Uber is big in the news lately. I know they would prefer not to be. Uber is one of Silicon Valley’s darlings. The market cap is $70 billion (yes billion) and it has helped define the word “disruptive”. It has created a transportation company without owning a single car. The company has become a metaphor for all start-ups in the world, as in, “ We are the Uber for cosmetics”. Or, “We are the Uber for baby sitters”. We like Uber, I use Uber. The Uber idea is changing the way we think about cars and has huge implications ranging from self-driving cars to urban parking garages. But what the heck is going on there?
There is that video of the CEO ranting at an Uber driver. Then there are multiple allegations of sexual harassment and of a misogynistic workplace. The president of the company just resigned over the “culture” there. And then there is that report that its self-driving cars are malfunctioning and possibly running on stolen technology. Did I mention the reports of a secret program designed to evade government scrutiny? Things do pile up.
All this activity doesn’t help the image of Silicon Valley as the haven for spoiled brilliant children. Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick has apologized and said he needs to “grow up.” Ah, so that’s the problem. Growing up.
Travis, I am not sure I can help with the growing up thing, you might check with other adults. But I can give elementary advice to all of those at Uber who are wondering what the rules are in the hopes it will help the situation there. Think of it as a Growing Up Primer:
- Whatever you do, you get caught. And the more of a luminary you are, the more likely it is that you will get caught. Many people learn this rule in high school. Did I mention that wherever you are a video camera or cell phone is capturing your behavior?
- Just because a leader misbehaves, doesn’t mean you can. Sometimes rules are not enforced the same way for everyone. It may be inequitable but it’s true. A boorish leader might still fire you for the same offense. Sorry to report this life truth.
- Some crimes committed by managers are forgiven. Yelling at employees is not one of them, especially when the offense is captured on video. Plus, the offense will be remembered for a long time.
- Not all PR is good PR. Contrary to the old marketing adage that “all public relations is good public relations”, some of it is really bad and can really hurt corporate or individual reputations.
- Excuses only go so far. Even a good excuse may not explain egregious offenses. “I need to grow up”, is just another way to say “I am immature” and not typically in the great excuse category.
I suspect none of this advice is in the employee handbook at Uber or that management will read these simple rules. Maybe the next time I take an Uber I will see some of this advice on the dashboard of the car. In the meantime, for its own sake, I hope Uber stays out of the news.