Learn best practices for QA leaders managing a team of testers with variances in skill, work ethic, productivity and behaviors to keep your team moving forward.
As a QA Lead, QA Project Lead or even a QA Manager, part of the role includes managing other people’s work and overall job performance. As a team leader, you’re expected to manage variances in employees’ productivity, behaviors and ability to collaborate professionally with each other.
Additional work involved in managing employee performance is managing employee career goals or helping them to grow professionally to meet their career goals. Alongside career support is keeping employees engaged with their work and happy with the organization.
The challenge with managing teams is they are made up of individuals who vary in skill, productivity and behaviors. Some employees are hard workers who turn out quality work consistently. Other employees perform quality work but at a slower pace, and there are those who work at only meeting the minimum job requirements. Teams may also include a few difficult employees who are a bad fit or appear unable to function within a team structure.
This guide describes best practices for QA leaders to equitably manage the variances in QA testing team member behaviors and performance successfully.
Variances in behavior are the different ways individual team members act, respond and perform their work responsibilities. Since a team is made of individuals with unique ways of accomplishing work, a variety of behaviors can be witnessed within any team.
Examples of behavior variances include:
Mentors are team members willing to train others. They share knowledge freely and accurately so other team members can grow in their careers. Mentors support other team members while performing their work at a consistently high level.
The other side of a mentor is a competitor. Competitors only compete and hoard information—or worse, give other team members incorrect information in hopes of diminishing others’ work or career progress.
Productive team behavior includes the ability to work closely with others on project tasks. The ability to collaborate successfully heavily influences the productivity of a QA testing team.
Without collaboration, team members mark out their territories, if you will, and defend them. Team members unwilling or unable to collaborate often work alone on solitary projects or older projects that require less work.
In the same manner, collaborative employees often are willing to take on more difficult tasks to learn or grow their careers. QA testers who insist on working alone typically only perform the work assigned. They don’t volunteer to assist others and even redo work to appear busy.
Negative or hostile team members who tend to bully or domineer others are a consistent challenge. They can quickly demoralize and destroy a team if not dealt with quickly and effectively. Team members who bully others are those who can often control a meeting by influencing others not to speak up or take part. Hostile or negative employees often ignore practices and procedures as an act of defiance or to assert control.
Poor performance and behavior issues within a team must be addressed. Often, team leaders attempt to ignore the problem or coach around it. The first step must be to directly engage the employee with a productive intervention as immediately as possible. Why? Because ignoring the problem and hoping it’ll go away is a form of inaction that results in unhappy employees, disengaged team members and low morale. Don’t let bad apples ruin the entire crop.
Poor performers and hostile or negative team members can undermine leadership, organization policies and procedures, and destroy team productivity. Unprofessional behaviors and poor performance are issues that never resolve on their own, they only worsen.
As a leader, check in with other team members and then speak directly to the problem employee. Make it clear the intention is to help the employee improve. During the initial meeting, determine if the employee is willing to change or receive coaching and career support. Employees who are willing to change will acknowledge there is a problem.
Team members who are unwilling to change will blame others and not accept that they are causing issues. There’s no sense in spending time on an employee who is unwilling to learn or change. You’ll have to decide if the employee is worth the cost to the team and its productivity.
If the employee is willing to improve, then involve them directly in creating an action plan. Don’t make the mistake of stopping there and never following up on their progress.
As a team leader, you’ll need to stay involved in monitoring the employee’s progress continuously over a designated period. Observe their work and measure their productivity where possible. Keep tabs on their behavior within the team and the organization.
If the non-performer improves as planned, then allow them to continue without constant monitoring. If the behavior and performance have not improved or even worsened, then the employee must be terminated for the sake of the team.
When addressing bad behavior or performance, remember to:
Variances in employee behavior and performance are expected because teams are made up of individuals. However, if you have team members adversely affecting the productivity of the team because of unprofessional behavior or poor performance, you must take action to support the team.
The team should consist of employees who perform their work roles as productively and effectively as possible while supporting their individual goals and those of their team members. Effective and productive employees build the team up, are engaged and work within the team structure.
Coach poor performers when possible and terminate those who work against the team or refuse to change. Teams work together best when each professionally respects the other and works toward a common goal. Don’t let the QA testing team be destroyed by ignoring poor performance or negative team behaviors. Build your team into a cohesive and collaborative unit and add business value to the organization.
Next up: Discover some tips for QA testers working with difficult team members.
A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management. She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.
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