The No-Fake-Tester Rule

Have you every worked with a fake tester? How would you notice? How would you notice how much they are faking? Triggered by a discussion back at DEWT 4, I had an insight triggered by a book that I read earlier in my life: The No-Asshole Rule from Bob Sutton. Let’s see how fake testers and the no asshole rule connect in our workplaces.

The No-Asshole Rule

Bob Sutton makes a point in his brilliant Harvard Business Review article on assholes in our workplaces. He claims that assholes infect your company. If you hired an asshole, get rid of her. If you work with an asshole, switch jobs – now. Why?

Assholes around you infect your own habits. They infect others around, and inspire you to become an asshole yourself. By being treated from an asshole, you react in a similar manner. Over a short period of time, you will notice that you become an asshole yourself. You react the same way. You treat others as being minor. You treat yourself in an egoistic way.

The best solution that Sutton found in his work, is to get rid of the root-cause of the problem quickly. That means to either fire the asshole in your organization if you are the one with that power. Or to leave that workplace before you become infected yourself with the asshole virus. Sutton makes the claim that many organizations would be way better off if they were relentless about firing assholes. They in fact should install a rule to hire (or keep) no assholes in the organization because the overall productivity will go way up without all that asshole fighting happening all the time. Morale will be better in a workplace without assholes. Productivity will be way better. Fighting will be less. Economically a workplace without assholes will be way better compared to one that has installed a single asshole.

Fake Testers

What are fake testers? Fake testers are testers that take the requirements documents, use Microsoft Word’s search & replace function to replace all “should” to “verify”, and save that document as their test plan. Fake testers are testers that steadily increase the amount of tests executed counter on their desk for management reporting. Fake testers are testers that surf the web while executing test cases.

What’s the problem with fake testers? They make the impression that they are working while they actually aren’t. Fake testers maximize the impression that they are busy all day to the extent that you rarely want to provide them with more work while they are actually fetching new coffee all day.

Fake testers have an impact on your team morale. Of course, whether management attention focuses on fake testers or not, their team mates will notice over time whether they executed the amount of tests that they report in their numbers. Team colleagues will notice that they are faking. Most of the time they will even know how to make procrastination look like work – even more so if they are measured by the wrong numbers with surrogate measurements, but don’t get me started on these.

So, your loyal testers will know that someone is faking work, but then what? These loyal testers will wonder why they get the same raise as that other guy that is faking work. Why are they putting so much effort into their work while they could actually do that other fun stuff over there. Yeah, right, some of you, dear readers, will tell me “but I ain’t faking”, “I am morally giving my best”, blablabla. But I tell you – and so does Sutton – the majority of you will become a fake tester on their own in such an environment. They will find ways to deliver the same results with fewer effort – just because someone else can do so. Oh, they won’t actually deliver the same outcome, just the same output. They will make the impression to deliver the same results, while not providing the same value.

Over time, you will get a working environment of fake testers. They will drive down morale to the point where good people leave. At that point, you will have a fake testing organization, while still wondering why your bug metrics look correct. That will be too late – for you and your customers.

Are you faking?

I think to some extent we might be faking at times. It’s hard to tell whether you are fake testing right now while reading my blog entry, or whether you are using your power of procrastination. Call it whatever you would like to call it, but I think to some extent we are all faking work at times.

Just as we all are acting as assholes at times – especially so during emotionally stressful challenges that life might put on our own. The same applies to fake testing. Us humans can’t perform the same way every day at work. There are phases where we are more productive, and phases where we are less productive. If your productivity shows no variation, that would make me suspicious.

The thing is, you shouldn’t cross a certain boundary when you notice you are faking or becoming an asshole. At that point, you might become the asshole that draws down productivity in the overall company, and should probably leave.

But how do you notice that you are the problem? Just as the classic joke with the ghost driver goes, if you find yourself surrounded by ghost drivers all over the road, chances are, it’s you that is the ghost driver. If you find yourself surrounded with assholes, chances are it’s you that is the asshole. If you find yourself surrounded with fake testers, chances are it’s you who started that.

Don’t go down that road. Remember to do a good job, and try to minimize negative effects as best as you can.

