Software engineers battle management retaliation for reporting wrongdoing

Systematic ongoing failures affect software engineers and, therefore, the computer systems used by broader society, Scottish software auditing company Engprax has found.

They’re sounding the alarm bells about engineers’ ability to properly report misconduct at work.

Experts recalled the Horizon IT scandal, where faulty accounting software was “blamed for multiple suicides.” Over 700 post office branch managers were wrongfully convicted of theft and false accounting after the flawed Horizon IT system incorrectly suggested that there were financial shortfalls.

As it turns out, even when engineers suspect wrongdoing at work, it’s not easy for them to speak up about it.

The survey polling firm Survation revealed that 75% of those who dare to voice their concerns report facing retaliation from management or colleagues.

“Alongside the risk of retaliation for speaking up, 1 in 6 software engineers feel unable to express ideas or concerns, speak up with questions, or admit to mistakes without fear of negative consequences. Nearly 1 in 4 software engineers said they were unable to take calculated risks without fear of negative consequences,” Engprax investigation reads.

It highlighted that some companies have sought to bypass public interest disclosure laws by “getting employees to agree to warranty clauses during severance stipulating they know of no grounds to make protected disclosures.”

Protected disclosures, also often referred to as whistleblowing, is when an employee reports or exposes information about illegal, unethical, or wrongful activities within an organization. These reports are safeguarded by laws to protect the individual making the disclosure from retaliation or any negative repercussions for speaking up.

Despite the issues they face, engineers are the second most highly trusted profession (only behind nurses). Professionals working in technology (67%), healthcare/pharma (66%), and telecommunications (65%) saw the highest levels of trust.