The executive exodus from Uber continues as Jeff Jones, the company's president of ride sharing, quit on Sunday after a six-month stint. Jones' departure has exposed a much deeper internal turmoil in Uber, leaving it in a situation that is more problematic than ever realised.
Jones, who was the chief marketing officer at Target Corp before joining Uber, apparently decided to step down after CEO Travis Kalanick recently announced that the company was looking for a chief operating officer to help him "write the next chapter" in Uber's journey. Jones was reportedly handling some of those COO responsibilities, and there was speculation that the new exec could outrank him.
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Jones' role was definitely put into question after Uber launched the search for a new COO. But did it really prompt his departure? According to Kalanick, it did.
"After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn't see his future at Uber. It is unfortunate that this was announced through the press but I thought it was important to send all of you an email before providing comment publicly," Kalanick told his staff in a note obtained by Recode, which first reported Jones' exit.
"We're looking for a Chief Operating Officer—a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey." -Travis Kalanick, CEO
— Uber (@Uber) March 7, 2017
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However, what Jones wrote in an intense assessment of the company confirming his departure drew attention to troubles that lie in Uber's leadership. In a statement to Recode, Jones said that "the beliefs and approach to leadership" that he believed in were "inconsistent" with those of Uber.
Jones, who played a crucial role in modernising Target's brand, was believed to be hired to restore Uber's tainted image. He did try to reach out to drivers in a public Facebook Q&A to know their concerns and share what the company intended to do to address them. But angry comments and complaints from drivers turned it into a disaster.
It's not just Uber's alleged apathy towards its drivers that probably made Jones quit his job. The multiple controversies that have hit the company over the last several weeks were likely too much to handle for the former Target executive, who "doesn't like conflict."
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Things at Uber started to deteriorate after its former employee Susan Fowler published a blog post, in which she criticised the Kalanick-led management and described the sexual harassment she experienced in the company. Following that, Bloomberg released a video that showed Kalanick yelling at an Uber driver who complained about price cuts, resulting in Kalanick issuing a public apology.
A few days later, the New York Times disclosed the existence of a secret software tool called "Greyball" that Uber had been using to con authorities in major cities around the world where its ride-hailing service is currently banned. The company recently confirmed it had used the tool, which is not in use any more.
After this string of controversies, Uber has been playing defensive, especially with Kalanick announcing an internal investigation based on Fowler's allegations.
However, it's probably too late to be defensive. The company needs to realise that it's time to embrace new leadership strategies with a comprehensive approach that fits its culture and better understand the diversity of its workforce.
Uber needs to own up to its mistakes, acknowledge feedback and be more transparent. An ideal way to get started with this would be revealing the results of its internal investigation to the public, and detailing its efforts to rebuild its broken culture and turn it into a more inclusive one.