By on June 13, 2017

uber volvo

Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive and all-star pariah, will take a leave of absence from the ride-hailing company, according to an internal memo sent to employees. The only question this raises is: why did it take him this long? Uber has been the subject of so much negative publicity in 2017, much of it circulating around Kalanick himself, that the CEO had dozens of primo opportunities to step down. Why wait until the fun-in-the-sun summer months to go on break?

The company email stated Kalanick needed time to grieve for his recently deceased mother, who passed away in May. It’s also been an ugly year for the CEO from a business perspective, who previously stated he would “get help” to become a better boss.

While Travis is on his somber vacation, sweeping corporate changes are taking place inside Uber. After being outed for its toxic workplace environment, problems with discrimination, and rampant allegations of sexual harassment, a change had to be made. However, some of them are downright laughable. 

Among the silliest of these empty gestures is the renaming of the head office’s conference room. The meeting place, previously known as the “War Room,” will be renamed the “Peace Room” in an Orwellian attempt to avert future thought crimes. Bloomberg also reported that some of the firm’s fourteen “core values” will be amended to exclude — and these are real — lines like “Let Builders Build, Always Be Hustlin’, Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping, and Principled Confrontation.”

At a staff meeting last Tuesday, the company conveyed the results of a probe conducted by Eric Holder. His report indicated the company’s value system has allowed for egregious behavior in the workplace. It cited 47 corporate recommendations to improve the business, including rewriting Uber’s cultural values, creating an oversight committee, reducing alcohol consumption at work-related events, and prohibiting relationships between employees and their superiors.

Uber’s board met Sunday and voted unanimously to approve the recommendations.

Last week, the company announced it had fired 20 staff members after two separate investigations into 215 cases encompassing complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, drug use, and unprofessional behavior.

When Kalanick returns, it will be to a very different company. The board has also decided to diminish his role by giving some of the CEO’s responsibilities to a chief operating officer — a position Uber has been actively recruiting for but has yet to fill. Travis previously stated, after negative publicity erupted from a taped argument he had with an employee, that he needed help running the company and someone to assist him in making good decisions. The COO position would serve to do exactly that.

Emil Michael, senior vice president, had previously been one of Travis’ closest advisers but has left the company, according to Reuters. Uber hasn’t specified the reason for the departure, but Kalanick will be forced to guide the business’ reboot without him — and  without many other key staff members.

“The ultimate responsibility, for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here, rests on my shoulders,” Kalanick wrote in an email to his staff. “For Uber 2.0 to succeed, there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”

Travis 2.0 has a long way to go before his company is out of the woods. Even if the internal changes solve the management crisis, Uber 2.0’s autonomous car program is in jeopardy of being obliterated by the courts and drivers are coming out en masse with complaints of flubbed payroll calculations.

[Image: Volvo]

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23 Comments on “Uber’s Travis 2.0 Takes Leave of Absence Amid Corporate Strife and Sweeping Changes...”

  • avatar

    So the cure for losing billions of dollars and the entrenched toxic culture is to rename meeting rooms? Maybe VW should try that. If they had named their boardroom the “Let’s take this compliance thing seriously” room, the diesel scandal may have ever happened! Yeah, right.

    • 0 avatar

      To fix Uber: think twice about using it (Manjoo, NYT)

      • 0 avatar

        If you don’t like Uber it seems that the best thing you can do is to frequently use it and thereby speed its collapse; being that they lose money on every ride.

    • 0 avatar

      Newspeak is what life in a progressive dystopia is all about. That, and paying ambulance chasers and other expendable hacks for the “service” of telling you you need to rename your conference room. Nothing new under the sun.

  • avatar
    velvet fog

    This is very doubleplusungood.

  • avatar

    Nauseating. Who would want to work for a company with this culture, with ridiculous core values, and silly room names? Uber takes itself much too seriously and deserves to be mocked and ridiculed.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure the average driver spends an inordinate amount of time concerned about the supposed “core values” in some office building in San Francisco…..

