Opinion: Where Uber CEO Travis Kalanick really went wrong with harassment claims

Northwestern Now: Summaries

Uber has been struggling in the reputation department. The most recent setback: a former engineer claims she was sexually harassed and dealt with an HR department offering zero support. These revelations, which she detailed in a highly publicized blog post, comes shortly after customers thought Uber opposed New York City taxi driver’s opposition to President Trump’s travel-ban protests and embarked on an campaign to boycott the ride-sharing app. CEO Travis Kalanick responded by resigning from the president’s advisory group, but the damaging was done.Trust is paramount for Uber, a business that asks its customers, employees, and drivers alike to literally get in a car with one or more strangers. Uber even presents itself as a socially responsible corporation that offers economic opportunity to drivers in low-income communities and provides reliable transportation access to and from low-income neighborhoods that taxis have often refused to serve. But the erosion of trust associated with these inclusiveness-related controversies has kept #deleteuber trending, costing the company all-important customers and contracted drivers, many of whom have switched loyalty—with a few swipes and taps—to rivals such as Lyft. The stakes are high.This is only partly a reflection of the growing pains an early-stage firm that has only been around for eight years. As the organization approaches its adolescence, the initial emphasis on speed and growth must give way to a focus on the less sexy but very necessary work of scaling and institutional maintenance – the work of managing an increasingly complex organization and carefully stewarding its culture to ensure responsible growth and long-term sustainability. This is a difficult shift, which is why many founder-CEOs get fired.RelatedThe issues around inclusiveness can quickly gain prominence in any public or private sector organization, as suggested by past controversies, such as Hollywood’s gender-based pay gap, the NBA’s decision to move the …

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