After Uber lifted surge pricing during a protest at New York’s John F Kennedy airport against Trump’s travel ban, condemnation online was swift
As part of the widespread #DeleteUber protest that erupted on social media over the last week, more than 200,000 Uber accounts were deleted, according to a report from The New York Times. The size and scale of the protest is immense, and the mounting pressure was what led to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepping down from his position on President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council.
The outrage cycle, a perennial feature of social media, is picking up steam as brands are swept up in the swirl of societal discontent. Just ask Uber.
But on another level, Uber deserved this. The specific rap against them was unfair, but the company’s behavior has long been opportunistic. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has only himself to blame for the fact that so many Uber customers were ready to believe the worst about his company.
Uber’s not irreplaceable—it’s a massive logistics company that largely sells commodities. And a recent consumer boycott proved it.
Sexism At Uber
The backlash against Uber started gaining momentum when Susan Fowler wrote about her experiences working at Uber.
“When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. “
A must read post.
In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now — culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick — it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors.
The former engineer took a big swing at the car-hailing giant, and did us all an even bigger favor
What’s Next? In her first interview since the essay that started a wave of sexual-harassment revelations, Susan Fowler tells her life story and looks to the future.
Later, more stories came out – highlighting the sexist and ‘bro’ culture.
In this interview, Sean Illing talks to Sarah Lacy, a technology journalist who has covered Uber for two years. He asks her about Uber’s reputation as a misogynistic company and whether Silicon Valley’s “asshole problem,” as she describes it, is worse than we think.
“It sickens me to know that there are countless employees at Uber who are experiencing worse situations than mine. If you’ve read Susan Fowler’s Uber story recently, you know what I’m talking about. What she shared is unjust and disgusting, and is unfortunately not uncommon in the workspace. In my time there, I saw malicious fights for power, interns repeatedly putting in over 100 hours a week but only getting paid for 40, discrimination against women, and prejudice against the transgender community.”
The focus on pushing for the best result has also fueled what current and former Uber employees describe as a Hobbesian environment at the company, in which workers are sometimes pitted against one another and where a blind eye is turned to infractions from top performers.
Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture.
Just as Fowler was something of a perfect plaintiff, Uber is, in some ways, a model villain.
The problems that Fowler illustrated are not just Uber’s. They are cultural, systemic, and not “very, very strange” at all; in fact, for many of us, they could not have sounded more familiar.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has instructed chief human resources officer Liane Hornsey to conduct an “urgent investigation” after reading a former engineer’s account of harassment during her time at the ride share company.
The Uber scandal feels different. It feels like a watershed. For gender-diversity advocates in the tech industry, Ms. Fowler’s allegations, and the public outcry they have ignited, offer a possibility that something new may be in the offing.
What could happen? Something innovative: This could be the start of a deep, long-term and thorough effort to remake a culture that has long sidelined women — not just at Uber but across the tech business, too.
“So, I’m turning that advice on myself: I’ve finally deleted Uber from my phone. For one thing, I increasingly don’t feel safe as a woman taking it, frequently late at night and alone. I’ve got a good solid alternative in Lyft, and life is too precious for me to put mine at risk.
And at some point, an asshole culture just goes too far.”
Fowlers letter led to more analysis of Kalanicks behaviour – and more pressure for him to step down.
Travis Kalanick’s drive to win in life has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has at times put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion.
Uber would not exist without Travis Kalanick.
Kalanick’s aggression, dedication, and scrappiness built Uber. But now those same traits threaten to tear it down.
CEO Travis Kalanick’s treatment of one of his drivers shows Uber’s institutional sleazebaggery, seeing social responsibility as an outdated piece of apparatus
Robert Scoble has announced that he believes Travis Kalanick should be removed as CEO of Uber.
He writes in a Facebook post that he finds Uber executive Emil Michael’s comment about digging up dirt on journalists unacceptable, and believes that the only way to “reboot the culture” of the company is for Travis to leave. From 2014
Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has absorbed blistering criticism for the way he handled allegations of sexual misconduct at the San Francisco riding-hailing service.
But he can at least count on the support of one big name in Silicon Valley: former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
For all the plaudits that Travis Kalanick received over the years for creating disruptive ride-hailing giant Uber, the harsh reality is that he leaves behind a business that is in catastrophically bad shape for reasons that go well beyond the sexual harassment issues that forced him out.
What exactly Uber is like inside is of course still unclear. But one thing is certain: There is no one problem that leads a company to this point. A broken company culture is the result of a lot of problems. Let’s look at what might have gone wrong.
Once the poster child for the on-demand economy, Uber has steadily devolved into being the poster child for branding disasters.
Uber isn’t alone. Silicon Valley is gaining a reputation for being obsessed with making money at any cost, i.e. Theranos, which made false claims and risked lives. The tech industry is becoming too much like the finance industry, which a decade ago caused the Great Recession with its greed.
Uber has always skated past trouble with a grin and a twirl, seemingly untouchable. But now, an unprecedented blast of bad news on all fronts seems to have at long last put Kalanick and Ko. on the defensive—a posture with which it has little practice.
Uber is in a whole lot of bad right now, and there’s growing concern that it’s about to melt down like a haywire nuclear reactor, which would leave a crater in the heart of Silicon Valley. Uber gave us on-demand transportation. Countless people all over the world love this new kind of service. The category is only going to get bigger. But it’s possible it will do that without Uber.
How Should They Have Reacted?
If you look at the recent media coverage of Uber one thing is clear: The brand is in crisis.
How can they fix this? Adweek got in touch with a few branding experts to see what the ride-sharing app’s next move should be.
What Happened Next?
Kalanick leaving didn’t create the change that many had hoped for. The company was still very, very flawed.
His departure is tinged by allegations made about him to those investigating the ride-hailing company’s loose culture.
Internal bickering among Uber board members was so bad that it sent HP CEO Meg Whitman running for the hills and appears to have stymied the company’s attempts to find a replacement for disgraced founder Travis Kalanick, according to a pair of reports over the weekend.
Uber is in crisis. This week the president resigned, after just six months on the job. Morale has been shaken following a damning account of sexual harassment. The board of directors is so concerned about the CEO’s ability to lead, they’re looking for a No. 2 to help steer the company.
And now — in a curious plot twist — media mogul Arianna Huffington is emerging as chief of Uber’s campaign for “culture change.”
Uber has fired 20 employees over harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior, as the ride-hailing company tries to contain the fallout from a series of toxic revelations about its workplace.
Ride services company Uber Technologies has been thrust deeper into turmoil with the departure of company president Jeff Jones, a marketing expert hired to help soften its often abrasive image.
In one of his first public interviews since becoming Uber CEO last year, Dara Khosrowshahi offered a brutal critique of the runaway company culture he inherited from founder Travis Kalanick. “There is a rebel in every startup. I just think that Uber took it too far,” he said. “There was a bit of a pirate mentality. Pushing the boundaries doesn’t mean overstepping the boundaries.”
Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.
The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service.
The author suggest sthat the problem at Uber goes beyond a culture created by toxic leadership. The company’s cultural dysfunction, it seems to him, stems from the very nature of the company’s competitive advantage: Uber’s business model is predicated on lawbreaking. And having grown through intentional illegality, Uber can’t easily pivot toward following the rules.