The tech industry has had its share of scandals lately. There was Google’s handling of sexual misconduct charges against executives, the resignation of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich after he had a relationship with an employee that violated company policy, and Facebook’s data privacy violations, to name just a few. Incidents like these have certainly drawn negative publicity for the companies involved, but is it hurting the way tech workers feel about their own industry?
Job search firm Indeed surveyed 1,000 tech workers to find out. And for the vast majority, the answer was no. Scandals do, however, make a significant minority of tech workers less interested in working at an affected company.
Some of the survey’s results were surprising to me. While 59 percent of tech workers said scandals didn’t change their interest in the industry as a whole, 34 percent said the scandals made them more interested, with just 6 percent becoming less interested.
What’s up with that? Is it simply that people just like reading news—any news—about their industry? Or is tech somehow handling its scandals better than other industries? Or is it something else? Unfortunately, Indeed didn’t ask. But the company did find that the tendency to be more interested in a company after it faced a public scandal was more pronounced among men (41 percent of those surveyed became more interested) than women (26 percent) and millennials (41 percent of those surveyed became more interested) than those ages 55 and over (16 percent).
A scandal can also drive tech workers away from a particular company, Indeed’s data indicated, with 33 percent saying they would be less interested in applying for a job at a specific tech company that had been in the news for a scandal; again, oddly, 35 percent would be more interested. Women (40 percent of those surveyed) were more concerned about working for such a company than men (27 percent).
Fifteen percent of respondents had personal experience working at a company that experienced a public scandal in 2018, and a whopping 62 percent of those respondents actually quit their jobs after the scandal emerged. That’s a far greater number than the 20 percent of respondents who hadn’t been at a company that faced a scandal and who thought they would quit under those circumstances.
In terms of types of scandals, data breaches or product failures are of the biggest concern to survey respondents, with 37 percent indicating that they would be highly or somewhat likely to leave a job in that situation, followed by gender-based scandals like sexual harassment or bias in hiring (35 percent), and having company leaders engage in controversial political situations (30 percent).
How a company handles a scandal also matters. Some 81 percent of respondents indicated that a rapid response to a scandal by the company would make them more likely to stay with that company; 79 percent said transparency is key.
The Indeed survey also asked respondents to consider ethics and regulation. While a majority (65 percent) indicated that they think tech companies are ethical, a majority (53 percent) also indicated that these companies could use more regulation.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.