The No-Fake-Tester Rule

But my claim goes further. I think we should go way further. Instead of throwing out fake testers from our companies, I think we need to fire fake testers from our profession. We should publicly announce their names, and tell the whole industry that they should not hire that guy.

The profession of software testing has taken serious damage by these fake testers. Programmers, project managers, and customers are suspicious about the value that we can provide. And I think they are rightly so. We should be able to explain ourselves. We should be able to explain what we are doing, and why we are doing it, and how we are providing value to them by doing it. If we are not, then we are setting up ourselves to disappoint more people around us, and leave a negative impression on the profession for the generations yet to come. We shouldn’t do that.

We should install a No-Fake-Tester Rule deeply into our profession, and get rid of anyone who is providing a harmful disservice to their clients, their stakeholders, and our profession. It’s not too late to face the problem, as long as we decide against becoming that asshole or fake tester on our own.

Do you want to join?

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13 thoughts on “The No-Fake-Tester Rule”

  1. I wish you had made it clear that the guy/gal doing a lot of tests but finds the occasional issue is not a faker. This person can be dispised by his/her team for raising issues, which result in responses like “but we never call foo() when the first parameter is 7 and the second parameter a nonprime.” I am afraid the team will use your post to get this very valuable person fired.

    1. Hi James,

      thanks for that comment.I don’t intent to say that you should call for a fake tester prematurely. However, you should be critical of yourself as a tester when your team delivers such a message to yourself, since it might mean that you interpreted your mission differently than they do. I guess that would call out for clarifying your mission with your team. If you do that, you are not a fake tester in my opinion.


  2. Hi Markus,

    I don’t completely disagree with your idea. What I find important is that it seems to tackle a wrong issue. Do you know professions where these fake things would not happen? Do you know professions where the public announcing is done?

    Maybe I missed something important…

    Best regards,

  3. Interesting post Markus but I think on balance I’d prefer to commend people for their good work, rather than shame them for their bad/fake/non-existent work.

    I think there are plenty of good examples, certainly within the UK justice system, of folk being named & shamed by the press and effectively judged guilty without the benefit of due process etc. This sounds very similar to your proposal to me, unless you’re suggesting some kind of CDT judicial system? :-)

    1. There is a dilemma involved: If you shame someone for being a fake-whatever, how do you know you’re not the asshole in that game? I think on a larger level, the No-Asshole-Rule applies to that situation as well.

  4. I agree with the getting rid of Fake Testers part, but I do believe there is some validity in having an arse hole around the business. I don’t obviously mean someone who is really an arse hole, but for people to feel that they can ask what may at first appear to be just annoying questions, giving someone this particular role in meetings I’ve found actually works quite well. The difference here is that it is done knowingly and for a specific reason.

  5. In my opinion is a common problem ! Just to be honest there are many fake programmers and fake manager

  6. your article is exactly matching to my position.
    Earlier i worked with one company with one ass-hole colleague. we both joined on same day. we worked together for 2 years, that person is used to fake every time. And managers are looked into the final testing reports, but they never looked into how people are really working, they are concentrating only on results. So, the result is he is the best buddy for the, because, will pass 100’s of test cases in a single day.
    Really i don’t know where it is going wrong,
    eighter it is my manager mistake or that tester mistake.
    So, finally now i joined in new organization. here every thing is good.(yes my manager is very smart, not like that dumb guy)

  7. Um… you are saying I am not the 1st Fake Tester around ? :).

    I have seen and felt your pain; however, I chose to become a “fake tester” myself….. and it’s helping too. Most people ask me about “fake practices” in my staff meetings and other places at office; when I hint about the “fakeness” that I see around, I’ve seen them stopping the fakeness. Maybe becoming a faketester helps too :)

  8. Layoffs are almost always bad, but if a company hasn’t had one for several years, it can be an occasion for clearing away the deadwood. After surviving such a layoff a number of years ago, I was going through the library of test case documents. To my surprise I discovered a test case that looked suspiciously like mine, but the author’s name was one of the layoff victims. I found my original and it was obvious that the faker had copied my test case, changed the date and replaced my name with his own. A fake tester was exposed, but he had already received his rightful reward.

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