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I am a new QA member of a team with my peers being senior to me by about 2 years.

I constantly find situations from my perspective where my peers need to step up and be the voice of what QA thinks / must do / should do / plans to do. But they don't speak up EVER.

They are in a different location compared to me and my other Scrum team members. And whenever I think I understand the issue at hand - whether it is logistics / scheduling / approach, I have this uncontrollable need to speak up. Of course I wait for them to speak up first, as they are experienced in the domain and processes of the team and company as opposed to me a new joiner.

But there are some things that are an inherent part of being a QA and I feel should be brought up by any / all QA members during a discussion. Also, I find instances where there is a need for someone from the QA to lead an initiative. But nobody signs up for it. And when another scrum member assigns it to them, they don't do what is needed to do it in the standard way nor do they communicate what they plan to do / nor they actually plan any approach.

In such cases, I just have to step up. I cannot stand being mute on topics that matter to QA. It's just that I am trying to put across my point of view to the whole team and QA.

But I just realized this is not being taken well by some team members. How can I encourage my team members to speak up and take responsibility (or do so in a way which is appropriate)? I am not their lead, just a peer.

  • Doesn't your team have a lead or a manager? – Masked Man Sep 4 '15 at 3:44
  • @MaskedMan- we do have a manager, but they are not really part of the scrum team. – shehwar Sep 4 '15 at 3:50
  • @shehwar My question is more about why are you required to step up to be a leader? Doesn't your QA team have a leader already? – Masked Man Sep 4 '15 at 4:06
  • @MaskedMan - like i said, we dont have a qa lead, we have a qa manager, qa managers in agile are not part of the scrum teams. As to why do i feel the need to step up? thats already mentioned in the body of my question! :) – shehwar Sep 4 '15 at 4:40
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    @Erik If my interpretation is correct, it doesn't sound like a conflict in the scrummaster's domain. It is more of an ego battle/office politics issue. OP & team works in QA. OP takes initiative in QA-related issues that are discussed, others don't. Others don't like OP taking the initiative. I see two conflicts here: OP has to either give up his urge to take initiative or his care for what others think. Others have to either take initiative themselves or stop being annoyed at OP who does. That said though, I cannot think of a "quick fix" solution to this. Office politics is complicated. – Masked Man Sep 4 '15 at 10:26
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OK first, they are peers not seniors. You have as much right to speak up in a meeting as they do. However, if you are sensing there is a problem, then there almost certainly is one.

The question here is whether the problem is resentment of you for looking better than they do for taking initiative or whether they think you are bringing up issues in public that they feel should be kept within the QA team or whether they actually disagree with whatever point you are making.

The next time you feel this irritation, immediately after the meeting go to one of them and say something like "I got the feeling that you were upset at what I said in there. Can you tell me why so I don't make the same mistake again?" The answer will tell you something about their problem with you (you may have to read between the lines though, the less specific he is about what you did wrong the more likely it is that he felt you made him look bad.) If you are saying things that should not be brought up, then you need to change your behavior. But given what you said about the lack of initiative all around, this may not be the likeliest scenario. You however need to rule it out before taking any other action.

You say you waited for them to speak up first. Did you try asking them about the issue instead of bringing up the issue? Look at the Socratic method of asking leading questions. By asking for their advice in the meeting, you are showing respect for their opinions and you look less as if you are trying to grab all of the credit. However, if you think they may not actually know the answers, then don;t do this in public the first time. Try it out on them outside the Meetings first to see how they react to it.

Even though your direct boss is not involved in these meetings (perhaps especially because he is not involved), you need to discuss with him exactly what his expectations are for your participation in them and for volunteering to accept tasks, make suggestions, etc. He needs to be aware of what you are doing and why and it needs to have his seal of approval especially if it is in contradiction to what the rest of the team wants.

Now you may have an issue where these people simply don't care about doing their jobs and you do. In this case, you may need to talk to the your boss about how to handle the situation. Explain some of the cases where they didn't step up to the plate and do something and then got resentful if you did. Do this a few days after you have had your initial talk with your boss about what he expects you to do in the meetings, so that you know your behavior is appropriate.

This is the most dangerous scenario from your perspective because if they don't want to expend the effort, they are likely to try to sabotage the person who does expend the effort because he shows off their lack of engagement. You need to have management on your side in this or you may find yourself called into a meeting and let go because you are causing problems in the team.

Now it is also possible the boss has the same lackadaisical attitude as the team. In this case, this organization is likely a poor cultural fit for you. If your peers resent your attitude and your boss resents it and you have no intention of changing, then it is time to move on.

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    Just be aware that there are teams where lack of initiative is considered the correct behavior, and you may be seen as a troublemaker by your boss if you bring this up. In addition, you may get his seal of approval to you, but that doesn't mean there will be any follow through as far as backing you up (he may even be also telling the coworkers that they have his seal of approval). – Amy Blankenship Sep 4 '15 at 20:21
  • @AmyBlankenship, I agree, that is part of why he needs to start by having a conversation with his boss about exactly what is expected of him in terms of initiative in these meetings. And yes there certainly are some weak, two-faced bosses out there. That is partly why the last paragraph is there. This is a complex situation without knowing more about the various personalities. – HLGEM Sep 4 '15 at 20:48
  • "In this case, you may need to talk to the your boss about how to handle the situation. Explain some of the cases where they didn't step up to the plate and do something and then got resentful if you did." - they are not resentful now, but i have a feeling they will become. the resentfulness comes from a non QA team member that very indirectly said that something wasn't my piece of work / responsibility. Even though the QA who was responsible for it never shows ownership for it. – shehwar Sep 4 '15 at 22:23
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This seems like an opportunity for you to step up to being the lead and voice for QA on you team. Leadership is not always the senior person on the team, it's the best leader.

You already sound like you have a knack for leadership, don't hold it back, stop waiting for your peers to speak up. Take the reins and run with this. You will be rewarded in the long run.

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    Possibly even with a door hitting you on the way out! – Amy Blankenship Sep 4 '15 at 20:22
  • Management will recognize his/her leadership, it's his do nothing peers that have a problem and they are remote at that. – Bill Leeper Sep 4 '15 at 20:24
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    Yes, certainly the people who have been there forever are definitely the ones who are seen as poor performers by management. Managers never see people who are bringing up problems in an effort to improve things as troublemakers. Nope. – Amy Blankenship Sep 4 '15 at 20:27
  • @BillLeeper - I see it as an opportunity, yes. But sometimes i feel guilty. Sometimes i feel i cone across as over smart. How to handle this with grace? – shehwar Sep 4 '15 at 22:14
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    She was being sarcastic. People who are critical are often seen as troublemakers, even if they are right. – Paul Hiemstra Sep 5 '15 at 23:11

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