Success at the Cost of Corporate Culture Does Not Work

Graphic of a man with an award standing on a plank held by sinking employees showing that a toxic corporate culture can sabotage success

Uber is a prime example of an initially phenomenal business success that may soon implode as a result of its failed corporate culture that appears not only unhealthy, but also unaligned with its overall business strategy.

If you keep up with the news, the company’s problems just seem to grow as Uber tries to contain the damage. How could a company valued at almost $70 billion be so close to sinking on the backs of its employees?

It appears to be due to Uber’s poisonous organizational culture. Let’s backtrack a bit to try to learn from what happened…

At first the reports of harassment were few. But they were essentially ignored. The poison of thinking that this kind of behavior was OK began to spread. That’s the way workplace culture works. Corporate culture is the way business gets done day-to-day. It includes the norms of behavior that are accepted and repeated and reinforced. If employees begin to think that misbehavior is condoned, they too feel free to be abusive.

Instead of landing hard on those guilty of harassment, Uber leaders seemed to overlook the unethical (not to mention illegal) behavior. The only effective way to maintain a work environment where workers feel safe and supported is to hold those who operate outside of stated cultural goals fully accountable. Expectations for the standards of behavior need to be crystal clear…both what is required and what will not be tolerated. HR leaders need to be supported by company executives as they set up a consistent and transparent system of rewards that encourage desired behaviors and of consequences that make unacceptable infractions undesirable.

But there’s more to learn from Uber’s situation, especially for those tech companies who are dazzled by early success and eager to adopt a strategy of growth at any cost. Many cheered Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s aggressiveness. They admired his guts and envied his power. But they should take a look at Uber now.

Our organizational alignment research has shown that when a company’s culture is aligned with its talent and, most importantly, its strategy for success, everything works in harmony. Employees are engaged, the right folks are in the right place doing what they do best, and the business strategy is proving its value as the company grows and thrives.  We found that highly aligned companies grow 58% faster and are 72% more profitable at the same time as they outperform their unaligned peers in terms of:

  • Retaining customers 2.23-to-1
  • Satisfying customers 3.2-to-1
  • Effectively leading 8.71-to-1
  • Engaging employees 16.8-to-1

The numbers are persuasive. Growth is what all companies want. But growth is not sustainable at the cost of a toxic corporate culture. If you are looking to build a company that has the legs to succeed and grow over the long term, rely upon a company culture that supports its talent, engages its employees, operates openly and ethically, and is fully aligned with a business strategy for high performance across the board.

To learn more about creating a high performance and purposeful culture, download The 3 “C’s” that Create High Performance Culture Whitepaper

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