5 Top Tips On Helping A Tester Feel Like More Than Just A “Resource”

Can you imagine being a new starter right now, when everyone is working from home? Have you ever had the experience of feeling like “just another number” and want to stop this from happening to someone else? 💁💁‍♂️

In this shared blog post, Beth Marshall, Senior Test Engineer and Laveena Ramchandani, Senior Test Consultant will discuss practical ways to feel comfortable and make the colleagues you spend so much of your time with feel the same 📝.

Most of us have, at some point in our testing careers, had the experience of feeling like an outsider. Perhaps it’s joining a really tight team with lots of “in” jokes that are totally lost on you, or who you find it hard to communicate with. Or maybe working with a really difficult individual who always seems to find a way of making you feel crummy.

It sucks, and it sucks that so many people can easily relate, because it’s a situation most of us have found ourselves in at one time or another. But let’s turn this on its head for a second — don’t you always remember the people who did take the time to make you feel welcome, and accepted? Sometimes the one single person who really seemed to understand, and went out of their way to make your life a bit easier?

BM: I will always remember the person who felt pity on me on my first week in a consultancy, surrounded by very experienced, confident and (in my head) pretty intimidating colleagues. Although we weren’t on the same project, she asked me how I was doing and took me for a coffee at the nearby Starbucks. This single act of kindness probably made the difference between me sticking around or not — I ended up working there for 8 years.

LR: It is very lucky and a blessing being part of a lovely team, but this is not the case for many individuals. Especially now in these difficult times, it’s easy to just get on with work and forget about people.✨

The aim of this blog is to raise awareness and make sure everyone is feeling happy and appreciated at work.

If you are still reading this, it’s safe to assume that you are in this position yourself (on either side of this coin) and you want some inspiration for things you can try to help 🤓. Not every workplace or workplace culture is the same, but the good news is we’ve both seen a bunch of great practical things that might be worth considering that have made a positive difference.

Tip #1: Practice Psychological Safety

BM:At Google, teams are often asked:-

“How confident are you that you won’t receive retaliation or criticism if you admit an error or make a mistake?”

If you’re thinking “this sounds just like where I work, sigh”, it is one indication that the team might not be practicing psychological safety. In environments where people can’t put their hands up to ask for help, or admit a mistake (something which we all do) this can lead to some terrible outcomes. If you want to improve how people feel about where they work, one way is by trying to make teams feel safe — and this applies at all levels of an organisation.

Sometimes it’s easy to let your Imposter Syndrome get the better of you, and feel that the issue lies with you needing to ask so many questions and you somehow deserve the eye rolls and the “do-we-have-to-go-through-this-again” looks. You don’t. Not ever.⛑️

LR:I have come across some colleagues who are uncertain/worried to do some tasks, as in their previous projects it has all gone bonkers. That’s ok and perfectly fine to be a bit weary of. However, you can show some empathy and let them know that it’s ok, it is different in this team and you have their back🙂.

LR:I spoke to someone the other day, the individual was feeling a little low as they were not being involved in the team and work. They felt they were not doing much in the team. I thought to myself if this person’s team was in the office face to face, would it be the same? I think Not, so why virtually? In current times and working from home we need confidence in ourselves more than ever before, if we cannot achieve something we should question it and try to improve it, so that another person does not get treated the same way. 🤗

LR:Asking a colleague “Hey, how are you?”👋 or saying “Well done” does wonders too. How? I’ll tell you how, a person may be feeling quite low or a little stuck with something. You asking them how they are feeling may help them feel like someone cares. In current Covid-19 times, things are so different and it can lead to some individuals feeling they need the sense of belonging there.

Tip #2: Be Creative

BM: I’ve seen some great examples of people genuinely dropping excellent ideas here to make people feel included — especially working from home.

If your team has Spotify, why not try a Group Session, where everyone can play the same playlist and all rock out together?

Maybe you could all enjoy a friendly game of poker, or watch a TED talk?

Maybe you could encourage your work to put their hands in their pockets and send staff something to make their home working experience a little nicer, such as house plants, or a choice of “Boredom Buster”

LR:Allow teams to do something different from their daily tasks and let them attend interesting courses/conferences/hackathons. Time away from monotonous tasks and working on new challenges with a team can lead toward increased productivity, increase knowledge skill set and refresh the mind.

LR: Catching up with colleagues and just listening to what they have been up to is something nice too. Some of them might have funny stories to share that could cheer you up 😝. It’s good to see everyone’s faces virtually. Furthermore a team could decide on some interesting games to get everyone involved with 🤩. Some other fun tasks could be:

LR: A close friend of mine commented recently to me that he was on a senior management call and was told to do a certain task within one week. He panicked, and had negative feelings as he was unsure on how to perform such a task. He decided to step away from his desk, and do a guided meditation. After this he felt much more calm, focused and assured that it can be done.

Tip #3 Be Mindful and accommodating

LR: Don’t huff or puff when speaking to colleagues, for someone else this could be difficult to digest. You want them to come back to you not run away from you 🙈. You will start noticing so many positive vibes if someone treats you nicely. You can see they are happy at work and with their team, in turn leading towards a team with positive impact not just for client deliveries but also as ”a work family”.👨‍👩‍👧‍👧

BM: One of the best things about working in tech is how many different people from different parts of the world you get to work with. It’s beyond awesome getting to learn more about people’s backgrounds, and having different perspectives on the same issue really does lead to better quality for the customer.

