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Uber bans 'brilliant jerks', will train staff on Why Diversity Matters

Maybe we're stupid jerks: company reports record rider traffic in 2017

By Simon Sharwood, 22 Mar 2017

Throughout its recent sexism and scofflaw scandals, Uber hasn't denied that its culture has some invidious aspects.

And now the company has promised to get rid of them.

Uber on Tuesday let it be known it staged an all-hands meeting in which board member Arianna Huffington declared “Going forward there can be no room at Uber for brilliant jerks and zero tolerance for anything but totally respectable behavior in an equitable workplace environment.”

Uber's account of the meeting also quotes Huffington as saying she's heard from numerous employees who want to help the company change. But there's no hint of a denial or refutation of developer Susan Fowler's vivid account of discrimination she suffered at the company while the HR team dissembled about it somehow being acceptable.

Huffington also positioned CEO Travis Kalanick's decision to hire a chief operating officer and/or personal mentor as showing change will come from the top. A list of reportedly impressive and willing candidates has been assembled and is under active consideration.

Also at the meeting, new HR chief Liane Hornsey admitted that “many employees don’t find our performance management system transparent or equitable” and pledged to make “focus on diversity and inclusion” Uber's watchwords. She also revealed that the company will soon deliver training on “Why Diversity Matters; How to be an Ally; and Building Inclusive Teams.”

"Don't bite your friends", a classic from hipster-pre-schooler show Yo Gabba Gabba might also be in order.

Youtube Video

But we digress.

Rachel Holt, head of Uber's United States and Canada businesses also addressed the meeting, outlining new driver-friendly initiatives like more flexible rules that will mean drivers' records are taken into account if they hit the company's three-complaints-and-you're-suspended rules. She also revealed a plan to pay drivers more for cancelled trips that aren't their fault, to “make sure they are fully compensated for their time.”

Fine words all. Whether they are meaningful remains to be seen, because Uber has a long rap sheet. On that document you'll find numerous instances of Uber Uber's belligerently entering markets in full knowledge it services fall foul of local laws, lying about driver earnings, underpaying drivers, hiding details of its operations from regulators and collecting more data about users than is strictly necessary.

President Jeff Jones seemingly didn't think the company could change its spots: he bailed over the weekend and The Reg cannot imagine he was not privy to the plans outlined at the all hands meeting.

All of the incidents recounted above appear not, however, to have notably dented the company: during the all hands meeting Rachel Holt said “Last week, riders in the U.S. took more trips with Uber than ever before. In fact, in our most mature country we’ve grown faster in the first 10 weeks of 2017 than in the first 10 weeks of 2016. Looking at less mature regions like Latin America, trips were up up 600 percent in February, year on year.” ®

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