Company logo gear is a tricky thing. There's a lifespan of when and where employees are willing to wear your logo shirts in public. The cadence goes something like this:
--Startup Mode - your employees are willing to wear your logo gear anywhere and everywhere, especially if you've done a nice job related to your colors and the logo itself. To the extent you have a good/great culture, the willingness to wear your logo shirts in this stage gets magnified.
--Growing Pains Mode - with size comes complexity, and things aren't as rosy any more. Your employees gladly wear your logo shirt on an assigned day, but you see less and less of the gear on a daily basis as employees become more neutral in their pride to work at your company. Most companies never progress to a more negative state than this related to how their employees treat logo wear.
--Cable Company Mode - I used to be a leader at a Cable company, and this mode is the most negative spot in the employee/logo wear continuum. Your employees will change their shirt in the car - from your logo to no logo - to avoid customer confrontations and negative feedback. Who likes the cable company? No one, so it stands to reason your employees just want blend in with the crowd when grabbing a gallon of milk.
You know who's recently moved into the Cable Company Mode when it comes to logo gear? Uber, at least for the time being. The wave of news related to driver relations and harassment claims from employees has moved them straight for "logo wear pride/startup mode" to "Cable Company Mode", albeit with a certain tech swag that could retain some pride.
That's why a recent interview with Frances Frei , Uber’s new vice president of leadership and strategy was so interesting. Appearing on stage with Recode’s Kara Swisher at a live onstage taping of the Recode/Decode Podcast, Frei wore and Uber t-shirt and told the audience and listeners that she's taking the following approach (which I'm paraphrasing)"
--"I'm wearing a Uber t-shirt every day, until it becomes acceptable to do it again."
Think about that for a second. There's drama at Uber, and employee pride is likely at an all time low. The struggles have been public and no one wants to be seen in the Bay area wearing an Uber t-shirt.
But a new leader makes the pledge to wear that t-shirt daily. To engage in all the conversations that it will encourage - both good and bad.
--Wearing the company t-shirt - leadership-light.
--Wearing the company t-shirt knowing it will cause 5-10 conversations a day you could have avoided - hmmm.
The second one feels like a stab at true leadership, and a small path to recovery for whatever the culture becomes at Uber.
Well played, Frances.