Ha ha – told you so

Quite often I hear presentations and discussions from testers who talk about those moments when they feel it appropriate to say “Ha Ha, Told You So”.

You know? Those moments when the testers advice was ignored and it all went pear shaped. Or the time a tester said the company should be testing earlier, only to find a boat load of bugs too late in the day.

Over the years I’ve heard loads of people saying “ha ha – told you so”.

Sure it’s gone pear shaped, but it’s often at these times that you are needed the most; when your skills and ability are required by the business to get software out of the door.

If all you have to say at times like this is “ha ha, told you so” then you will appear petty, annoying and arrogant.

We shouldn’t be offending people and making them resentful because a decision was made that frustrated us. We need to step up and take ownership. Step up and contribute. Step up and make a difference.

At a conference a few years back a tester was presenting on how happy she felt when the project crashed and burned because they had ignored her advice. The crowd were joining in talking about “wiping the smug look off the developer’s face” and saying things like “at their peril will they ignore the tester”. It’s poisonous, unhelpful and downright ridiculous to think like that. (I was in the minority in the room btw – I walked out with a few others who found that session just too much).

So when you hear a tester shout “ha ha told you so” as a project takes a downward spiral, offer them some constructive feedback and ask for their support. Motivate them to act, not gloat in the destruction. How is that negativity going to help the business release good software.

Releasing software is a team effort. And tester’s are a part of that team.

15 thoughts on “Ha ha – told you so

  1. There are times when no matter how helpful you try to be; you are not listened to. You can fully detail all the reasons why a particular piece of software is going to fail and you can suggest ways that the software could be improved but that is all.

    Maybe if you work at a company where the devs and testers are working cooperatively then as you suggest above you can use your skills to help the situation. If you work at an independent firm which is contracted to test a project and all your reports fall on deaf ears and the project goes to market and fails…well it’s a little hard not to feel like ‘I told you so’.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for commenting. There have been a number of times decisions have not gone my way and people appear to ignore me, but that’s fine – they are often the decision makers and they often hold more information and insights that I do, so even though I may disagree I make sure I commit to the decision that is made. Nothing good will come of saying “told you so”. You might feel better for a short time but it wont change what’s happening.

      As a contractor/supplier there are no doubt many many times when you are not listened to, but that comes with the territory I suppose and in some respects it should make it easier to detach from it all and move on when it goes wrong.


  2. Nice post – and was there really a presentation on that ?
    Have you ever done it though – or been tempted to ?

    Question is *why* was the tester ‘ignored’ – did they lack credibility, did they not make their case ? When laughing and pointing a finger, look where the other 3 fingers are pointing

    1. Hi Phil.

      Thanks for the comment. There was indeed a presentation like that and it was truly horrible to be in. I felt in the minority. Me and a few others walked out in disgust that we were part of a community that acted and thought in that way.

      “When laughing and pointing a finger, look where the other 3 fingers are pointing” – absolutely.

      There are probably loads of reasons why a tester is not listened to, mostly in my experiences it’s because of a commercial decision that needs to be made that counters what the tester is saying.


      1. I’ve learnt the worst approach to take in testing is trying to act as a guardian of quality – it just sets up an us vs them mentality and will only lead to conflicts, rarely resolving any problems.

        It also makes it much more difficult to get buy in for initiatives started by the test team; which one would you be more receptive to: “We want to implement this process to show how bad your team is” or “We want to implement this process to make it easier and less risk for your team to write code”.

        The best approach to testing is treating it as a team effort and making quality a shared objective, with test facilitating this by making their goal to show where risks in the product lie and to assess those risks to the best of their ability.

        I’m really not fond of test departments calling themselves Quality Assurance because that just gives the wrong impression from the start.

  3. I won’t say that I haven’t felt the desire to say “I told you so.” I’ve never actually said that – it’s unhelpful, and it does nothing to convince other team members that my advice is worth listening to.

    Instead, when something I warned about happened, I did everything I could to help fix it and didn’t say anything about having “told you so”. Schadenfreude is human, but it isn’t helpful.

