[Personal] Witch-hunts are bad for morale and creates a toxic work culture!

June 1, 2021

As a software developer throughout the years, I’ve been in different size teams with different team dynamics. One thing that I’ve noticed are the witch-hunts where people are looking to point fingers. I personally think witch-hunts are a bad thing, not just for a dev team, but also for work cultures.

Over the weekend, I was chatting with some friends of mine who are also in IT and we stumbled upon the topic of “witch-hunts”. Throughout the years as a developer, I’ve seen a fair share of witch-hunts in IT.  Long story short, don’t do it.  Avoid them. If you’re looking to point fingers because that’s just who you are, then do it after the issue has been resolved.

As a developer, my thought process for resolving bugs is usually the following:

  1. Reproduce the bug.
  2. Troubleshoot where the bug is occurring in the code.
  3. Fix the bug.

You don’t assign blame to anyone.  You have a bug, you fix it.

When people start witch-hunts, it demoralizes the team, but maybe not for the person leading the witch-hunt.  For them it probably makes them feel more powerful?  Witch-hunts to find who to blame for a bug or why something went wrong in an application doesn’t empower the developers to do better.  It instead puts fear into developers because they don’t want to take risks and fail fast.  Developers are more reluctant to take ownership of what they build.  I also think witch-hunts are an antipattern to Agile.

Most witch-hunts that I’ve seen in my past experiences usually come from the business side.  Instead of allowing the developers to fix the bug, they look for who “created” the bug.  This usually takes hours and will resolve nothing.  If you’re even thinking about starting a witch-hunt, maybe you should first ask yourself why.  Then sleep on it.  By the time you sleep on it and ask for an update from the dev team, the issue would have probably been resolved.

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