June 23, 2018

Bad Work

How do you feel about other people’s bad work?

One particularly heinous response is

‘Oh, man how could they miss something so basic? Obviously they don’t give a shit’.

This can be a rather negative outlook to bring to an existing team or workplace.

Imagine you are a user researcher joining a team that has never done it. Or, A QA specialist on a team that never had one. A designer on a team that has only ever had engineers.

If you believe “No one gives a shit”; you are working from a place of dependency (on other people) and despondency (since no one cares any way, why try…)

Instead you need to go to a place of agency (I can do it) and activism (I have to create awareness and make people care over time).

Remember Hanlon’s Razor, that not all bad work can be attributed to malice.

Here some more reasons for bad work


  • Apathy (Yes, it is possible they don’t give a shit)
  • Oversight (They somehow missed it and if they had noticed it, they would have fixed it)
  • Considered exception (They knew it was an issue, but let it be for now)
  • Lack of knowledge (They just didn’t know how to do it)
  • Wilfulnesss (The other extreme of apathy, where someone wanted to do harm)


  • Constraints (Given the limited time window or money, this is the best they could do)
  • Dependencies (Something else changed)
  • Disasters (Something happened that was out of their control)

Some ways to action that has worked for me

  • Create Awareness (Run sessions, put posters)
  • Explain in the moment (Just take the time to explain ‘why’ when you are working with someone)
  • “Borrow” influence (Use sparingly, ask a higher authority to intervene)
  • Coat-tailing (Pair it with a new initiative. Hey since we are about to releases “x” why don’t we also work on this other thing)
  • Work together for a while (Just time will help you build connections and influence in a system)
  • Batching into lumps (Collect a few instances of bad work together to fix than one by one)