    1. “Schadenfreude is human, but it isn’t helpful.” – indeed and very nicely put.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. There was indeed a talk like that — I was there too. Admittedly I did not walk out but I had a morbid curiosity about just how bad it was going to get after the “smug” statement. It didn’t get any worse but then it didn’t get any better either.

    I know there are testers who are frustrated and unhappy working for companies that foster a blame culture that results in a ‘us and them’, ‘throw it over the fence’, ‘it’s someone else’s problem now’ mentality. I used to work for one of them but I thought, I hoped that was a mentality that was in the past with installing Windows 95 from floppy disks and using the excite search engine to find drivers for NT4.

    It’s disappointing to find testers with that mentality because unless they realise how poisonous and destructive it is, they will become unemployable in this brave new world of collaboration and everyone working for the team. Not the development and the testing teams, just the team.

    The days of the tester just shouting bad news Cassandra-like from their little entrenched silo should be over. A decade of startups, Agile and self-managing teams should have seem them off. Speakers on the lecturing circuit who perpetrate this old-fashioned and negative stereotype should be consigned back to the early 1990s, where they belong.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Nicely put. I’d be inclined to agree with you that the old fashioned thinking will soon be banished but in my experience the people lecturing on the circuit and promoting this silo are incredibly influential in the industry and I often feel like a minority at many of the testing conferences. I can see the light though and it’s great to part of the smaller niche (but rapidly) growing community that wants to release good software, not just be the gatekeepers of quality.

      Thanks for commenting.

    1. Indeed. Communication and relationships are the key to successful businesses.
      Thanks for commenting.

  5. You’re absolutely right about how poisonous the “told you so” reaction is. There are a few more reasons I wouldn’t tolerate it.

    That sort of reaction reinforces a blame culture, and over the long run that’s going to make it a dreadful place for testers to work. I was once at a company with a highly damaging blame culture. It was so bad that when problems occurred no-one wanted to leap in and solve them. Everyone was scared that doing so would mean they were associated with the problem and would get a kicking.

    Another reason is that you can’t always judge the merits of a decision by the outcome. We all have to take decisions based on limited information and our judgement of likely outcomes, risk and probabilities. It really annoys me when people claim that they’ve been proven right, when in reality they took an irrational decision based on their risk aversion, or indifference to risk, and then they happened to roll a double six. Bragging “told you so” draws attention to their suspect judgement. Testers really can’t afford to lose the respect of their colleagues.

    The last reason is that I’ve learned that sometimes it is necessary to be wrong in the short term in order to get the right long term result. It might be politically necessary to do something you know won’t work so that you can demonstrate the problems and the need for an alternative. It’s all about handling people so they want to do the right thing. If people adopt a “told you so” mentality then everyone gets defensive and nobody learns anything – except how to cover their arses.

    1. Hi James,

      As always a great comment and some great points I wished I’d included in the original post. Brilliantly put. There are so many reasons why sometimes what appears to be the wrong move is actually the right move.

      Thanks again.

  6. Thanks Rob for striking home again,

    We testers provide information, and frequently it is information about things not going well, but this does not have to mean that we want things not going well. I want releases to go to production, I want to test thoroughly and find no bugs… You have to want these things, you have to want the project to be successful giving the best of you in it.

    We have to care about the projects we are in, and if we do, there’s no space for a “Ha-ha, told you so”, it does not help anybody to say such things, they break the teams. We’ve always been reduced to be “the developers’ enemies”. With this attitudes, this war won’t ever end, and seriously, it is not good for anyone, not for testers, not for developers, not for the project.

    Thanks again,


  7. I can certainly understand the frustation of feeling like you weren’t listened to and wanting to point that out to the powers that be. However, I also understand that the ‘I told you so’ attitude is not the way to win their hearts and minds so that they will take notice next time.
    A far better response, as you point out, is to be helpful and productive once things have gone wrong. This will get you just as much notice, but with positve rather than negative connotations.
    To all those who feel like taking the ‘I told you so’ attitude, ask yourself how often you have been the one to make a mistake, or error of judgement, and who was helpful and who was (lets not put too fine a point on it) nasty. Then ask who you listened to more, and who you’d rather work with again.

Comments are closed.