The background checks are an issue in civil suits that are costing the company millions. In one case, an Uber driver shot eight people in Michigan, while also picking up riders.
Now the Uber chickens are coming home to roost. Holder’s report on the company’s corporate culture and recommended changes will be revealed on June 13. Michael has left the company suddenly and with little explanation. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has reportedly decided to take a leave of absence starting on the same day.
Meanwhile, a separate investigation into hundreds of human relations complaints ranging from sexual harassment and bullying resulted in the firing of 20 employees. Uber’s culture became publicly obnoxious enough that a campaign using the hashtag #DeleteUber encouraged customers to erase the app from their phones and to begin using other services.
The management meltdown at Uber is due at least in part to an extreme form of Silicon Valley culture in which anything can be forgiven if the offender is otherwise meeting or exceeding expectations.
The problem with this culture is that neither employees nor customers like it very much. Both will vote with their feet when that happens. Uber current situation highlights what can happen to a company when this culture is allowed to develop unchecked.
With most companies, the youthful exuberance gives way to more responsible practices. Companies learn quickly to adopt generally accepted management practices so they can retain employees, customers, avoid costly lawsuits and all the negative publicity that comes with them.
Uber appears far from ready to develop any measure of management maturity. Kalanick has been reported to make jokes about changing his company’s name to resemble a slang term for a portion of a woman’s anatomy and according to a report by CBS News, to regret company rules that didn’t allow him to enjoy the favors of female employees.
Kalanick's own role in his company's toxic culture was revealed an argument he had with an Uber driver in a video that went viral on YouTube. That argument occurred a few days after the Fowler blog post that was just the start of a litany of legal and management problems that would come to light.
By that point, Kalanick decided that he needed a strong management leader help to run his company, so Uber began a search for a chief operating officer in March.
That quest has so far failed to bring results, perhaps because no corporate executive with the right experience wanted to be part of Uber’s culture. Or perhaps it’s because nobody could be found who would be willing to work with Kalanick and his undisciplined ways.
It’s possible that the Holder report will show a realistic step by step process for rebuilding Uber management and culture. More likely, it’ll contain recommendations to fix the worst of Uber’s failings, which will give the company time to fix its dysfunctional culture.
But one thing is clear. Uber’s best way forward is likely to be one without Kalanick. Perhaps his hyper-aggressiveness was what was needed at the beginning. But what’s needed now is adult leadership and that requires people who act grown-up.