When you heat a metal for long enough, it reaches a stage where it melts and turn into liquid. The white collar staffs working at Uber are dangerously approaching this point. This is reported to be a direct result of the aggressive and cutthroat environment of working at Uber.
The mental health of the workers is constantly under strain with the demands and rigors of working 24/7 under a high octane, fast paced corporate environment. Uber is presently working on repairing the corporate culture after the highly publicized corporate meltdown that happened this spring.
The working culture at Uber has a work day that begins very early and ends late in the night. Engineers receiving predawn messages from work to come in and fix things that are broken or on the verge of breaking are a common sight at Uber rydely .
Failure of the engineer to respond to these pings promptly might result in deduction of pay and sometime reprimanding emails from top executives which can have everyone in the company copied on it. An employee talked of times when he got pings on weekends, work related emails by 11pm that need immediate response to.
When the company was just growing, employees reported of times when they get as much as dozens to hundreds of pings in a night. Most of the employees feel burdened by the on call system used by Uber. They allege that the call system gets them out to what amounts to unpaid extra shifts.
An engineer that worked with Uber in the early days of 2014 when the company was experiencing rapid growth said there was a period of about three to four months where he got woken around 3 to 4 am on weekends to come in to fix something in the system.
While revolutionizing the world’s transportation sector, Uber built its own distinct corporate culture at the same time. Uber has a culture that places high value on employees that are hardworking and hard charging. They rank employees who they see as aggressive in pursuing their goals above those they see as less aggressive with a management style that employees complained breeds fear and anxiety.
A case in point of the messed up corporate culture at Uber is the case of an engineer on call in May 2015 who didn’t respond to pings notifying him of a problem with one of the master databases. His failure to respond and fix the problem led to a worldwide service outage.
Existing drivers were unable to respond to requests from passengers to come pick them up, while new drivers were unable to sign up into the platform.
The corporate response to this error by the engineer was an email from Uber’s Chief Technical Officer at the time, Thuan Pham. The CTO sent the email to the whole company, letting the entire staff know of the mistake of the engineer and the far reaching repercussion of such mindless mistakes.
This particular incidence is still remembered in the company by some of the employees, leading to a culture of fear of making mistakes that will lead to being publicly dressed down. Although, the name of that particular engineer wasn’t mentioned in the email sent by the CTO, information about the identity of the engineer was openly available through the company wide on call schedule.
The CTO sent a follow up mail a couple of days after the dressing down email, addressing the criticism that followed the first email. In the email, he tried explaining that his previous mail was not to create a culture of fear at the same time he doesn’t want a culture of substandard works.
Uber has been facing some problems and a public meltdown of their corporate culture in the past few months. A former engineer of the company, Susan Fowler, in early February made allegations of being sexually harassed while working at Uber. She also claimed to have been a victim of serious sexism there.
This allegation has prompted Uber to initiate two set of internal investigations. One of the investigations is to look into the validity of the claims by Susan Fowler of being sexually harassed and being a victim of sexism at the company.
The second investigation, being spear headed by Eric Holder, a onetime attorney general of the USA, was aimed at understanding the prevalent corporate culture in the company. At the end of the investigations, about 20 people were indicted for offenses ranging from bullying to retaliation and sexual harassment.
Three top executives were among those indicted after the investigation. These are Emil Michael, a senior vice president, Eric Alexander, Uber Asia’s business president and Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York.
The board sat on the report from the investigation by Holder and adopted the 47 recommendations contained in the report. Some of the recommendations include the changing of corporate ideas like “principled confrontations” and “stepping on toes” to ideas that are more positive and edifying.
Another recommendation adopted by the board is the prohibition of amorous relationships between managers. This is to prevent issues of sexual harassment in the work place.
Uber is unarguably one of the greatest success stories of the new tech boom. Despite the internal trouble being faced, it is still the world’s most valuable tech startup. A huge factor in helping the company reach such dizzying heights is Ubers culture of pushing their luck to the limits.
They don’t have a culture of asking for permission, they take and use and if there is a backlash, they ask for forgiveness. They find loopholes in the law to exploit, push the market to the limit and ask for a lot from their workers.
Uber might be one of the biggest giants in the industry, but it is built on the back bone of over worked and underappreciated workers. Employees who spoke with reporters under conditions of anonymity complained of the seemingly unending working hours, the excruciating workloads, public humiliation by higher ups and a general boiling working condition.
If nothing is done to arrest and rectify this corporate culture of overusing, abusing and underappreciating of staff, Uber might find its hands full with burnt out and mentally worn out staff.
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