Managing Your Manager

I often talk with testers who are feeling frustration with their manager. Some of their complaints include:
• My manager doesn’t give me enough time to automate
• My manager expects me to test all the sprint items at the last minute
• My manager signs our team up for too much work
• My manager doesn’t appreciate how much work I do

Have you ever struggled with any of these issues? Then it’s time to learn how to manage your manager! Read on for six ideas on how to do this.

  1. Think about what your manager wants
    The best way to get someone to behave the way you want is to figure out what they want, and then show them how what you want and what they want align. What does your manager want? Your manager probably reports to a manager themselves, and your manager is probably accountable to their manager for things like releasing software on time and reducing the number of customer complaints that occur after a software release. You want good software to be released on time as well! So when you talk with your manager, point out the ways your ideas can achieve this.
  2. Explain how your strategy will help your manager
    Once you know what your manager wants, you can tailor your suggestions to show how your manager will be helped by them. For example, you could say: “I know that we’ve had some issues with defects escaping to Production that have resulted in customer complaints, and I know that your manager isn’t happy about that. I think if we schedule a one-hour Bug Bash before each release, we could catch most of those bugs.”
  3. Be a team player
    Are you a team player? Do you show up to work each day with a positive attitude? Do you help and encourage other people on your team? Do you go the extra mile without being asked to do so?
    The kind of attitude you bring to work has a huge effect on whether or not your manager respects and listens to you. Nobody likes working with a complainer. When you are pleasant to work with, your manager will be more likely to want to have conversations with you about how you can work together to improve your team’s processes.
  4. Approach your manager with data
    It’s always easier to convince someone of something if you have cold, hard facts backing up your assertions. If you feel that your workload has increased over the last six months, you can show your manager the average number of stories you tested six months to a year ago, and the average number of stories you tested in the latest six months. If you think your manager should give you more time to write test automation, you can use metrics to show how much time would be saved if you had an automated regression suite that could be run with each release.
  5. Enlist the help of other team members
    You are not the only person on your team! It’s likely that there are other testers or developers on your team that feel the same way you do. Why not talk to them about the situation? You could share your ideas and listen to their ideas as well. It could be that the Dev Lead on your team has a great idea for limiting the number of sprint items that the team is taking on. If you work together, you can make a convincing case to your manager.
  6. Suggest an experiment
    Sometimes you might have an idea that you are sure will improve things on your team, but the team doesn’t agree. They might be resistant to change, or they might think the change represents too much work. In cases like this, you can suggest an experiment: “Let’s try doing Dev-QA handoffs for two sprints. If it doesn’t save any time for us after those two sprints, we can stop the handoffs and go back to the way things were.” It’s been my experience that most of the times I suggested an experiment, the rest of the team realized I was right! But even if that doesn’t happen, you show your manager and the team that you are an innovator and someone willing to try new things.

Managers want what you want: a happy and successful team! By following these six suggestions, you’ll be able to work more effectively with your manager and team to build and deliver software your customers will love.

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