After a former Uber engineer detailed her account of sexual harassment while working there for about a year, New York Times reporter Mike Isaac dug into the story and got the goods. His exposé describes an amoral Ayn Randian meritocracy filled with aggressive jerks, in which one could absolutely imagine impunity for sexual harassment being an accepted norm.
In her blog post last Sunday, Susan Fowler, who left Uber in December, described months of discrimination and sexual harassment by managers, which she claims Uber’s HR team shrugged off. Fowler says this culture was encouraged.
“It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job,” wrote Fowler. “No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: They boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like.”
From Mike Isaac's New York Times report:
When new employees join Uber, they are asked to subscribe to 14 core company values, including making bold bets, being “obsessed” with the customer, and “always be hustlin’.” The ride-hailing service particularly emphasizes “meritocracy,” the idea that the best and brightest will rise to the top based on their efforts, even if it means stepping on toes to get there.
Those values have helped propel Uber to one of Silicon Valley’s biggest success stories. The company is valued at close to $70 billion by private investors and now operates in more than 70 countries.
Yet the focus on pushing for the best result has also fueled what current and former Uber employees describe as a Hobbesian environment at the company, in which workers are sometimes pitted against one another and where a blind eye is turned to infractions from top performers.
Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers’ breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee’s head in with a baseball bat.