It's not a good time for Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick professionally as well as personally. The latest reports claim that he is likely 'to take' a leave of absence. While this piece of news still needs to be confirmed, the report has erupted when the company is marred with accusations of sexual harassment, sexism and a key confidante of the CEO is on his way out.
According to this report, Emil Michael, senior vice president and the right hand man of Kalanick is on his way out. The board has been adding recommendations for investigation in Uber's culture. Uber's work culture is quite questionable, considering the series of events that have surfaced in the past one year. While the year began with Uber CEO appointed in Trump's advisory board leading to an outrage, a month later a letter by an ex-employee rattled the tech industry. And, there has been one controversy after another coming to haunt one of the most successful startups over the work culture under the leadership of Kalanick.
Sexism and sexual harassment
Susan Fowler wrote a blogpost detailing the horrific culture at Uber. Susan Fowler, wrote about her experience claiming sexual harassment by managers, and how the act was merely dismissed on complaining to the HR. Fowler left Uber in December and has joined Stripe as an engineer. Her complaints were dismissed on account of it being 'the first' complaint or the boss was 'high-performer'.
In a blogpost, she has explained the ordeal and how others soon began to complain about similar issues, and some had them with the 'same manager'. But, no action was taken by the HR.
Kalanick soon took to social media and ordered an investigation in the matter.
Just talked w/ Travis & as a representative of Uber's Board I will work w/Liane to conduct a full independent investigation starting now 1/2— Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) February 20, 2017
"When I joined Uber, the organisation I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organisation, and those who couldn't transfer were quitting or preparing to quit," Fowler further wrote.
While the company was dealing with accusations over sexism and sexual harassment, Amit Singhal was fired by Uber for not disclosing sexual harassment allegation at Google. Infcat, Uber learnt about the sexual harassment through a Re/code reporter and not through background checks. However, Uber claimed that they've done extensive background checks.
With each passing day, Uber found itself embroiled in controversy after controversy. The dust on the Uber sexual harassment allegation, DeleteUber campaign and exit of Amit Singhal has barely settled, a secret program that thwarts police sting operations came to light.
Greyball, according to this report, was a part of VTOS or violation of terms of service, and has been deployed from 2014. Uber used the service in Portland, when it had just started without any legal permission. Erich England an office and his colleagues in Portland would pose as riders were tagged under Greyball. So, every time they booked a cab, a ghost fake app would appear and the software managed to get it cancelled. Uber is reportedly under criminal investigation.
The most recent is the shocking memo advising employees about sex rules that the CEO had written back in 2013 as the team planned a trip to Miami to celebrate the startup's success. "Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic ‘YES! I will have sex with you’ AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip,” in the mail by Kalanick, a copy of which is obtained by Re/code states.
Recently, another report said how the company could be charging you depending upon the locality you live in or how much you are willing to pay. Uber's new fare rate is called 'route-based pricing'. For instance, a ride from a wealthy locality could cost you more than a rider who is travelling to not-so-affluent area. The machine learning takes into account factors like the time of the day you are taking the ride. These prices would differ, irrespective of the same distance, demand and traffic in these routes.
Uber has been facing driver strikes over incentives, and most recent ones in India. On the other hand, Kalanick was seen arguing with an Uber driver earlier who spoke about dropping prices and less pay to drivers. Kalanick later apologised for his behaviour.
Success doesn't mean a bad work culture is acceptable. After all, the onus of the company culture lies on the CEO. There is wide speculation around Kalanick's leave, especially when the company is embroiled in controversies.