How NOT to Fix Workplace Culture

In February I wrote about the reports of sexual harassment at Uber and how CEO Travis Kalanick had created a culture that promoted this sort of behavior. However, I was enthused to hear that high-profile board member Arianna Huffington was stepping in and vowed to make sure that Uber would no longer be at the mercy of “brilliant jerks.”

Sadly, my rejoicing was premature. Huffington told CNN today that she and the head of human resources at Uber had spoken to hundreds of women at the company and they had found only “a few bad apples” but “this is not a systemic problem,” she said.

This is an amazingly shortsighted. Employees who work for bullies are highly unlikely to confide anything in the HR department, which is generally seen as being on the side of management. Nor are they likely to confide in a celebrity whose chief goal is damage control. An independent investigative team should have been called in that could guarantee anonymity for the people with whom they spoke. It’s already been shown that HR failed the young woman who reported her experiences on her personal blog, which went viral.

The fact that Huffington reported all of this on national television brings home how self-serving this report was. Even if, as Huffington indicated, Kalanick has “evolved,” and Uber does hire a chief operating officer to help Kalanick run the company, it is naïve to assume that this would do anything to change behavior is ingrained in the workplace culture.

It is perhaps ironic that this report dropped the day after the sitting president of the United States was proven to be a liar. I would imagine that the employees of Uber are like the rest of America—they have no idea who in power they can trust.

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