There have been the sexism and harassment stories, the surge-pricing story, the CEO rant story, the President quitting story and, most recently, the sad tale of yet another departure. It’s fair to say that, at the PR level, things are not going well for Uber.
It struck me that, amongst the media reports, the elements of the company’s woes that seem to be generating the loudest negative chatter are the ones that have interpersonal dynamics at their core. People are disgusted by the sexual harassment allegations and affronted by the dehumanising way that Kalanick spoke to his employee.
Good. You just can’t treat people like this in the workplace anymore.
As this story suggests, Uber’s usual tactics to get themselves out of a tight spot have been “aggression and evasion”. But the growing PR furore and the calamitous sequence of executive staff quitting – it all points to a company that is trying to do things old-school ways and finding that they don’t pass muster these days.
It seems to me that so much of what Uber have been doing wrong comes back to diversity. In the case of sexual harassment, it’s pretty clear that with more gender diversity, a culture of sexism would not have developed. Slightly more subtle is that, with more cognitive diversity overall, there would be less aggression and less my-way-or-the-highway arrogance about Uber. Diversity in the workplace creates an atmosphere where a multitude of approaches and world views get equal footing. If your company ethos is full of inflexible machismo, workplace diversity finds it out – and hopefully straightens it out.
If you don’t have workplace diversity, you just get embarrassed in public. Diversity could either have made sure these problems didn’t happen – or helped fix them with less fallout.