Uber has seen better days. An investigation into sexual harassment allegations at Uber is resulting in the termination of more than 20 employees (with more sure to come) and the "stepping away" of the CEO to attend leadership training. Is it too little too late to turn around the company culture at Uber? I don't think it is.
A person close to the company reportedly said a law firm that assessed Uber's investigation looked at 215 claims, took action on 58 claims, no action on 100 others, and are continuing to investigate the rest. Some 31 employees are in required counseling or training.
However, the accusations aren’t all about sexual harassment. Uber says 47 of the cases are related to sexual harassment, 54 are discrimination, 45 are “unprofessional behavior,” 33 are bullying, and 36 are “other types of claims.”
Separately, Uber hired the former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to give his recommendations on the strategy to improve the "toxic culture." The results of that inquiry were a bit anti-climactic. His solution is to have less alcohol at the office and more diversity in the company. However, with a genuine public apology from the CEO and the message of more accountability of the leadership, so far Uber looks like they are getting back on track.
HOW DOES A CULTURE GET SO BAD?
Often people assume that this kind of toxic culture cannot take place inside of a company. However, this experience is more common than you think. I most often see this type of toxic culture inside businesses that grow too quickly. When you start your company with five people, it is easy to play it loose with the regulations. Typically, startups are friends that start working together and we all know we speak differently around our friends. As a small company expands and more employees are added, it is important to be more professional so as to not offend or disrespect anyone.
When a company grows, both the communication system and the management structure must grow to match. Think of your growth like a like a city planner. Small towns with one major road and two red lights have much different infrastructure needs than cities with millions of people.
Uber maybe in dark times, but they are not too far gone. If Uber can clean house of all the personal responsible for professional misconduct, and make sudden moves for progressive change, they can see some light at the end of their tunnel.