Uber’s President Resigned After Only Six Months, Thanks to Its Toxic Culture

Abandon ship.
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Uber is not having a great year. They’ve been the target of a couple of organized boycotts, with the #DeleteUber hashtag making the rounds after the company capitalized on the taxi strike organized as a response to Trump’s Muslim ban in late January.

The hashtag made the rounds again just a few weeks later when the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick was recorded by his Uber driver during a fight between the two over dropping wages. This came just days after female employees held a meeting with Kalanick, telling him there is a “systemic problem” of discrimination and harassment within the company.

The company has a long-standing bad reputation when it comes to valuing and protecting women–customers, drivers, and employees alike. With every assault accusation and lawsuit, every blog post exposing the rampant sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the company always seems like it just can’t get any more toxic, and then it does.

After nearly every scandal, Kalanick makes a public show of remorse or reconciliation. After that video showed him being a total jerk to a driver who claims the job bankrupted him, Kalanick emailed his employees, saying he needed to “grow up.”

After Susan J. Fowler went public with her harrowing account of discrimination within the company, Kalanick berought in former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. He also fired a high-ranking engineering executive, Amit Singhal, for failing to disclose a history of sexual harassment claims filed against him.

Every apology is heralded by many as, as the New York Times put it, “an indication of how the company is shifting to deal with future problems.” But how many chances are enough chances? Kalanick is a guy who proudly uses the term “Boob-er” to describe the “women on demand” element of the company. He’s spent his career encouraging the notorious cutthroat culture, apparently believing a line between competitive and destructive would only hurt the company. Aggression is built into the company. When have you ever heard of a shake-up at Uber to dismantle it toxic culture–the culture Kalanick fostered–unless it was forced by a public scandal first?

So it’s no surprise, really, that executives are jumping ship. Their Vice President of Production & Growth left following Fowler’s essay went viral, saying “now seems like the right moment” to leave. And now the company’s President, Jeff Jones, has resigned after only six months at the company. Jones says he’s leaving because “the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber.”

Whether he’s avoiding the mudslide of near-definite future scandal for purely business reasons, or if he really doesn’t want to support this company, that’s an airtight excuse. At this point, anyone who is left in the management and executive levels of Uber (I know drivers are a completely different story) is hopefully taking a good look at their choices, and what it means to stand by such a toxic, clearly unfixable company. As long as Kalanick is left to continue forging this aggressively bro-y path, Uber isn’t a place I can imagine any decent person actually wanting to work.

(image via Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.