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Three Ideas For Uber To Transform A Toxic Work Culture

How can fast growth businesses retain a tight knit, productive and happy working culture?

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How can fast growth businesses retain a tight knit, productive and happy working culture?

Opinions

Three Ideas For Uber To Transform A Toxic Work Culture

How can fast growth businesses retain a tight knit, productive and happy working culture?

Share this article

If you’re anything like me, then you have been glued to the coverage of Silicon Valley’s highest-ever valued start-up’s recent troubles. The current saga that’s unfolding at Uber, which kicked off with the publication of Susan J. Fowler’s explosive blog post back in February, has made for gripping reading.

The twists and turns of Uber’s journey, from key investors calling for the company to make changes, to a former US Attorney General investigating their working practices, to co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation, to some employees petitioning the board for his re-instatement have brought the topic of work culture and the importance of strong leadership to the top of the news agenda.

Of course, Uber must have done a few things right over the past few years, or it wouldn’t be valued at nearly $70 billion, but recently there’s been a lot more focus on their failings than on their successes.

It makes one wonder how much they might be worth if people’s working days weren’t clouded over by negative press coverage and uncertainty about the direction of the company, as they invariably must be.

When things are this bad, there is certainly a lot of work required to turn them around, but it’s not impossible, and as the saying goes, admitting that there’s a problem is half the battle.

For businesses that are working to improve a toxic working environment, like Uber, here are three key actions to begin with:

Ask employees what is wrong, and listen to their suggestions for change so everyone can do better.

Every organisation has problems, but what most business leaders overlook is that the key to solving those problems is right under their noses.

They could tap into a goldmine of resource, growth potential, observations and solutions if they simply asked employees what they think is wrong within the company, and what they would suggest to resolve those problems.

Of course, it is a very rare individual who would volunteer information like this publicly – that’s why anonymity is a critical part of this process.

If you give employees the ability to provide feedback about your organisation, you may be surprised at what you learn, and how quickly you can roll out positive changes. What’s more, employees will be grateful to have been given a voice – after all, they are undoubtedly invested in improving workplace culture!

Revisit your purpose to make sure it is relevant.

A company’s purpose is the glue that holds everything together.  It should clearly communicate to your employees what your company does and why, and provide a structure that will inspire your team to align their daily activities with your company’s overall aspirations.

Chances are though, that in an environment that’s become toxic, people are no longer very connected to a company’s purpose.  So revisiting it to make sure it is still relevant is a good step to take as part of reversing a toxic culture.

Staff should be able to give their thoughts on your company’s purpose as part of the anonymous feedback process and they should be able to contribute to rewriting your purpose if needs be.

Model engaged leadership and build engagement with managers within your organisation.

There’s a saying which perfectly exemplifies how poor leadership can effect a business: the fish rots from the head.

There is no escaping the fact that cultural change needs to come from the top, so when trying to improve a company’s culture, leadership must model positive behaviours. That means daily inspiring and motivating employees through brave and caring actions.

Take Elon Musk’s recent message to Telsa’s employees after a report highlighted injury rates at one of the company’s factories had been increasing.

It would be easy for someone like Musk to hide behind lawyers or more junior members of his management team, but Musk reached out to employees and admitted that the buck stops with him – he’s promised to personally speak with every injured worker to find out what they think needs to change, and vowed to perform the same tasks they do on the production line so he can gain ‘on the ground’ experience.

Musk’s message goes beyond a tick-box exercise, and is truly talking the talk and walking the walk to make real changes – and that’s how you transform a culture that’s taken a wrong turn.

Stefan Wissenberg is founder and CEO of Engagement Multiplier.

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Three Ideas For Uber To Transform A Toxic Work Culture

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