Uber’s “Toxic” Culture

Uber is in trouble. After several years of incredible growth things are getting ugly. CEO Travis Kalanick has just announced he’s taking a leave of absence to work on himself and reflect on building a “world class leadership team” in the wake of reports pointing to his company’s toxic culture.

Kalanick is in hot water for a variety of things including a verbal spat he had with an Uber driver, permitting an overly-aggressive work culture and creating an environment that is not very friendly for women. The fallout has been serious. They have posted a loss of $708 million dollars and their head of finance quit this month.

They say that Uber has rewarded results at the expense of respectful relationships. Leaders in the company let people, including themselves, get away with a variety of bad behaviors. Good for their CEO to leave and reflect.

Work culture is one of those things which gets overlooked by leaders in many organizations. It is not often seen as essential to the bottom line, until it is too late.

I’m sure your place of work is not as bad as Uber, but there may be signs of trouble. Perhaps you have leaders who treat their employees more as machinery and less as people. Toxic culture grows when leaders treat others as cogs and lose appreciation for their hard work. It also happens when workers at the lower levels say “no” too often to their managers, do not follow the rules and are not held accountable for bad behavior.

What is happening at your work place? Is stress at an all-time high? Are people leaving? Bad behavior going unchecked? Here are 7 ideas for you.

– Get a support system—not just those who are whining, but those who are being as proactive as they can about the situation.
– Find stress outlets—Eat healthy. Yoga. Vigorous exercise while yelling. Whatever you can do to move and release negative energy, that is legal and won’t scare others.
– Make a list of the actual, lived-everyday-values of your employees vs. the ones on your website. Invite a conversation about it. See Stephen Blue’s great article here about actual values vs. professed ones.
– Address positional power. Make sure that you are promoting and becoming leaders who are open to feedback. Especially feedback from those beneath you. Leaders can be unconscious of the impact their behavior has on others. We all need people to speak honestly and courageously to us from time to time.
– Make to-do lists. Making lists and checking things off as you do them can help you stay focused when the stress is super-high.
– You can ask an outside expert to come and assess the situation—the actual values and the ways in which power is used. I would qualify.
– Leave. If it really is that bad, and you are certain that you can’t influence the direction, then this might be your best option.

There are always things you can do. Maybe take a leave of absence to reflect on yourself.

About Tom Esch

Tom Esch works with health care companies, counties, cities, construction companies, business analysts, attorneys, executives, owners, managers and non-profit executives to grow interpersonal awareness and foster effective communication.