The Downtrodden

A Tester who has been beaten down by developers to the point that they hardly report any bugs for fear of developer bullying.


There is perhaps no greater display of condescension than the typical conduct of developers towards QA. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see a QA tester openly bullied by aggressive developers, even when reporting a legitimate bug in their code. To combat this, a successful QA must have the following characteristics when dealing with aggressive developers:

  • Already have won a large amount of credibility with the developers, such that their bugs are always taken seriously
  • Have an equally aggressive personality, with the perseverance to argue a developer into admitting the bug truly exists.

Sadly, not many QA testers have these characteristics, and are therefore run over by developers who see QA as the first person to blame when a bug is found. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, this is an all-to-common situation given the following:

  • The Developer has a very high sense of self-importance (see “The Diva” Developer)
  • The Developer believes they know how the system works far better than the QA tester (see “The Hostage Taker” Developer)

Once a QA has been thoroughly beaten-down over time, they will tend to avoid confrontation with these hostile developers to regulate their work stress. The consequence is that bugs in their developers’ system will seldom be reported, even though bugs may exist. Typically, this situation is only discovered when problems surface in production, and an investigation is made into why the bug wasn’t caught by QA. The Downtrodden QA will then have any of the following explanations:

  • They spoke to the developer verbally, and was told it was not a bug.
  • They filed a bug report, but it was rejected by the developer.
  • They found the bug, but did not “think it was important enough to write up”

The passive nature of The Downtrodden QA tester will often make them hard to diagnose. The key will be to characterize the developers they work with, looking for signs of hostility that should be readily apparent.


The QA tester is being bullied by the developers – pure and simple. As such, the developers should be treated as any bully should:

  • Warned to immediately cease and desist in their aggressive behavior.
  • Coached on professional communication.
  • Fired if they cannot correct their behavior.

The situation may have progressed to the point where HR may have to step in, especially if it has degraded into a situation of open hostility.

It is sad that this situation is more of the norm that the exception, and it is then only a question as to what degree it happens.

2 thoughts on “The Downtrodden

  1. As a lead QA, I have seen this time and again on my team. And as the lead, my workaround was to step up for the downtrodden testers (after checking that the bug was indeed legit).
    A lead QA is likely to have earned a decent amount of credibility, has some kind of perceived authority from the title, and needs to have an equally aggressive personality to defend their teammates.

    Not every QA has a personality fit for confrontation, and not every aggressive developer can be reasoned with or bullied into submission. Sometimes, unfortunately, the only solution is to have a leader that who can act as a flak jacket for less assertive workers.

    • Agreed. Even a new QA lead will have more cache to stop such bullying, simply based on title.
      Also it is very dependant on how the head of development treats QA. If management does not step in and stop bullying practices – it can lead to toxic environments.

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