Top companies such as Uber, Wells Fargo, and United Airlines have been at the top of headlines this year, and not for great reasons. Ultimately all these issues and others can be tied back to the top of the organizations. No matter how large you get, how you treat others and run your business from the top greatly affects everyone down the line. So what exactly is wrong at Uber and what can we learn?
It's usually not one thing in particular but a series of small issues or mistakes that end up sinking these large ships. You can look at many of these stories and take these toxic cultures as a great big warning sign.
A former engineer, Susan Fowler, described how she felt Uber's HR and upper management failed her. Something particularly disturbing,
"...even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part."
If an employee can't trust HR, the department who's supposed to keep a safe environment for employees, it starts to breed a culture that lacks transparency, communication, and trust. This also stems from the top management behavior and especially the behavior of the CEO.
A CEO's behavior set's the example and tone for the entire company. No company is immune to this toxic culture Uber experienced. However, there are a few lessons we can learn from.
1. Establish Meaningful Values and Follow Them
Many startups talk about their values but don't clearly have them defined. Uber has 14 company values that they called, core values. They were very surface level and vague. Because they weren't defined well, they don't communicate to employees or society for that matter what the company believes and where it stands.
It's vital for founders and top management to come together to define these values and share them with your employees. Don't only share, but FOLLOW the values you establish. If these aren't defined before growth it can be difficult to define later on, when it's most likely too late.
2. Culture Starts from The Top.
Top level executives were only focused on profit and scale. This left nobody to pull leadership to accountability or to ensure culture was in check. Other reports along with Fowlers indicated a culture where employees viewed each other as competition rather than a cohort, or teammates.
"Uber must get rid of leaders who tolerate bad behavior and hire people who don't—including up to the chief executive—experts say, as the ride-hailing company gets ready to announce significant changes to its culture and management." - see full review
Leadership's role is to ensure employees have someone they can report or speak to so that you can actually know what is happening and understand everyone's concerns before they become out of hand.
3. Transparency Shouldn't Be Ignored
One of the largest issues facing Uber's scandal is the lack of transparency. Lead investors have publically stated their disapproval. Uber selecting a team of inside leaders to conduct the investigation on its culture is another issue of their issue to be "Open, transparent, and direct."
It's crucial for employers and managers to set up pathways, know who their contacts are and where they stand with the company. Confident employees can help foster a culture of healthy transparency and ultimately success. When employees are on a path, know who they report to and learn from they feel better supported and can drive more meaningful results.
This transparency if established from the beginning, can help a company strengthen its inclusion, equality and diversity issues while breeding a strong, cohesive cohort of employees.
Another issue of transparency plaguing Uber and other tech giants such as Pinterest is Diversity Reports. Although transparency reports can't alone fix or create a better, more inclusive culture. They do show a companies effort and awareness. It's risky but if companies can release these diversity reports and be aware of their issues, they can be better equipt to deal with them. It demonstrates you're willing to share that with more than just those inside the inner circle, that you want to make it better.
What's happening with Uber and other large companies is unfortunate. But it's vital to take a step back and see where the issues are. Learn from them, be better in your own company. Adopt better hiring and retention strategies to ensure a more transparent workplace exists to thrive.
Ready to get started on your path to transparency? Chat with an expert and get your teams set for success!