Aug 23, 2023, Consulting

Psychological aspects of software testing

Dominik Wasik QA Specialist
Technical skills and experience are undoubtedly crucial for software testing, but have you ever wondered what other factors can be important? I would like to focus on psychological aspects and issues which any software tester can find difficult and face at any time. Unfortunately, the topic seems to be ignored sometimes, but can also generate problems at any time in any team.

This topic is definitely bigger than you may have expected. There are a plenty of specialists and psychologists who could give you even more scientific perspective, but I would like to just highlight only a few aspects like:

  • project understanding,

  • time pressure,

  • hypersensitivity to remarks or suggestions,

  • discouragement with tests.

Project understanding

The first one seems to be easy to understand. However, it can lead to more tensions on QA – programmer relation or devs – product owners relation. Both tester and programmer use the same documentation but in some cases according to their different experience and, in general, perception they may interpret and understand it completely differently.

The problem often arises due to a lack of clear communication and a failure to establish a shared understanding of what the developed product is trying to achieve. Developers may focus too much on technical details and lose sight of the larger picture, while product owners may assume that developers understand their goals without providing sufficient context or guidance. The best example here can be lack of documentation or descriptions which contain only the positive behaviors of the system or application.

Another common misunderstanding is that programmers and testers may not understand each other’s roles or priorities. Programmers may prioritize building new features or improving performance, while testers may prioritize finding bugs and ensuring the software is reliable. This can lead to conflict when developers feel that testers are slowing them down or testers feel that developers are not taking quality seriously.

To avoid these misunderstandings, it’s essential to establish clear communication channels between all developers, managers and product owners. This can be done by involving all parties in planning meetings and encouraging open and honest feedback. Developers should also be encouraged to ask questions and seek clarification from product owners when needed. In addition, product owners should provide clear, concise requirements and context to developers.

Assertiveness and communication within the team is key to help in this situation. It is important to remember that software testing should be independent and somehow give a “fresh” perspective on the product.

Time pressure

Time pressure is a highly stressful factor that can lead to not quite professional behaviors. Time deficit is a common and even fundamental problem for any team.

One of the main reasons for time pressure is the fast-paced nature of the industry and the need to deliver projects on time and on budget. Delays might have significant financial and reputational implications, so project managers must ensure that their teams can deliver on time without sacrificing quality.

The consequences of time pressure can be significant. Team members may work for long hours or cut corners, which can basicaly lead to mistakes and reduced quality. This, in turn, can lead to further delays and additional pressure on the team.

To manage time pressure in any IT projects, every team member should focus on effective planning and communication. In a perfect scenario, setting realistic timelines and expectations, identifying potential blockers and finding solutions before they become a real problem can avoid unnecessary pressure and ensure that they have the necessary resources to complete any task on time.

Hypersensitivity to remarks or suggestions

The software tester’s job is, in general, to find and report bugs, thus directing comments to other members on the team, most often the programmers.

A negative or even aggressive response to a reported problem can definitely overshadow the core of the issue. Tough resistance from other team members or a reluctant attitude can frustrate the tester. As a QA, you have to remember that abandoning substantive discussion in favor of sticking to the accepted point of view will not contribute to product quality.

Anybody can find it challenging to deal with, but there are several strategies that can help:

  • Recognize the triggers: Try to understand what specific remarks or suggestions trigger you or your coworker,

  • Stay professional: Even when it becomes more aggressive or confrontational, it’s important to remain professional and avoid responding in kind. Keep your responses calm,

  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that help you relax and reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy. Taking care of yourself can help you build resilience and cope.

Discouragement with tests

Test discouragement can be defined as a lack of desire and will to continue the testing process at a sufficient level, but does not threaten the success of the project in general.

A discouraged tester may manifest the following characteristics:

  • less thoroughness in the tests performed,

  • lack of willingness to defend own ideas and counter-arguments,

  • abandonment of reporting bugs that may be problematic,

  • lack of willingness to develop the competencies necessary for the project.

It is important to ask where this comes from and how you can prevent it. The reasons behind this can be various, it is worth mentioning some of them:

  • lack of visible results of work,

  • time pressure,

  • communication errors in the team,

  • too difficult tasks.

You have to remember that those are not the only ones, and it is very dependent on the person. If you notice any of the symptoms, it is important to admit to yourself. You can base the process of rebuilding your enthusiasm to continue the testing process effectively on the so-called creative problem-solving technique. Heuristic techniques increase the chance of success, however, not always and not for everyone. Methods, which involve sequential execution of well-defined steps, may prove more help.

Summing up

As a summary, you can definitely tell that soft skills are as important, in a software tester’s work, as solid technical knowledge and experience. A QA needs to deal with stress, manage time, be flexible in own actions, sometimes show initiative, and work effectively in a team.

Building a strong position as a software tester in the team also requires self-confidence, assertiveness and the ability to present and defend your own insights and opinions.

Fortunately, soft skills can be developed. If you have noticed a lack of any of the mentioned ones, then nothing is lost. Any time is the right time and a change will bring positive results for you as well as for the whole team.