For one of the most successful startups of all time, Uber has had no shortage of public relations explosions lately. The year began with protests against the company’s perceived support of Donald Trump’s immigration ban, as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had joined Trump’s economic council. He subsequently resigned from that council, but the PR nightmares kept coming. Even before the inauguration, it was revealed that the firm was illegally monitoring its famous passengers, including Beyoncé, as well as the exes of certain employees. Then, engineer Susan Fowler released a startling statement on how prevalent sexism and sexual harassment were in the company. Soon after, Kalanick was filmed cursing out an employee. It’s no wonder that 500,000 Uber users recently jumped to similar pay-ride service Lyft. Subsequently, the company has suffered massive losses, as it simultaneously tries to fend off robust competition. New company enterprises like driver-less cars and Uber services for food and laundry have also been plagued with problems.
For those hungry for more info on how such a dysfunctional company operates, New York magazine just released a long, dishy exposé with even more reveals, titled “Is Uber Evil, or Just Doomed?” The answer is possibly both. Author Reeves Wiedeman likens Uber to MySpace, “a company that created a market but was foiled by its own missteps and overtaken by savvier competition.” For one thing, the company’s fast growth meant that it exploded from 600 employees in 2014 to its current 20,000, so that many managers are in positions of authority for the first time. Maybe that’s why Kalanick turns out to be a bit of a micro-manager, meddling into employees’ Google Documents:
Four different Uber employees told me they had at times found themselves writing something in a Google Doc, only to suddenly realize Kalanick was editing the document at the same time. “He would go in there all the time and say, ‘Stop typing,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m editing your shitty grammar,’” one said.
That kind of toxic management environment appears to pervade the whole company; one manager (who left the company in March) told Wiedeman: “I’ve never been at a place where it was so clear that people don’t matter—that nothing matters—so long as we can make an extra two cents a trip.” Still, Wiedeman concludes, “If there is good news for Uber, it is the fact that despite its losses, more and more people continue to use its service, and it still claims to have a shocking $7 billion to spend.” Read more about this far-from-over story at New York.