An Open Letter to Uber’s CEO (Re: That Horrifying Blog Post About Working for Uber)
Now’s the time, Mr. Kalanick.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Dear Mr. Kalanick,
As you know, former Uber employee Susan J. Fowler published a blog post over the weekend (that has since gone viral), accusing numerous members of Uber's management team of various acts of impropriety.
These alleged actions include (but are not limited to):
- explicit sexual harassment
- gender discrimination
- intentional deception
- career sabotage
- illegal threats of termination of employment
Countless readers of Ms. Fowler's post have been saddened and disgusted by these accusations.
Of course, in an era where fake news abounds, this type of story could easily spread without serious verification. And admittedly, there are two sides to every story--so most of us on the outside will never truly know what is going on inside your company.
Nonetheless, an event like this has the power to rock an organization to its very foundation, and to make it better, if you let it. This could be used as a catalyst to seriously re-examine both Uber's current culture and the direction in which it is heading.
With that in mind, I sincerely implore you to consider the following:
1. Initiate a full investigation from an independent organization
Your official statement (and tweet) indicate that you've instructed your CHRO, Liane Hornsey, to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. Ariana Huffington, who serves on Uber's Board of Directors, also tweeted that she'll be working with Ms. Hornsey to make sure the probe is "independent."
However, if there is even the slightest hint that some of Ms. Fowler's allegations are true, you need to hire a truly independent body to conduct a full, unbiased investigation.
Otherwise, the chance is too great that the situation's full gravity will never be fully revealed, and the impact severely mitigated.
2. Consider making major changes in Uber's leadership
If even a fraction of Ms. Fowler's claims are true, the company has signs of a cancerous culture.
To cite just one (easily verifiable) example, Ms. Fowler alleges that in less than 1.5 years, her engineering team dropped from over 25% women to less than 6%. Which begs the question: Why the rapid flight of female employees? Could it be that Ms. Fowler's story is only the tip of the iceberg?
Employees follow the example of company leaders. If such blatant immoral and unethical actions could be committed by multiple members of management and HR, your response as CEO must be drastic.
That's why, if you're serious about the health of your company, you should consider replacing the entire executive team.
I know you won't like this suggestion, especially since Uber is your baby, and you've been around from the beginning.
But that's exactly why you should think about stepping down.
Mr. Kalanick, your company has shown signs of needed reform for years. When Uber became known for ignoring and flaunting rules instead of working with regulators, the company did little to combat that image problem. When Uber developed a reputation of not caring for drivers, it rebranded--and made things worse.
By stepping down, you can show that you're capable of a truly selfless act that can benefit the company. You would demonstrate that you truly believe in Uber's mission, and are willing to do whatever it takes to see it come to fruition.
In the meantime, you could work with HR and management to provide the independent investigative body with everything they need. This would give you insight into the what, where, when, how and why things went wrong--better equipping you to lead in the future.
Possibly, after enough time has passed and you've had time to reflect and learn from this experience, you could return to lead Uber again.
Decisions like these shouldn't be made too hastily. However, they shouldn't be unduly delayed, either. I'd strongly encourage you to speak to your employees personally and listen to their experience.
Perhaps even more important, seek out former employees, including Ms. Fowler, and listen to them. These individuals will be more willing to tell you what you need to hear now, more than ever:
Above all, remember:
True leadership isn't about a title, or a position. It's not about what you say you care about, or even about good motive.
And now, it's time to get moving.