However, sometimes if someone is from a different culture they can struggle to feel properly welcomed and accepted, and this is something we really do need to be mindful of. Perhaps someone goes to pray on a Friday lunchtime, so planning your (virtual) team trip to the pub probably isn’t that inclusive. Or maybe they have moved to the country for work but due to lockdown are finding it difficult to settle in outside of work? Or maybe you need to be more patient with someone to whom english isn’t a first language, and consider it your job to ensure they actually understand what you are telling them — if it hasn’t soaked in then try and explain it in a different way, rather than leaving someone confused and feeling unable to ask for further clarification. Remember the smallest acts of kindness can make the biggest impression.

Another thing to point out here is try not to push people’s learning and working style to match what exists already in the teams but rather accommodate the way others like to learn. For example, if you are an introvert, it is not likely that you enjoy lots of public speaking and being put on the spot. One way to improve this is to provide meeting agendas so folk can prepare and research in advance. Small things like this can spell the difference between someone feeling like “I’ll never fit in here” to feeling like they really belong.

Tip #4: Be the change you want to see

BM: If you are an established member of the team, make sure you are speaking up when you’ve noticed something happening to a colleague that doesn’t feel quite right. This might be through an anonymous survey or through facilitating a group discussion about how someone’s behaviour has had a negative impact, or even stepping in to challenge behaviour directly — no-one comes to work to be made to feel like crap, and if there is something you can do to help facilitate change then this is often a hugely positive step that can make an enormous difference to team wellbeing.

I also think “being the change you want to see” might include things such as creating a community of practice, showing vulnerability, admitting mistakes and (provided they want it) offering an individual public praise.

LR: If you were going through something negative, don’t let it let you down follow these steps perhaps:

  • Talk to someone (mentor/coach/buddy)
  • Try not to keep things only to yourself, this could be happening to someone else too
  • Try and resolve the issue with the person making you feel uncomfortable
  • When getting interviewed just be you, same goes for the interviewer, don’t sell something you are not and then make the newbie feel uncomfortable
  • I know the word “HR” seems worrying to report to, but could help at times too, especially when the situation is out of hands

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”-Maya Angelou 💫

Tip #5 Spread Positivity

LR: Spreading positivity, helps the team in general. Even the use of “Giphy’s” these days can bring a smile on someone’s face. We are not perfect, we are learning like everyone else is, that motivates us.

BM: I have found it so much easier to get the best out of others if you approach things positively — assume that everyone is trying their best and wants to do the right thing, and look for common ground. Agree enthusiastically and challenge rarely (and constructively), and look to amplify voices of those who may find it tough speaking up. Say when things have gone well, instead of just when things don’t go according to plan. This kind of attitude is infectious, and all of the best “leaders” I’ve worked for have had this style without exception.

Bonus Tip🌟 — Provide a go-to person

BM: If you want your workplace to stand head and shoulders above others, consider allocating a Mentor / Buddy / Go-to person. Imagine how nice it would be if you were a new starter to know that whilst you can ask anyone anything, it is part of this person’s actual job to check you are OK and reach out to you. It’s easy to feel like you’re bothering people at the best of times, but particularly when those water cooler / coffee break moments are no longer happening. As a new team member/new starter this becomes harder still. I’d personally advise this person to get in touch over linkedIn/email before the new person joins, just to open the door to an “off-the-record” reassuringly informal conversation.

Someone friendly and approachable can be your anchor to what is really expected from you when you feel distanced from the true company culture. Think of all those questions you had when you first started that you wouldn’t have asked your boss, things like “is it true we have Christmas eve off?”/ “what day of the month do we get paid” “who do I speak to about expensing stuff and what is the actual expenses policy IRL” — a go-to person will absolutely improve the average experience of trying to hunt down these people for yourself.

LR: If this is something not present in your firm currently, don’t hesitate to mention it as it could be something beneficial for everyone. It is definitely a must and good to have for every team member. I cannot imagine not having a go-to person for the most basic things or even to talk about how I’m feeling.

The tl:dr

We are both aware of how lucky we are to be in jobs where we feel valued, supported and like we can be our true selves at work. We would also both hate to be starting in a brand new role right now, when everyone is working remotely. There are so many challenges, and we hope some of our tips will help you bring a positive change to your team or workplace.

Firstly, if you are in the position right now where you feel like “just a number” or “a bum on a seat” — know you aren’t the only one, most of us go through this at some stage in our career. You shouldn’t think the emphasis should be entirely on you to do all the running, or make all the effort — there absolutely should be an onus on the people on the other side of this equation (and in a wider sense the company you work for) to do their part to make sure you feel accepted too — especially in current times. If you have felt like this for awhile, before you go nuclear and hand your notice in, do consider if there is someone you could raise your concerns with first — it is entirely possible (particularly right now) that folk will be entirely unaware of how you are feeling, and if it’s brought to their attention they might be able to do something to help.

Secondly, we hope we have given you some food for thought on how you might want to try helping folk settle in and feel accepted at work. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t wait to be asked — it doesn’t need to be your formal job on the team for you to be that person who takes the initiative and makes all the difference to how someone is feeling at work. Go be awesome!😁