On June 21, 2017, Travis Kalanick stepped down from his position as CEO at the ride sharing company Uber. A stream of scandalous events eventually lead investors to pressure Kalanick to resign as Chief Executive Officer. While some of the reasons listed might not have been directed by Kalanick himself, as the most senior corporate officer, it is his responsibility to oversee the direction the company is taking.
Sexual harassment in the workplace
The rampant sexual harassment that occurs in the company first came to light when an Uber employee, Susan Fowler, wrote a revelating blog post about her time working at Uber. In her post, Fowler mentions an incident where she received unsolicited sexual advances from one of her managers. When she brought the issue to HR’s attention, since that manager was a “high performer”, they let him off with a mere slap on the wrist. To make matters worse, Fowler was forced to leave her current team or face negative performance ratings from the same manager.
Shady business practices
When it comes to business, it’s a dog eat dog world, and there is a fine line between unethical and illegal activities. One such practice that walked this thin line would be Uber’s Operation SLOG. This operation had Uber hire contractors to dispatch “street teams” to order rides from its competition, Lyft, and try to convert their employees into Uber drivers.
Another business activity that went beyond the gray area and straight to the illegal territory is the stealing of trade secrets from Google. The search engine giant is currently suing Uber for stealing trade secrets from its self-driving car technology. According to the lawsuit, Uber hired a former Google engineer, Anthony Levandowski, who took with him information on Google’s self-driving program. Furthermore, court documents indicate that Kalanick had knowledge of the stolen files before hiring Levandowski.
Avoiding the law
Toxic company culture
The culture within an organization is easy to overlook yet is such an important facet. Culture often has a direct correlation with how a company operates and what values it holds in high regard. In Uber’s case, this would be a battle royale where the ends justify the means, even if it meant stepping over coworkers necks to get ahead. One of their mottos, “always be hustling” favors beating the competition, or your peers, with a half-baked solution. It even got to a point where ex-Uber employees would be hesitant in adding their former job in their resume for fear of having their integrity questioned.
Damaged public image
Being the CEO of the company, Kalanick is also the public face of Uber. Having his public image stained would reflect negatively on the enterprise. One of the instances of this is when Kalenick was recorded in an altercation with an UberBlack driver. The driver was complaining to Kalanick about the wage cuts which resulted in Kalanick snapping back at him stating that the driver’s situation is his fault. Another incident involved Kalanick and other executives going to a Korean escort bar in Seoul. Kalanick’s former girlfriend, Gabi Holzwarth, was present at the time and disclosed the event in an interview with The Information news site.