What do you do if you are in a UX team and things aren't working



Right, well I said I would start up some “darker” conversations, and now seemed to be as good a time as any. So a thought I had was that I’d really like to get conversations going around how we can manage the tougher times in different jobs that we may have in relation to UX. So this particular one is a given to happen at some stage, and I thought it would be good for people to share what they have found helpful, or anything they may have come across, or even suggestions.

So the first one:
How to work in a team with UX people who have different backgrounds, nomenclature, processes, or who do not work well in a team


This one is tough! It’s so frustrating because I feel sometimes this behaviour goes against what UX is all about. All teams have their ups and downs, and that’s pretty normal because we’re all super smart and passionate about what we do but when it reaches the point that productivity is hindered- the user and the business are instantly disadvantaged and no UXer wants that. It is so important to never forget what the whole point of it is- what are we trying to achieve? what is the intent behind the change program/idea/product??

The biggest failings that I’ve seen have been caused by poor communication and teams that aren’t working as well as they could be need even better communication than most. Structured daily catch ups seem to work at ensuring the work stays on track and can help people to stay focussed on the task at hand. If daily is too often then 3 times a week also works well. Working closely to other people when things are tense can be stressful but the number of times I’ve bonded with ‘difficult’ people over an affinity diagram and a war room makes it all worth it.

In the end though I’ve found that some people are just plain difficult to work with and they end up becoming a learning experience :slight_smile: The most tricky ones that I’ve found, have been those that have no understanding of what I do and then throw a bunch of buzz words around and declare themselves experts in my field while dismissing the needs of the user because THEY don’t agree with them.


Agreed! The catching up is a very good idea, I think you’re right Ash about the poor communication within the teams. When starting out with new teams especially, I think it is important to have good communication, to have some kind of team agreement around behaviour and goals within the group, as well as externally for the business. This way you have ground rules as to what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, just in case things aren’t going well.

Something that drew me to UX, apart from being user focused, was the need to have empathy, and that people who you find in UX (in my experience) tend to be really lovely people. Sometimes I wonder whether it is UX or I’ve been spoiled for work mates! I never thought that defining how you should and shouldn’t act was necessary as I thought that in general in a work place or team professionalism and common sense are key. What I didn’t realise was that sometimes they are important, even if to have a set of guidelines so that if you are feeling like your team isn’t working as well together, or someone is behaving in a way that effects you negatively, you have something to go back to. You can then say, hey, we agreed to be like this, I’m not sure we are meeting these goals or ground rules anymore, what can we do to improve this. Or, I’m not feeling like my contributions are being listened to because…
So rather than just having to reach out to your manager, you can first try to work internally as a team to improve. - But again this will only work if people are willing.

Another trick that can sometimes help is to know your personality type, and also find out what theirs is. There is a whole lot of information around working with different personalities, and sometimes this can help you change tack to something that may work better.
Totally true Ash that these things can be learning experiences, or the other term I’ve heard is character building :p.

One thing I’m interested around is the nomenclature, as two people can be having a discussion and be completely confused as to what the other person is saying. Two things around this, one being the difference of words, the other being coming from a different background, the difference of opinion around topics such as process and how things should be done.

A possible solution around the different words that mean the same thing was a glossary of words. But what I’m curious about is how do you come to a compromise or agreement on what terms to use, what the processes should be, what the definitions of things actually are. What happens if an agreement around these can’t be reached?


Agreed! Most of the UXers I’m met and worked with have been fantastic and genuinely nice people who just want make a difference. But we all have our moments and we’re all at different stages of learning and these things take time. Other outside factors do contribute to workplace behaviour - especially when you love your work as much as we do. For me there is no switch off point- this is actually who I am.

Character building- love it! My favourite is “We have a development opportunity for you” :stuck_out_tongue:

The personality type thing works quite well for me, I like the MBTI system and knowing my profile helps me to be more concious of the impacts that I have on those around me. I take the test annually and I always get INTJ. There’s a Simpons and Star Wars chart showing which character is which and that’s always fun to look at.

The nomenclature thing - is it bad that I had to Google that word? oh well you learn something new everyday :slight_smile: I can tell you a little about an experience I had with this. I was discussing the need for a specific user research task to occur with a senior manager. They disagreed on the validity of this work as they disagreed with my definition of that term. Our discussion did not resolve anything and ended up resulting in a bigger conflict mostly to do with the office hierarchy and office politics. I was advocating for the needs of the user and genuinely believed I was doing the right thing. Based on the opinions of others present, I was respectful and presented a strong case for the work to go ahead. An angreement was never reached and the work was parked. Sorry to be vague but hey the internet is forever right? :slight_smile:


I’m almost your nemesis! I always get ESFJ.

Edit: Great thread Natalie. Thanks for kicking it off!


Hi guys,

you are completely right. Communication and misunderstandings are one of the biggest challenges in-team. This is even more true when you work in different places like it often happens.
Daylies and empathy are real important but that if fortunatly one of the aspects most of the UX people have, especially when you are expereinced in UX research. You need to listen and observe behaviours and to create this kind of empathy for other people.

I think the more difficult challenge is to get people in the boat who do not understand what we want to achieve and rely more on the experiences they made in the past than trying something new, giving new methods and innovation a try. Reasons can be diverse, from having no time, being lazy person, egocentric person to simply not understanding and other reasons.
I always try to achive some kind of team idea, talking about real life experiences and values, also long time effects and ROI aspects work sometimes. Mostly the beginning of a common understanding is to build up empathy for all the other people in the project. Everybody has his personal and professional goals. We need to let the people shine so that they feel successful.

A difficult issue is also the need of being a problem solver and solution finder. I am sure you also have encompassed situations where developers tell you “technically not possible” or business guys “financally not acceptable”. It is a tight balance to find the right solutions without loosing focus on user needs as well. Solution for that in my point of view is to keep up to date, to have idea ressources, read books, blogs, forums and so on.
If you don´t achieve that … you get quite fast the image to making development more dificult and expensive. This should never happen and if it happens there is a big need to change that. Think pragmatic sometimes but never forget about solution orientation and communicating the real value of user centered development and UX.

Best regards


Yeah finding ways to work with colleagues who are difficult to get to know, or communicate with, is always going to be a challenge. I suppose it’s a bit vague because humans are complex and varied, so each situation will likely require a different approach.

That said, some ideas that come to mind that I’ve used in the past include:

  • initiate a team-building experience—e.g. lunch, dinner, bowling, karaoke, visiting a winery, or some other social function that lets people get to know each other outside of a work context
  • using problem stakeholders as test participants, so that they feel valued, special, and bought-in to the project
  • finding a problem individual’s “currency”. i.e. Are they someone who is swayed by hard data, or pretty charts, or videos, or dollar value? If so, find a way to build a convincing argument using their currency, and get their feedback on it one-on-one before you “take it to the rest of the team” (when in fact they’re the one you’re trying to persuade)
  • another idea that works well: flattery will get you everywhere
  • and when it doesn’t … being strategic about who is in a meeting when you’re tackling a contentious topic (e.g. it was difficult for one woman at a past client to take the ridiculous stance that she took when I was speaking to her one-on-one when I had her boss in the room with me)

Hope that’s useful! :slight_smile: