As you probably know, Uber's had a rough year. Allegations of sexual harassment, corporate espionage, and other toxic behavior have left scars, signs of a culture that represents everything that's wrong with Silicon Valley.

It seems, though, that Uber's trying to clean things up. As reported yesterday by The New York Times:

Uber has fired 20 employees over harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior, as the ride-hailing company tries to contain the fallout from a series of toxic revelations about its workplace.

Uber disclosed the terminations on Tuesday at a staff meeting at its San Francisco headquarters, according to an employee who attended the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The firings, which occurred in the last few months, stem from an internal investigation into Uber's workplace, the employee said. The company did not name the people who were fired, but some were senior executives, the employee said.

OK, Uber, so this is a start.

Considering recent events, along with all the problems Uber has faced over the past few years, I can't help but think back to the iconic "Netflix Culture" slide deck that was made public many years ago. The presentation was an attempt to codify the Netflix company culture, and it helps explain what's gone wrong at companies like Uber and how to fix it.

Beginning with slide four, the deck explains that:

Many companies have nice-sounding value statements displayed in the lobby, such as

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Excellence

The next slide then relates:

Enron, whose leaders went to jail, and which went bankrupt from fraud, had these values displayed in their lobby:

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Excellence

(These values were not, however, what was really valued at Enron.)

The deck then uses a single sentence to sum up a powerful truth many companies refuse to recognize:

"The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go."

It appears that for years, Uber has ignored this undeniable fact. Either Travis Kalanick and his leadership team haven't identified the company's true values, or they've fooled themselves into thinking they can reward people who flout them. Kudos to Kalanick for what appears to be a step in the right direction.

Now, will he continue to make the difficult decisions that will allow Uber to progress--including possibly firing himself? Time will tell.

If not, Netflix will be able to replace all those references to Enron with a more recent, poignant example.

Published on: Jun 7, 2017
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