Uber Report Shows the Need for Detailed Procedures to Prevent Crises

Thom Weidlich 06.15.17


Uber Technologies Inc. has released the 13-page list of recommendations that resulted from a law firm’s investigation of the ride-hailing company’s troubled culture. While many of the suggestions are pretty standard for this type of report, an interesting theme emerges: the need for detailed policies and procedures that will both improve company culture and (hopefully) prevent the type of crises Uber has been experiencing.

The impetus for the investigation came in February when ex-Uber software engineer Susan J. Fowler published a blog post detailing her alleged sexual-harassment there. The post caused an uproar and Uber promised to heal itself. It hired former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, now with Covington & Burling, to lead an internal probe. Other issues have buffeted the company, including CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured) chewing out a driver and Uber allegedly using software to thwart regulators.

On Sunday, June 11, its board unanimously adopted all the Holder report recommendations, which were released to employees on June 13.

One of Holder’s assignments, according to the report, was to evaluate whether Uber’s “policies and practices were sufficient to prevent and properly address discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.” For that reason, the recommendations get pretty granular.

For example, the report says the company should enhance internal controls, including procedures for travel and expense reimbursements (such as requiring receipts) so the company credit card isn’t used for “items that are inconsistent with Uber policies and procedures.”

Human Resources

The investigators also recommend a number of reforms that come under human resources’ bailiwick. This is not surprising; at the time of Fowler’s blog post, tech site The Verge wrote, “Part of Uber’s problem seems to be its flippant attitude toward human resources.” The company’s statement about releasing the report was posted by Chief HR Officer Liane Hornsey, who joined the company only in January (“Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated”).


Part of Uber’s problem seems to be its flippant attitude toward human resources.

The Verge

The HR-focused recommendations include having complaint-tracking software and keeping better track of complaints overall. The report implies that, under current procedures, managers can’t see if multiple complaints have been lodged against a particular employee. You can imagine the response if a scandal arose due to an employee who had many past infractions but the company hadn’t connected the dots.

“Uber should enhance communication to employees concerning how and to whom they can raise complaints about harassment, discrimination, and retaliation,” the investigators write. Multiple channels for lodging complaints should be developed, as “this encourages employees who may otherwise fear retaliation to come forward.”

Leave of Absence

Instead of cutting down on CEO Kalanick’s responsibilities, Uber announced Tuesday that he would take a leave of absence from the firm (on top of his company’s problems, sadly, Kalanick’s mother was recently killed in a boating accident).

But even Uber’s attempt to turn over a new leaf was troubled. During the Tuesday staff meeting in which it unveiled the Holder recommendations to employees, board member David Bonderman cracked a sexist joke in response to a statement by another director, media maven Arianna Huffington.

Bonderman, a partner at private-equity firm TPG, promptly announced his resignation from the board. “I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud,” he wrote. “I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt.”

Clearly, the company has some ways to go.

Photo Credit: Debby Wong/Shutterstock

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