What does it say about us, our society and the marketplace when a company with such a poisonous and juvenile culture can still be worth in and around $70 billion? We have truly gone mad.
There are many opinions on the issues at Uber and many activities have taken place since the sexual harassment charges have been uncovered and the toxic environment has been exposed. The CEO and founder Travis Kalanick has stepped aside; a prominent member of the board ,David Bonderman (one of the wealthiest men in America) has also resigned amidst ignorant and ill-timed public comments; a special report was commissioned and completed by none other than former US Attorney General Eric Holder; and many other staffing moves and new hires.
What was stunning to me is the level of ignorance the leadership team and the board of directors has shown in leading and overseeing this company. For a supposed ‘new age’ concept and premise, the culture was distinctly ‘old world’ and toxic. How does this happen today? How does a young, millenial entrepreneur even allow this type of culture to exist and fester – how does he even know about this ancient notion of a male dominated, prurient and clearly misogynistic environment? Maybe he watched every episode of “Mad Men” – otherwise I really can’t fathom how he created this monster.
What is most shocking to me is that Eric Holder’s recommendations are so basic and contain such standard practices, even dating back to the 80’s and 90’s, that it is infuriating that a company that was established in 2009 needed to be told the following:
- The Company needs a Chief Operating Officer
- Use performance reviews to hold executives accountable for behavior
- Compensation and incentives should be tied to ethical business practices
- More sophisticated HR systems are needed to track issues and trends
- Mandatory leadership training needed for executives, HR and managers
- A robust and effective complaint process should be implemented
- Company values should reflect a more inclusive and positive set of behaviors
- Overhaul values to eliminate redundancy and reduce the overall number
- Adopt a more diverse approach to recruiting and use a blind resume process
- Policies should be applied consistently throughout the organization
- Encourage responsible drinking and limit the amounts of alcohol available at company functions
- Prohibit romantic relationships in any reporting relationship
- Ensure that promotion criteria is clearer and eliminate bias in the review process
- Board should perform a comprehensive review of company’s pay practices
To me, this is a list that any senior HR leader worth his or her salt would be able to identify within 10 days of being hired: Or better yet, any reasonable leader would have instituted from the outset. This is the real issue at hand here. The Board felt they needed to bring in a former Attorney General to come up with the most basic and obvious recommendations. Any sensible and mature leader could have come up with this list and more in probably half the time and for a fraction of the cost. To be honest, one of the board members should have been able to pinpoint these issues without having to go outside.
Shame on the Board for letting this company get away from them and not monitoring the culture and talent level in the C-Suite; for not moving Travis aside earlier and hiring a professional to manage the business; for not insisting that a rapidly growing, highly visible young company not hire the very best HR talent to guide the culture and growth.
Uber is not going anywhere any time soon. Let’s hope they start creating a culture that is in lockstep with this century’s values before it implodes before our very eyes and Lyft takes over the world.