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The Boomerang Effect of Firing All The UBER Leaders...

By this time, you're all caught up on all the events happening at Uber.  Uber-Harassment (couldn't resist), aggressive behavior, a big employee relations-style investigation by outside counsel and a bumbled all-hands meeting that included an HR leader calling for everyone to hug it out and a board member saying that women talked to much and then resigning.

Whew. That's a lot.  

You don't need more Uber status updates, so in the aftermath of Uber taking out most of it's leadership team including it's founder/CEO, I'm here to offer one observation.

Uber is ripe for a cultural crisis - but not the one you expect.

The biggest risk for Uber is that as they try to improve their culture, they loose the edge that made them special.  That edge was being the hardest charging, most aggressive company in the face of the planet.

Uber's doing the right thing reacting to recent events and attempting to ensure the culture for employees improves. But a likely side effect to that necessity is that the company is going to provide built in excuses for a lack of execution.

Uber never would have grown into who it is today if the leaders weren't absolute a##holes when it came to confronting challenges - the local governments, the needed ability to scale, dealing with global leaders and governments.

In all of these areas, Uber was about action first and permission later.

You know, exactly the behavior that caused the car wreck when it came to harassment and a hundred other negative behaviors.

Action first, boldness and permission later.  Unacceptable when it comes to dealing with employees - much more care is needed. But action first/boldness/permission later is a big part of what allowed Uber to dominate the market and grow at the pace it did.

Expect to see a downturn in execution at Uber in the years to come.  The DNA that made them cringeworthy with employees is directly related to what made them special in the marketplace/business world.

UPDATE - note from a reader - "Hi Kris.  Interesting post.  I struggle with your conclusions (a little).  Maybe because I continually fight the “this is retail” mentality when it comes to how people are treated.   Are hard charging and respectful mutually exclusive concepts?   Can you have an edge, and not do incredibly stupid stuff?   Can you be decisive and not be a dick?   I think so."

I agree with the reader. The biggest point I was trying to make is that when you've operating this way for so long, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle from a hard-charging results perspective.  I think UBER is going to have to tolerate lower execution because how they've treated certain classification of employees is how they've treated the market to a large degree.

Comments

Bryan

Very astute point, KD. A colleague and I had a similar conversation when this first came up, but we were having trouble articulating the paradigm. Glad you wrote this!

Dr Gary Dumais

Was it the "aggressive" culture that made Uber a business success, or was it innovative ideas and the drive to implement those innovative ideas? No doubt the Uber corporate culture needs improvement, and perhaps re-centering the culture on something positive, creative, and growth-oriented like the spirit of ongoing, ground-breaking, innovation would help.

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