as head of testing and being brought in as a test execution engineer are very different, but even as head of testing, some “We don’t do that here” statements are worth fighting more that others. Imagine some wonderful testing that is going on, and no evidence is collected.

That may be the first place to start. Not just the activity of saving screen shots and data files, but the reason why these things are captured. Testing not only should be done, but be seen to be done – available to be shown to auditors as necessary and as requested.

Starting in a new situation will always be a clash of cultures (to a greater or lesser extent). In the end, either you will be changed by the existing work-place attitudes, or you will change others, and unlike the proverbial binary switch, it is likely that both will happen.

Not everything will be right about you and not everything wrong about the workplace you now find yourself in. Look to grow your professionalism, and increase that of those around you. It will do you good, and assist in the war of attrition that we call software testing. A true win-win situation.

So, how do you do this? This is not only for new starters at a company. Admittedly it is easier if you are just beginning at a firm, or have just moved to a new are of work there, but it is possible if you have been there some time.

Question the “We don’t do that here” attitudes, including where you find it is your point of view. Speak up for the end game of what testers are about; providing high quality software that adds real business value within the constraints of time, money and the feature list.
Increase technical knowledge, both in yourself and in colleagues by reading about test techniques, or document review hints and tips, and practice the knowledge that you have acquired.
I have sometimes been involved in “brown bag” sessions at lunchtime, where, over lunch, a work-related topic is discussed (and guess what? Each participant brings their own lunch, often in the brown bag of the title!)

Have you ever worked with people that are actually 35 years old, but are by their very actions, looking forward to retirement? They are 35 going on 65. That is not me. I want to be alive with the idea of changing the working attitude of others, to make them more professional, whilst learning what I can from them.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that everything I say and do is right, and others need to learn from me. What I am saying is that changes in a work culture have to begin somewhere.

Challenging the “We don’t do that here” is a very good place to start.

Peter Morgan, Freelance software tester

, Freelance software tester

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