      If their payments are being miscalculated, systematically in a negative direction, that’s another story. But it’s not as if the Lyft app is that hard to download, so it’s a pretty easy to correct problem.

      • 0 avatar

        I was thinking of the employees working in the Uber offices, not the drivers Uber contracts out. Corporate-speak and corporate-think have no business being in business. When IBM was young and full of itself, it told employees how to dress, where to vacation, and made them sing company songs. I’d tell any job seeker to avoid companies like this. Fortunately, IBM has evolved. As for Uber, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • avatar

    However necessary this kind of makeover might be (and I am quite willing to accept that it is), it will inevitably be a huge distraction from running the business. Were I an Uber investor, I’d be very concerned.

    • 0 avatar

      Only NOW you would be concerned???

    • 0 avatar

      Investor concern is with the money. Period. After all, they could have put their money elsewhere for a better return with less bad news.

      Real concern is usually the domain of human beings. And its a lot easier if you don’t have part of you bank account tied up in the process.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure why folks are getting hung up on things like conference room names. The bottom line is that there is an expectation of removing the worst of the employees’ Machiavellian impulses from the general corporate mindset, and removing physical reminders such as this is just a step towards that. Obviously, it’s lame that a conference room is called something like “Peace Room” instead of a normal name or a simple number, but the point stands.

    Of course, this will only go as far as the employees take it. There may be a few who are ready for this switch, but somehow I can’t imagine that people who thrived in Uber’s corporate culture are going to have it in them to suddenly be someone they’re not. This will eventually require wholesale changes at all levels of management as people more in tune with the new expectations slowly begin to arrive at the company.

    • 0 avatar

      The bottom line is that the core of the company’s identity is an attitude of entitlement, exemplified by their “rules are for suckers” business practices. That coupled with their structuring operations to place all the operational risks on the shoulders of their drivers, and fostering an environment calculated to create cutthroat competition for a pie which will always be deliberately too small, shows clearly that it will always be a toxic company. It’s a manifestation of the absolute worst aspects of the corporate race to the bottom.

      • 0 avatar

        “an environment calculated to create cutthroat competition for a pie which will always be deliberately too small”

        Sounds a lot like the regulated taxi industry that allowed Uber to gain a foothold to begin with.

        • 0 avatar

          You think the taxi industry is deliberately structured so there will always be too many drivers for the available number of fares, so nobody can make a living? That’s why municipalities only allow a fixed number of cab licenses?

          • 0 avatar

            It’s the same concept in reverse.

            The taxi industry deliberately keeps *their* pie too small to ensure that there are always customers “competing” for a cab and paying higher prices due to this artificial scarcity.

            This is why Uber even exists, taxis were doing a bad job of providing riders with good service at a competitive price.

  • avatar

    Does this company even make money yet?

  • avatar

    You have the headline wrong. Travis 1.0 is taking time off to “grieve” while building Travis 2.0.

    Reconceptionizing the leadership paradigm will actualize monetization in the future of this progressive architecture.
    It’s all good.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    You know this sounds familiar. American Apparel’s first CEO had similar things happen, accusation of sexual misconduct, unhealthy workplace practices, lewd behavior etc. Sent the guy on a sabbatical, drove the company stock to near zero value, and fired the chap. A really effective method if one would want to avoid paying severance plus buy out his stocks.

    • 0 avatar

      The goal being, as always in progressive dystopias, to steal as much as possible of the value created by competent people. fFor the benefit of ambulance chasers, grievance industry leeches, apparatchiks and the rest of the world’s incapable-of-creating-anything-of-value-at-all trash, as possible.

  • avatar

    It’s extraordinarily common for founders to be pushed out and replaced by professional managers. Often the skills and mentality you need to found a company aren’t the skills you need to transition it into a mature organisation.

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