Uber – Is Your Corporate Culture Getting Toxic?

A man in the jungle looks beat up with suit torn

Corporate culture can either buoy you up or beat you down. If you leave work at the end of the day feeling discouraged, unfulfilled and unappreciated, it may be the fault of your company’s culture.  Because strategy must “go through culture” to be implemented, your corporate culture is a vital cog in any growth strategy.

We define corporate culture as the way business gets done in an organization day-to-day…the norms of behavior that prevail. When a company’s culture is aligned with its talent and, most importantly, its strategy for success, everything is copacetic. Employees are engaged and happy, 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.  In fact, our organizational alignment research found highly aligned companies grow 58% faster and are 72% more profitable while significantly outperforming 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

But what happens when the culture is dysfunctional or toxic. Just look at Uber…

While it is too early tell what is really going on, recent news stories have uncovered signs of a very unhappy workforce. It all started with revelations on social media from a former employee who reported widespread sexual harassment that went relatively ignored by HR. According to reports, harassment and potentially illegal behavior were not immediately or effectively addressed. And sometimes, it seemed that misbehavior by high performers was especially overlooked. This reveals a workplace culture that may be broken or at least in crisis. It may not doom Uber to failure, but something needs to be done and fast if the company wants to keep its growth trajectory.

It may have started small…a report filed, read and dealt with by a simple “talking-to” and warning. But employees are always watching and judging cultural norms. When misbehavior seems to be condoned, it often grows. Others feel free to be abusive. Pretty soon, there is an organizational culture where there is insufficient accountability and an environment that feels unsafe to many. If employees feel unsupported by leaders or policies designed to deal with harassment, they can only endure and stay, or leave. This is hardly a high performance culture in which to work. As the way people think, behave and work unravels, employee engagement falls and strategy execution suffers.

What can a company like Uber do?

First, leadership needs to step in and make clear, powerful statements about how harassment and other HR problems will be handled in the future. This is not the time to reiterate meaningless or aspired company values. This is the time to be clear about expectations—what are the standards for behavior?  What specifically will be required?  What will not be tolerated?  And what are the consequences?

Then leaders need to follow through…not only with effective and transparent systems of measurement and accountability but also by setting an example. When leaders model ethical, inclusive behavior where diversity is valued, employees will respond in kind.

The problem of a poisonous culture needs to be addressed directly and from the top. We are curious to see what Uber does next. Will they do what it takes to reshape their culture into one where positive change occurs? Currently valued at nearly $70 billion, can Uber earn a reputation for fair treatment of its employees? Only time will tell.

To learn more, Download The Top 5 Warning Signs Your Culture May be in Trouble

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