Author Topic: How to deal with stupid questions  (Read 1960 times)

Tester

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How to deal with stupid questions
« on: December 13, 2020, 11:21:24 AM »
What would you do if a senior QA Engineer would review a document you are writing and ask whatbis the difference between writing test cases and writing a test plan????

Or ask you why it is not ok to aggregate latency percentiles over one week for more than one system into one number. Asks this after you send papers explaining, explain yourself. More, says "I think we can do it" even when a principal engineer says it makes no sens and it is wrong.

Or repeatedly ask for ETA for a task while you say that you don't even know when you will start as that task depends on when other teams finish several tasks? This happened in my presence, not to me.

Or talks with you about getting to the next level and after three weeks says you are on a development plan, without any discussion before about your "weak" performance.

Or answers avoiding the question when you ask why are we trying to do x? Just because we xan do x does not mean we should do x?


I think you can see that I am pissedI was going to let it go as I am voting with my feet and leaving.

But just now I got the feedback asking me about the difference between writing a test plan and test cases and as I am a real tester I can't help trying to improve people.
My initial reaction was to curse for one hour.
Wrote a reply pointing to common knowledge and saying the big gaps are a threat to anybteam that QAE is working with.
Did not send that e-mail yet, as I kind of think about possibly returning to the company I am leaving.

Still, I find it competely insane to ask something like this from any person who has at least geard about QA, let alone a senior....


herbgeek

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2020, 11:56:00 AM »
Perhaps your senior engineer was asking you this to see if YOU could articulate the difference.  You sound angry and a little arrogant.  You might be better off working somewhere else, but I'm guessing that once the honeymoon period is over, you'll be back with a similar post.   Its also possible that your senior engineer isn't all that qualified, but I didn't get enough information in that post to make that determination.

IMO, your job as a tester is to educate others on the risks of shipping a product at any given moment.  If people are asking for what you think are impossible items after you've explained yourself, perhaps you have failed to educate.  Or if they are asking for "impossible" items for the first time, your job is tell them why it can't be done, and what if anything could make it possible.  Copping an attitude really doesn't help.  As far as the task eta- itss x hours/days/other appropriate unit after y is complete.  The person asking that likely is trying to put together an overall schedule and needs estimates for each piece, as well as any dependencies.  You need to make sure you are communicating those dependencies.

I say this as someone who spent 30+ years in software QA, about 20 of those as a manager or lead.  I've had a number of testers who worked for me, who had this attitude that other people were just stupid, or thought they were the smartest person in the room.  They almost never were.


Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2020, 12:05:41 PM »
I thougt about asking me to see my answer and I would understand it without the other parts.
You might have missed the part where I tried to stop the wrong usage of percentiles for a long time and where the principal engineer also had problems in making it clear that math says no.

Still, the possibility of all coming only from me is real so this is why I did not sent the reply e-mail yet.

Also, I am reading in your reply that you are dismissing testers as all having this kind of attitude.
Perhaps it all comes from you?


I kind of think you are just throwing things out without even reading all the other person is writing or trying to understand what you are reading.
It kind of comes out like you think the other people are stupid, which is strange...

As a manager and quality engineer I learned to always think about as many causes as possible and to handle situations to be a win win.
I usually managed to do that.

plog

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2020, 12:56:54 PM »
Quote
What would you do if a senior QA Engineer would review a document you are writing and ask whatbis the difference between writing test cases and writing a test plan????

I would ask "Huh?", because I'm not familiar with that domain.  I, nor probably 70% of people on this  forum can determine the level of idiocy you are trying to convey.  I suggest if you really want to bitch specifically about people in your industry and get valid advice on responding you go to a more suitable forum.

Quote
Or talks with you about getting to the next level and after three weeks says you are on a development plan, without any discussion before about your "weak" performance.

Now that I can help you with.  I would start looking for a new job.  10% of the people put on a performance plans are done so to improve their performance.  Normally its a way to build documentation for firing you.  The writing is on the wall for you.

mozar

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2020, 01:21:08 PM »
Some practical tips:
For the eta I would present them with a timeline that includes everyone else's deliverables.
For other questions I would write them all down and then write an explanation for each in an email and copy your manager so they know how much time you're spending on these questions.

Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2020, 01:40:34 PM »
Thank you.

I am out of the development plan for a long time, I am moving to another company with what is the equivalent of a promotion.

I always give estimates in both date when I think it can be finished and in effort. When I depend on something else I am giving the effort.
I also make it clear that the effort means being able to work on that stuff, if priorities change then that effort is not happening there but in other parts.


I will reply to the question through e-mail and including my manager is ok as the initial e-mail includes him.

I was just trying to see if I find advice on how to make it clear that I think the question is not the right one to ask without answering in a non constructive way.

