Testing Zombies

I saw a blog post talking about how to identify testing zombies and are you becoming one. I’d like to start a discussion about why people might become testing zombies.

Maybe I’m naive and they’ve always been that way but my own personal experience has shown me that sometimes the environment you are working in can make you become a testing zombie similar to the post here about How to stay motivated when you don’t like the products you’re testing.

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So we’re saying a testing zombie is someone who doesn’t really look to test the product, just look like they’re testing the product enough that they’re getting away with it? People who coast instead of digging deeper and improving process and domain knowledge, that sort of thing?

To be honest it doesn’t feel like this is specific to testing. A lot of people just want to work their contracted hours, have a quiet time and then go home at 5pm to crack on with the stuff they want to do.

It’s a matter of perspective whether these people are ‘zombies’, or just follow the ‘work to live, not live to work’ mantra.

You’ll find these people in every profession, and it’s a frustration for sure, but I find it somewhat snobby to call them zombies just because their priorities are different from our own.

Most testers don’t spend their free time at meetups, conferences or reading testing blogs. Most probably don’t strive to break barriers or want to veer from how they’re told/taught to test. But that’s fine. Every person wants something different out of their job.

And let’s be honest here, our career progression would be much slower if these so-called ‘zombies’ didn’t exist. I know I wouldn’t have made the impact I have at the companies I’ve worked if all the other testers were preaching and ranting as much as I do!


I strongly disagree that most testers not wanting to be free-thinking self-improving professionals is “fine”. I wouldn’t call the rest “zombies”, but I think it’s unethical to fill the role of someone who supports a team with important information so that they can make informed decisions without looking to do it properly. It’s not just them that suffer - it’s not a personal, private decision about what they want out of their job and nothing more. We all suffer, from the business owners right down to the users.

The only valid excuse that I can think of is accidental ignorance or genuine incompetence despite best efforts to the contrary. Willful ignorance is certainly not.

My team and my company rely on my ability to do my job properly, and hire me partly because of my propensity to self-improve. So I suppose another excuse might be that the company insist on mandating process - but in such a prison I expect the inmates to at least try to subvert the rules or escape.


Yes to an extent. I think I would think of zombie as slightly different to the original post.

I’ve seen people who were great testers essentially turn to hate testing and doing the bare minimum in their job because of different processes that pushed them down or knocked their confidence. In my own experience it happened when I was given a product my heart wasn’t in (like the second link I posted) and when I was blamed for the product not being released over and over.


My intention was not to be snobby. I was quoting the original post.

I have NO issue with people who don’t attend meetups. People have other commitments and priorities (family, perhaps a second job, etc).

Does my reply to @kinofrost help clarify my thinking on this at all?

Firstly, that prison metaphor is genuinely superb. Not only does it conjure up @andyglover level imagery, but it also captures both sides of this discussion very well.

Carrying on the metaphor, I’m definitely someone striving to escape, or at the very least rattling my cup against the bars and shouting questions at the warden. However I’m also not going to look down on those who accept/are resigned to their situation, and instead of getting upset about it they decide to play by the rules in exchange for the quiet life.

I understand that if everyone was rattling their cups then more would be done, which is the frustrating bit, but I still think it’s unfair to judge them too harshly for approaching the situation in a way we don’t like.


My reaction was aimed at the original blog post. I appreciate that you were more speculating that perhaps the condition it talked about was a result of the environment.

Hi ! I’m the author of the subject about “how to keep motivation”. I don’t think “zombie” are people who don’t care at all about their work. Not all of them.

I think I’m becoming a zombie at the moment and it makes me feel bad. I don’t want it. I liked to test and I’m interested in the field. I like the community and all the psychology and process under it.

But this days, my work turns out boring. Since the company have been acquired, the atmosphere suffers and I have to test products I don’t care about. It’s difficult to stay involved.

I think the trap is that we tend to think that is testing we don’t like in those situations, but maybe is just the context.

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Since I was tagged into the conversation I thought I’ll share my 2 pennies worth…
The original Zombie article is very black and white, not at all realistic, but I get the point he’s making. Plus I love zombie movies.
Ultimately testers are paid to test, so even if they’re not motivated or like the products they test, they must test and test to their best ability.
But life and testing are not black and white either (unlike my cartoons). Some days people are more motivated than other days, e.g. Thursday morning tends to be a much better day to test than a Friday afternoon.
The best testers I know can motivate themselves via different ways to perform well in testing:
What can I learn to be a better tester today? (self improvement)
I have half an hour left of the day, what’s the best test to run right now? (effectiveness)
I have a hangover, how would a real user use this application when they have a headache? (user empathy)
I’m stressed! How can I de-stress so I can focus on the testing? (focus and de-focus skills)
I’m bored, what can I automate so testing is not so dull? (efficiency)
I’m undervalued, how can I continue to perform well and be recognised for it? (selling skills)
I’m feeling competitive, how many bugs can I raise today? (drive)
I’m annoyed with my colleagues, how can I influence them so they listen to my ideas, which are obviously better ideas than theirs? (teamwork)
I’m jealous of A Tester, how can I be more like them? (observational and listening skills)


As an experienced test manager though, do you accept that some testers just don’t share those motivations and never will, or do you believe that there is always a way to locate and unlock that motivation and desire to be better?

I accept some testers are more motivated than others. I also accept that some testers are very motivated between 9-5 but then ‘clock-off’ for the evening. I would also say the team leader or manager should create a work environment where it’s easier for testers to be motivated (e.g. recognise/praise effort, behave with integrity, train & develop staff, provide autonomy) but ultimately if a tester isn’t performing due to no/low motivation then the buck stops with the tester.
Everyone has motivation, otherwise people wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. It’s how you (as a tester, team leader/manger) unlock that motivation to perform better.


I can massively relate to this, in the last almost year of my job, I grew to hate testing. I did what was necessary - I dug deeper and I made sure things were good - but I stopped pushing for change, I stopped trying to improve processes and I stopped fighting quite as strongly as before. I’d lost a lot of confidence and all of the joy was sucked from my role. It may have actually been a bit longer than that if I’m truely honest, I struggled in my last few roles to find a position I loved enough and that allowed me to grow and learn more and help make changes. I just couldn’t be arshed after a while! So I changed career completely! Although based on the blog post, I never went full zombie.


Yeah I was in a similar situation to @mcgovernaine. At one stage I was a zombie tester, or very close to being one. Was working in a terrible place, where I had to explain to the manager what testing was. So after a few times of trying that and getting nowhere I gave up on the place, and just did what I was asked, make and test scripts.

I would say there is a correlation between testers who work in terrible places and zombie testers. That’s not to say there is not good testers working in those places, or no zombie testers anywhere else. But would imagine the percentages would be higher.

And also like Aine, I moved career to get out of it and haven’t looked back :slight_smile: