Where are the Waldos?

Do you remember the children’s puzzle books, Where’s Waldo? by British illustrator Martin Handford?You would have to find the skinny guy in the red-striped shirt and glasses in a thickly populated illustration.  The Board of Directors at Uber are starting to remind me of this popular series. No matter how hard they look they can’t seem to find someone to take responsibility for what goes on in the company.

I’ve written quite a lot about Uber this year, from the shocking revelations of sexual harassment made by a former employee, to the assurances of board member Arianna Huffington that the company had no systemic problems, to the heartrending suicide of one of their engineers, Uber has been dominating the business news. Now they’re again grabbing headlines, this time for pocketing millions of dollars of drivers’ commissions due to a “miscalculation.” The company has been basing its percentage on a driver’s entire fare, rather than what the driver makes after taxes. Uber spokeswoman Rachel Holt has issued a statement according to the New York Times that “We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed — plus interest — as quickly as possible,” but I have to wonder how a company of this size could make not only this mistake, but expect drivers to pay the taxes on fares instead of passing that cost on to the customer.

Where is the board’s oversight in this? Either they’re ignorant of what is going on here and therefore negligent, or they’re complicit. The solution is simple. Rather than trying to find a chief operating officer to babysit CEO Travis Kalanick, they’d be better off replacing him. The buck, like their fares, has to stop somewhere.

 Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Illustration credit: Where's Wally at Wemberley?