The Uber Purpose Mess

The Uber Purpose Mess

Companies with integrity and strong values rely on the goodwill of their purpose and the exceptional performance of their employees and management at all levels in order to succeed. They also know that when things go badly, a small number of people can adversely impact sales and profits. So what happens when a company such as Uber gets into a royal disaster and finds itself on the wrong side of the purpose-driven customer and employee? How did Uber get into this mess, and how would I advise them to take corrective action?

As you probably heard, whistle blowers say Uber made a series of ethical lapses in many different areas. To name just a few of the transgressions reported: claims of sexual harassment at the highest level, discrimination claims, allegations of spying on their own drivers to find out if they were driving for other companies, tying up their competitors’ drivers by making bogus requests for rides so the competing drivers were busy and unable to service real clients, using a software called Greyball that would trick the regulators and allow Uber to drive where they were not legally allowed, and the almighty hacking cover up where several hundred thousand customers’ accounts were hacked and Uber chose to pay the hackers to delete the data– and blindly trust the hackers actually did, instead of going public like the vast majority of ethical companies do.

So after a company has burnt its reputation with customers and employees, what next? Number one, you’ve got to be honest about what’s happened and you can’t mince words. Uber, you’ve got to admit you messed up, that you had a culture of arrogance, of deceit, of acting above the law, and not thinking about the best interests of stakeholders. Announce that it’s going to stop, and it’s going to stop now. The CEO has been doing a kind of repair tour this fall, but I believe it hasn’t had the strong language and authentic apology that is required in these situations.

The second thing is you’ve got to win your employees’ trust back. It’s interesting that customers only believe about 16% of what companies say about themselves. So for all the effort Uber takes in running ads and a damage control tour, until you win those drivers and employees, you’re in trouble. Why? Because even though there’s only 16% believability about what the company says about itself, there is 63% believability when an employee talks about what happens behind the scenes. So if a driver reports they like Uber, that its leadership has taken steps to be back on the right side, people will listen. And I can tell you just in the last few weeks I’ve heard Uber drivers criticizing the company, saying they can’t stand the organization, that they’re not treated well. So Uber needs to have an internal campaign to really win the hearts and minds of their drivers again. To further stress the importance of winning employees, recent statistics show people are ten times more likely to share a social media feed from an employee than they are from the company. So Uber, go apologize, then really go inside and win the internal stakeholders, so they can go win your market share back.

The third thing is, be really clear on the set of commitments you’re going to make. I would encourage Uber or any company that finds itself in this situation to identify five to seven commitments to make to customers and to drivers going forward. Makes these are commitments and keep them, so you can begin to truly win people’s trust again.

I’d love to hear what you think about the Uber mess. Please watch this Izzo on Purpose video and tell me: Are you boycotting them? Are you still using them? Do you care? Don’t you care? What would you do or advise if you know a company that’s gone offside in The Purpose Revolution? So please, love to hear from you and please get involved in the conversation. The Purpose Revolution is upon us and the only question is, are you and your company going to be winners or losers?



Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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