Are You Uber-Focused on Results? Don’t Let This Happen to Your Business

The revelations of sexism, harassment, and an utter lack of accountability at Uber have rocked the company to its core. The hashtag #DeleteUber has gained traction on social media, and CEO Travis Kalanick has come under fire for not just allowing, but enabling a company culture that made many female employees feel “unwelcome”.

Uber made its way to the top of the transportation tech industry by being brash and fearless, but internally, those same qualities have isolated a large portion of its workforce. An article from USA Today refers to Uber’s baller’ culture, and the description seems more fit for a fraternity than a leading business.

Ironically, Uber’s overly aggressive and headstrong company attitude — which has been an integral part of their success — is now the cause of their international PR nightmare, which has led them to lose money. In this day and age, news travels faster than an Uber can pick up a customer. Now, Uber is under a microscope, its brand reputation is at stake, and shareholder value has been impacted. Kalanick recently admitted that he has to ‘grow up‘ in the wake of a video being released where he treated his own Uber driver disrespectfully.

Uber is not the only Silicon Valley tech environment that has problems, especially when it comes to fair treatment of female employees. The ‘baller’ culture is a pervasive one that stems from the college level (and earlier), where women are underrepresented in tech-related majors. Many tech startups/businesses are at risk of developing similar internal behavioral tendencies to Uber. HR, harassment, and workplace sensitivity can easily fall to the wayside when the sole focus is making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible.

So, how can your business avoid the same fate as Uber?  First, recognize the vital importance of company culture and don’t give lip service to your core values. While results (financial and otherwise) are important, the way those results are achieved is just as important.  If those values are platitudes that are merely displayed on the wall and met with eye rolls at their mention, you are headed for trouble. As a manager, you need to constantly show that you are serious and committed to optimizing company culture.  Just like any business initiative, fostering a positive work environment starts from the top and will trickle down to all levels within the organization if implemented properly. This means time and effort must be put into the development and communication of your core values along with training for all managers and employees. It should be clear that failure to get on board will result in termination.

You also should place high importance on culture and values during the hiring process.  You must put a system in place for identifying candidates who mirror your values and will “live” by them every day, if hired. Remember, every new hire will contribute to enhancing or eroding your culture, so train managers on values-based interviewing and how to identify if someone is a good fit.

Uber’s shortcomings are the perfect example of how not to retain employees. Complaints were made and routinely swept under the carpet.  HR was absent, clearly had no credibility, and was not empowered. Uber’s leaders enabled negative behavior by their ‘slap on the wrist’ mentality, and were obviously remiss in protecting their company from liability. Uber’s recent troubles prove that even the most financially successful companies can suffer serious consequences if the higher-ups foster a negative/dangerous culture. It remains to be seen if Uber will fully bounce back from its troubles, but the fact it is a powerhouse brand means many people will probably keep using the product or at least give it second and third chances. Smaller businesses may not be able to withstand mass sexual harassment claims and a ruined reputation.

Paying attention to the needs of people seems like such a simple task, to the point that it can easily be forgotten. This phenomenon obviously occurred at Uber, has occurred at many businesses before Uber, and is still occurring at other businesses. Don’t let your brand become vulnerable to criticism and scandal because of competition, intimidation, and immaturity. Make sure you have the right people, processes, and culture in place to prevent a crippling company meltdown.

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