I will stick to the fact that the software quality domain has things explained for those two terms and that they are really hard to mistakenly use for another.
I will also ask explicitly to find out why did I get the question, as long as I created test strategies for several teams, wrote test plans for several projects, wrote the test cases for several projects and had some of the development teams write test cases based on test plans and requirements. All those already reviewed by this person, so if there would have been a question on me wrongly using the terms I would have expected that to be asked a long time ago. This is why I kind of can't believe that the question is targeted to see if I know what those terms mean...
If it is not the case, I would have also expected those reviews to clarify what the difference is.

achvfi

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2020, 02:39:55 PM »
Remember you are just a small cog in large machine.

May be you should ask yourself a question about what happens after you answer a question is certain way.

What benefit will you have?

For instance...
Will it reduce any stress to you?
Will it go away in future?
Will it help others attitude towards you?
Will you be happier or satisfied after you expose others seeming stupidity?
Will it improve your career?
and so on...

My take is it really doesn't matter. You dont need to include any management, answer in nice way as possible and move on. If you still like to BCC your management or talk to them about a funny story later.

 
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 02:41:54 PM by achvfi »

seemsright

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2020, 04:13:48 PM »
Hubby is a high level engineer every time he has to answer stupid question from green engineers that he has all ready explained the process a few times to them is to calculate how much money he made by answering that stupid question. He answers the questions with a grin on his face....lol

He has been working at home since March...this happens many times a day. I just laugh.  My take is to stop caring. Do you job and move on.

Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2020, 06:18:00 PM »
Remember you are just a small cog in large machine.

May be you should ask yourself a question about what happens after you answer a question is certain way.

What benefit will you have?

For instance...
Will it reduce any stress to you?
Will it go away in future?
Will it help others attitude towards you?
Will you be happier or satisfied after you expose others seeming stupidity?
Will it improve your career?
and so on...

My take is it really doesn't matter. You dont need to include any management, answer in nice way as possible and move on. If you still like to BCC your management or talk to them about a funny story later.

I am asking what I want to get out for a long time, this ked me to good things :-).
This is why I do not send responses when I am angry, I write them and then thunk about it for some time, ask for ideas...
In this case as I am leaving it would just make it clear that I think that person needs some training.

And I totally get it when new people are asking, just that this person is a senior engineer.
This is what makes it harder to deal with.

I will keep it to the object without adding my subjective thoughts about it. And will include the manager as the questions invluded the manager...
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 06:20:23 PM by Tester »

dhc

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2020, 10:06:55 PM »
Tester, the way you write is somewhat unusual and a bit difficult to understand at times. Is it possible that language and/or communication difficulties are causing you and your coworker to misunderstand one another?


Separately, and speaking as someone in the industry, you sound like you've got a lot of theoretical knowledge, which I've found to be somewhat rare in your particular role. That said, I'd encourage you not to discount the ability of many folks you'll encounter in your career who may not use the right terms for things but are still highly effective at what they do and have a great deal of practical knowledge gained from experience.


Finally, and looping back to the communication piece, I'll note that both "test case" and "test plan" are, regrettably, overloaded terms that are often used in ways you won't agree with. It's entirely possible your colleague's "stupid question" is actually an attempt at disambiguation in an effort to communicate better with you.

cool7hand

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2020, 05:23:55 AM »
I think I picked up this heuristic from Eric Weinstein somewhere.

If someone says something painfully obvious, assume the other is saying something nuanced that requires inquiry. If someone says something painfully stupid, assume the other is saying something counterintuitive that requires inquiry. It can never hurt to assume that we missed something.

Louisville

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2020, 05:46:04 AM »
Tester, the way you write is somewhat unusual and a bit difficult to understand at times. Is it possible that language and/or communication difficulties are causing you and your coworker to misunderstand one another?

 I have to agree. @Tester, if the shop the you are working in uses English, and what we see here is as well as you can communicate in English, well... that may be the real root of the problem.
Even if you communicate really well in English at work (much better than here), there's a possibility that your co-workers assume you are less intelligent than you are simply because of a perceived language barrier. Unfortunate, but often true.


Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2020, 12:57:04 PM »
Thank you :-).

Trying to find out why people ask questions is part of my job, this is why I am not jumping to answer the question.
Just that sometimes I get angry. Luckily I am not answering while angry for a long time :-).
I am trying to get better at getting to the bottom of things like these without getting angry, this is why I asked here.

Regarding communication, if you are talking about the typos, sorry, I am typing on my phone and I kind of have fat fingers...plus I hate editing on the phone.

If it is something else please let me know.
I am not a native English speaker and I am always trying to get better.

If it matters the other person isn't a native English speaker either.

Thank you for the feedback.

dhc

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2020, 07:21:45 AM »
I certainly understand the gist of what you're saying, but some of the idioms you use don't quite match those of a native speaker. Sometimes that can cause context and nuance to be lost. If both of you are communicating in a non-native tongue, that just makes it even easier to miss a subtle meaning. I think the suggestions to ask clarifying questions (careful not to ask questions that have judgement built into them) are good ones. Chances are, your colleague either understands something differently than you do, or you're just using different words for the same concepts.

Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2020, 02:20:49 PM »
And writing things here helped as I did not send the inital e-mail :-).
They did not pay attention to what they were reading....
That is what they said when I asked for more context....

Still not ok but much better than not knowing the difference.

Laura33

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2020, 04:25:31 PM »
I'm glad it worked out.  I'm going to give you some advice that was probably the best thing I ever learned for my career:  your job is to figure out how to communicate effectively with people, no matter how stupid they are, and no matter what is in your or their job description.

I absolutely understand the frustration.  I was almost always the smartest person in the room, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity.  And when it is someone who is supposed to know more than me and is getting paid more than me, well, that's the cherry on the sundae.

But here's the thing:  when you're smart, sometimes you see things that other people don't.  To you, it seems obvious -- because you're smart!  But other people may need you to put the dots very close together to get there.  I would get frustrated all the time, because I'd say something that seemed very obvious, and someone wouldn't follow, and I'd think they were being intentionally oblivious, when the reality was that I had leaped ahead in the conversation, and they were completely lost.  So if you want to get the job done effectively, you need to figure out how to change your own message to say it in a way that your audience understands.  The best thing that ever happened to me was when my mentor took me aside and told me my impatience was making the guy I worked for feel stupid.  Now, I knew the guy I worked for was in fact brilliant -- so if I was making him feel stupid, I was the problem.

The other thing to keep in mind is that no matter how smart you are, you do not have perfect perspective.  Jobs need all sorts of people with all sorts of skills, and we only see one part of what other people do and have no real insight into why they were hired or how they do their job overall.  And people themselves are driven by different things and communicate in different ways.  For ex., my own DD is pretty damn smart, but if you tell her things orally, most of the time they don't stick.  Turns out her intelligence is like 95th-99th percentile, but her audio processing abilities are more like 8th percentile -- so for her, it really does go "in one ear and out the other," because it just doesn't stick.  Other people may be dealing with reading comprehension issues, or maybe they're so overworked they don't have time to really dive in and understand things and just want a bullet point summary. 

If you can stop seeing it as "smart vs. stupid" and start thinking of it as a personal challenge to figure out how to communicate effectively with all the different types of people around you, that will serve you very well long-term.  Because in the end, all the company cares about is getting the job done.  You can be the smartest engineer the company has ever seen, but if you can't convey your ideas clearly to everyone else who needs to work together to make things go, all those brains don't help the company one bit.  OTOH, if you can be the guy who can explain the business people's concern to the engineers, and the engineers' problems to the business people, then boy will you be popular.  Just ask my DH -- he took his PhD in E.E. and made a career out of translating between those two groups (not to mention the customer).

use2betrix

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2020, 06:44:01 PM »
Anyone who complains about getting asked “easy” questions, must have a pretty easy job. I love when I get asked easy questions, they take such little work on my end to resolve and the person asking is typically appreciative.

It’s the very challenging questions that put you in a tight spot of decision making that are a struggle. I welcome the challenge but dang, I certainly never feel bad about teaching someone something they didn’t already know..

If I was getting mad at every “easy” question I got, I would hate my life. It’s my job to know a large realm of topics and specifications and to be a resource for personnel to ask questions.

Also, typically those that ask the “stupid questions” often know a lot more in other area’s, and it may not be their sole responsibility to already be familiar with what they are asking.

Sibley

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2020, 09:04:24 AM »
I'm going to agree that it's quite possible it's a communication issue. I'm now regularly communicating with individuals who do not speak English as their first language, or don't speak English at all. As helpful as Google Translate is, it's not the same. Even when we're both speaking English, we have to be very careful with how we phrase things, and be willing to ask for clarification when we're not sure or it's clear the message didn't come across as intended. Good humor is essential.

Tester - your writing is quite similar to what I'm seeing from the native Spanish speakers I'm working with. It's very good, but its not fluent in the same way as a native speaker would be. And if I was trying to communicate with you on technical items, I would need to ask basic clarifying questions. Given that the other person is ALSO communicating in a 2nd language, that just makes it harder.

Tester

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2020, 10:02:54 AM »
Again, thank you all.

I will try to improve my communication skills, I am working on that for years.
I improved but as always, there is room for improvement.

While I worked as a manager I learned that my opinions don't matter and that my best bet at being good is to put my team above any personal feelings/reaction.
As an individual contributor I feel like I should be able to care more about my feelings too, plus I like to hold everyone at the same standard as I am held at.
In this case, with this person I strongly feel (I am biased and subjective, I know. I also have some objective data points but there is no point in writing it all here) the standards are not the same so I am getting pissed off easier.
I still try to act in a way which would result in a win for my team and it is generally working.

I still need to vent from time to keep my calm at work.
This time I choose to vent here and I also learned new things :-).

Thank you for the help.

Adventine

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Re: How to deal with stupid questions
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2020, 10:23:16 AM »
@Tester that is a very gracious and mature response to the feedback you've received in this thread. I'm glad to see posts like yours. Hope you find ways to make your work easier and not get so frustrated with your coworkers.