How tech scandals impact workers and job seekers

Data breaches, sexual harassment controversies, and lax privacy regulations at tech giants like Facebook and Google may actually attract workers, according to Indeed.

Facebook's delicate dance between privacy and shareholder value

Scandal continues to plague the tech industry, whether it's data sharing controversy at Facebook or the alleged mishandling of sexual harassment claims at Google. Yet these high-profile cases do not impact the majority of tech professionals, or their interest in working in the field, according to a Wednesday report from Indeed.

Indeed surveyed 1,000 tech workers to see how controversies like data breaches, sexual harassment claims, and disingenuous privacy practices affected their attitudes about the industry. The majority of workers (59%) said the occurrence of such scandals does not affect their interest in working in the industry. Surprisingly, only 6% said scandals make them less interested in tech jobs, while 34% said scandals make them more interested in the field, the report found.

It should be noted that this answer and the appeal of controversy was more common among men (41%) than women (26%), and among millennials (41%) than those age 55 and over (16%), according to the report.

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However, when asked how a scandal at a specific company would impact their interest in applying for a job at that company, 33% said they would be less interested in the job. Again, this women in tech were more likely to be put off by a scandal at a specific company (40%) than men were (27%), the report found.

Perceptions of scandals differed among tech professionals, depending on whether or not they worked at a company that experienced one, the report found. Of those working at companies that weren't involved in scandals in 2018, only 20% said they would quit if a controversy arose. But of those working at companies that did experience a scandal in 2018, 62% said they left the company as a result. Of those who remained, 25% said they considered quitting, the report found.

Interestingly, while men had said they were less deterred than women by the idea of working for a company facing a controversy, in practice, more men (68%) than women (50%) said they actually quit jobs at tech firms after a scandal, according to the report.

The type of scandal did not have much of an impact on whether or not employees would be driven away from the company, the report found. Technology-based scandals like data breaches or product failures were most likely to cause employees to leave their job (37%), followed by sexual harassment and bias in hiring (35%), and company leaders expressing political views or making campaign contributions that are viewed as controversial (30%).

Despite the number of scandals in the industry, the majority of tech workers (65%) said they think tech companies are ethical. However, 53% said they believe these companies require more regulation.

Tips for companies facing a scandal

Firms that do experience a public controversy should take the following steps to ensure they can still attract and retain employees, according to the report:

  • Respond quickly. A quick response to an incident would make 81% of tech workers feel better about staying at their jobs.
  • Be transparent. Transparency around a scandal would make 79% of tech workers more likely to remain at the company.
  • Communicate. Internal communication informs 56% of workers' opinion about their employer. Other important influences include word of mouth (51%), online reviews from current and former employees (43%), and media coverage (41%).

"Scandals in any industry are inevitable, and acting quickly and appropriate can help mitigate the damage," the report said. "Only time will tell how current and prospective tech workers will react to scandals and the measures companies take in response."

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Image: iStockphoto/Milan Ilic