Key Point: Being sustainably exponential and transformative does not have to include being mean spirited, disrespectful, and culturally conflicted. The title of this blog was in the opening paragraph of Uber’s then CEO, Travis Kalanick’s, now infamous “Miami letter,” sent to 400 plus employees celebrating Uber’s rollout to its 50th city in 2013. I will refer back to the content of the letter, perhaps some foreshadowing as to where Uber is now.
As of June 2017, Uber has officially started a total rebuilding of its culture after what’s been by most measures, a disastrous first half of the year. As part of the overhaul, the CEO has announced he’s taking a leave of absence and allowing a group of executives to lead the company through the implementation of sweeping changes. The following summary of Uber’s cultural status is noted below, as reported by PitchBook:
“In an all-hands meeting Tuesday, the company presented employees with recommendations from Covington & Burling, the law firm that conducted an independent investigation into the company after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing unchecked sexual harassment during her tenure. Uber’s board of directors had committed to instituting all the recommendations during a board meeting a few days earlier… The Covington report proposes many remedial measures for the $68 billion company, from changes in upper management to better board oversight to cultural changes such as earlier on-site dinners and options to work remotely. Uber has already implemented some changes from a separate internal probe, including the termination of 20 employees who were let go after investigations into sexual harassment, bullying and other types of claims.
In a statement, HR chief Liane Hornsey wrote, ‘Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.’ The 13-page Covington report can be accessed here.”
I specifically want to refer to the following recommendation regarding culture, as per PitchBook:
“Even before Fowler published her scathing blog post, Uber was widely known as an aggressive place to work. The Covington report suggests reworking the company’s values. Specifically, the report proposes letting go of values that have been used to justify poor behavior, including ‘Let Builders Build,’ ‘Always Be Hustlin’’ and ‘Toe-Stepping.’ One example of a symbolic cultural change is the re-naming of a conference room from the War Room to the Peace Room, per a Bloomberg report.”
And to help understand why Uber needs to culturally reframe, the following is an extract from Kalanick’s 2013 Miami Letter noted above:
1) No lives should begin or end at 九
2) We do not have a budget to bail anyone out of jail. Don’t be that guy. #CLM
3) Do not throw large kegs off of tall buildings. Please talk to Ryan McKillen and Amos Barreto for specific insights on this topic.
4) Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic “YES! I will have sex with you” AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML
5) Drugs and narcotics will not be tolerated unless you have the appropriate medicinal licensing.
6) There will be a $200 puke charge for any public displays on the Shore Club premises. Shore Club will be required to send pictures as proof.
7) DO NOT TALK TO PRESS. Send all press inquiries to Andrew – email@example.com Additionally, stay vigilant about making sure people don’t infiltrate our event. If and when you find yourself talking to a non-Uber (look for the wristband), keep confidential stuff confidential… no rev figures, driver figures, trip figures… don’t talk about internal process, and don’t talk about initiatives that have not already launched.
1) Have a great fucking time. This is a celebration! We’ve all earned it.
2) Share good music. Digital DJs are encouraged to share their beats poolside.
3) Go out of your way to meet as many of your fellow uberettos as you can.
4) If you haven’t figured it out yet, Miami’s transportation sucks ass. #Slang as many Miamians, drivers, influencers as you can as passionately as you can and let them know why Uber will make this great city an even better place. Every slang matters. #MiamiNeedsUber…
5) If someone asks to meet the CEO and Founder of Uber, kindly introduce him to Max Crowley.”
- The CEO and leadership set the tone. My belief is that being truly exponential includes a deep commitment to advancing humankind inside and outside the organization. Values like speed, adaptability, disruption can and should co-exist with inclusiveness, respect, accountability and abundance. Yes, we humans are imperfect AND we still can achieve 10x performance without bullying and harassment. Do not let so called “start-up values” justify lousy behavior. What values need to be revisited and/or are missing in your culture? How will you influence that?
- Commit to advancing humankind as a key element in 10x thinking. What good is disruption if it is harmful? We want modern companies to be about more than just money… And that applies to Uber, otherwise, I’d rather take a taxi.
Read this in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: I wasn’t aware of this 2013 “Miami letter” or Uber’s recent Q1/Q2 struggles, but I have heard rumors of shady play in that company. You can sort of tell this Kalanick guy probably thought he was pretty cool after sending that email: A rebel rousing, foul-mouthed executive turned “man of the people.” A real “CEO chum” that can still be everyone’s bud. I think we can learn that when it might come across as inappropriate, it probably will and likely come back and bite. There’s just a fine line… No one really wants to work for an out of touch Puritan, but you want someone who knows where the edge is. In Kalanick’s words, “Don’t be that guy.”
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis