Even though all the success and growth Uber has achieved to date, they have a reported 'toxic culture' that's been highly damaging to the brand, its employees, and shareholders. 

For any business owner, it is crucial to gain a deep understanding of what happened to Uber's culture and what they didn't do to avoid it. 

In June 2017, Uber's Founder, Travis Klanick, resigned after multiple reports of its "toxic" culture, including many alleged sexual harassment cases. 

Here are some powerful lessons from Uber's toxic work culture. 

LESSON 1: Make culture a priority

Uber's leadership focused entirely on growth and, in the process, neglected its employees. Whilst this was fine for the first few years, the lack of focus on people and culture snowballed into a monster issue for the company.

Entrepreneurs do not build businesses; instead, their job is to create a team of talented people and then give them the tools and work environment to flourish. 

Uber ignored this fact and failed to adequately care for its employees and create a stable work environment. 

LESSON 2: Don't stick your head in the sand 

Changes in culture, either good or bad, happen slowly in the background and can easily be overlooked. But Uber had several red flags between 2010 and 2017 in employee complaints and litigation. 

Rather than use these moments to stop and reassess its culture, Uber stuck their heads in the sand and kept going on the same path, hoping issues would disappear by themselves.

Cultural problems don't go away on their own and need constant monitoring and improvement by leadership when warning signs appear. 

LESSON 3: Listen to your staff

Unfortunately, you can't generate a "cultural P+L" from your accounting software and deliver a "cultural score" every quarter to understand its health. 

The only way to truly understand a culture is by closely listening to and observing people's stories about your company. 

Management needs to talk to employees about their experiences and reflect on their feedback. 

LESSON 4: Think carefully about hiring, firing and promotions.

One of the most effective ways to improve culture is hiring, firing and promotion decisions, as these are potent mechanisms of culture formation.

Unfortunately, despite all the issues brewing, Uber didn't think until it was almost too late to bring in fresh people into senior positions who reflected the change in culture the company urgently needed.

LESSON 5: Culture starts from the top 

The reality is that most business problems, including cultural ones, typically start with the person in charge. 

Unless the person at the top of an organisation embraces and demonstrates daily the behaviours needed for healthy company culture, the business is doomed. 

No amount of HR consultants, new hires or restructuring will make an ounce of difference. In Uber's case, Travis was at the top, and the cultural issues started with him.

Following Travis Klanick's resignation, Dara Khosrowshahi stepped in as the company's new CEO. Stories like this offer all business owners and managers some powerful lessons about the vital importance of culture and its implications if ignored. 

For more helpful reading on avoiding toxic culture, check out how to build a positive workplace on the blog! 

Make sure to stay tuned for more helpful management tips.

Have Questions?

We Have The Answers!

What led to Uber's toxic work culture?

Uber's toxic culture stemmed from a focus solely on growth, neglecting employee well-being. This approach led to numerous issues, including alleged sexual harassment cases and employee dissatisfaction. Uber's leadership failed to prioritise a healthy work environment, which significantly contributed to the company's cultural problems.

How can businesses avoid developing a toxic work culture?

Businesses can avoid a toxic work culture by prioritizing employee well-being, monitoring cultural changes, listening to staff feedback, making thoughtful hiring and promotion decisions, and ensuring leadership exemplifies positive behaviors. Constant vigilance and proactive measures are crucial to maintaining a healthy workplace.

Why is it important for leadership to embrace positive cultural behaviors?

Leadership sets the tone for company culture. If leaders don't model positive behaviours, it undermines efforts to create a healthy work environment. Employees look to leaders for guidance; if leaders demonstrate the right behaviors, it promotes a positive culture throughout the organisation.

How can listening to employees improve company culture?

Listening to employees provides insights into the real state of the company's culture. By understanding employee experiences and feedback, management can identify issues early and implement changes. This approach fosters a more inclusive and supportive work environment, addressing problems before they escalate.

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