Yes, tester burnout is real. In the QA industry, you will encounter testers who are mentally or physically exhausted by their work due to various reasons. Tester burnout is a phenomenon that most testers seem to face and is one of the major drivers of tester turnover that can incur high recruitment costs. Recruiting a replacement can cost the organization up to 30% of the annual salary of that position. It can also slow the team down and reduce productivity as the new tester will take time to understand your standard of quality, the product, and your organization’s business rules, processes, and tools.
So, why do testers experience burnout? Let’s look at some of the causes.
Overburdening your testers is not the right approach to getting things done. You might be expecting increased returns from them but in reality, the added pressure and workload can demotivate the tester and result in inefficiency. However, ensuring that the workload matches the capabilities of the tester can lead to positive outcomes. The tester will approach the challenges in a stress-free manner that will increase the productivity of the project and result in professional growth and development. Also, making relevant software testing tools available to them can help them manage their workload better.
Lack of Control
Testers sometimes may feel that they lack control and access to autonomy, resources, and essential data. But experts believe that this “lack of control” is a state of mind that testers go through, leaving them frustrated, restrained, and out of control. It may also be related to paranoia.
Lack of Reward or Compensation
As discussed earlier, demotivation can play a key role in tester’s burnout. The tester will have no reason to work hard if he is not being rewarded for the effort that he puts in. This can affect efficiency and productivity. Therefore, don’t miss out on rewarding and appreciating your testers for their hard work. The saying, “Happy employees lead to happy customers” applies in this case as well where rewarded testers will feel happy and motivated to put their efforts necessary for the project’s success.
The environment is one of the defining factors of whether you’ll be able to meet your goals or not. And if the environment is unhealthy and restrained, it can bring out the worst among the workers. Whereas a free and comfortable environment can help bring forth desired outcomes. There is a certain amount of balance required when dealing with the environment. It deals with human psychology in which you have to give testers the freedom and make them comfortable but at the same time, you have to maintain the discipline that is required to achieve your targets. But it’s usually strict environments in which testers feel burnout.
Discrimination is a societal issue which many of us face in our daily lives and people are starting to raise their voices against it all over the world. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a part of many professional environments where workers might feel insecure and inadequate due to favoritism and inequitable treatment among bosses and workers. Unfair treatment can also be linked with the 3rd point mentioned, “Lack of Reward or Compensation” where the financial or other rewards don’t justify the hard work put in or the behavior of the boss is hostile towards the workers.
Disagreement in Values
A tester might feel burnout if his and the organization’s values do not match. Morals and beliefs are an integral part of one’s ecosystem and are often uncompromisable. To do something which you don’t feel right about can be hard and can leave you in a dilemma of whether you should do it or not. It also might make you feel inefficient or useless.
How to Prevent Burnout and Improve Testing
Following are some of the preventative measures that must be taken to minimize the chances of tester burnout.
Open-Mindedness and Positivity
It all depends on the mindset. It’s up to you if you take criticisms negatively or learn from them. Negatively perceiving them can lead to disputes, unhealthy conversations, and unhealthy thinking most importantly. Positively taking them can help you deal with your weaknesses and improve, helping you earn the respect of your peers. Always be open to suggestions and work towards making better relationships, successful projects, and a healthy environment.
Delegation of Work
Testers work as a team and no work is too much if it is managed effectively. It’s the job of the test manager to distribute the workload among the team according to their capabilities to get the tasks done. Using software testing tools to distribute work among teams is a very good practice.
The above-mentioned are some of the causes of testers’ burnout and measures that can be observed by testers and managers to improve test and project results. As discussed, tester burnout can lead to high turnover. To keep it under control, it’s important to find the root cause which varies from company to company. One of the ways to find it is the exit interview that can help you recognize whether your organization is losing a one-off, overly ambitious employee, or if you have serious pay or opportunity problems.
Another solution to tackling this problem is a regular rotation of teams internally to provide them learning opportunities and bring new perspectives to allow continued growth and learning, regardless of title change or promotion. However, sometimes, turnover issues may be beyond your control. For instance, one of the reasons why testers leave is due to low pay. You can try to convince your senior management to change their approach by presenting them the cost for every employee lost in the last few years, both in dollars wasted and total productivity lost.
So, the next time you’re asked why a major project is late or why turnover is so high, you’ll have the answer ready, along with a solution. Run the numbers, and you’ll have something worth talking about.