Susan Fowler has opened the much needed can of worms. While her story raises questions about the imminent future of Uber, it also raises other fundamental issues.
One of them is culture.
There’s been a lot of rhetoric around it, but anyone who has ever been in an organisation will know that the real test of commitment to culture is when the pressure for numbers are high.
What the Uber case demonstrates clearly is that a neglected culture has its own way of coming around and hitting the business hard, where it hurts the most (and in the case of Uber, when it hurts the most).
Now here’s the question I want to reflect upon: Who is accountable for culture? The VP of HR or the CEO?
VP of operations
VP of sales
VP of product
VP of finance
VP of supply chain
VP of marketing
VP of HR
VP of whatever else the organisation has appointed
So, every time a complaint was brought to Uber’s HR department and it was swept under the rug or when the complainant was actively discouraged, the VP of HR is accountable.
If things were so bad for so long, how come the CEO had no idea of it? (Is that even possible?)
If he didn’t have any idea about it, was the CEO uninterested in knowing about people matters? Was he not in touch with his people? Did he not review any other number apart from revenue?
If he did have an idea of what was going on, why didn’t he do anything about it? And again, what does that say about the nature of leadership at Uber?