Ross Prof: Uber’s Reputation Hangs in the Balance

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Rideshare service Uber has made a lot of headlines in its short history, and not always for the right reasons.

The latest controversy involves a Emil Michael, the company’s senior vice president for business, who suggested digging up dirt on reporters who write negative stories about the company.

Michigan Ross Professor David Mayer, an expert on business ethics, says this is just one of several controversies to plague Uber without substantive action from the company to fix their image.

Mayer says Uber’s words are starting to ring hollow.

Just as no person is perfect, no company is perfect,” says Mayer, associate professor of management and organizations and faculty co-director of the Center for Positive Organizations. “But in a short time, Uber has been involved with a large number of ethical scandals and accusations. These include: A senior VP suggesting they pay $1 million to dig up dirt on reporters, allegations of sexism and misogyny, concerns about privacy with data they collect, employees making calls to Lyft drivers to tie them up with no intention of needing a ride, and insensitivity to driver and rider complaints.”

Tweet from Uber CEOThe 13-part Tweet from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick condemning Michael’s comments used words like leadership, humanity, values, and positive principles. But real action has been lacking, Mayer says.

“There is a huge disconnect between Uber’s behavior and the values their CEO espouses,” he says. “Most members of the public can smell that hypocrisy from a mile away. In an effort to have an ethical makeover, it is imperative to take a hard line on Michael to demonstrate that Uber's espoused values are consistent with the organization’s decisions. Michael may be a highly regarded employee but the reputation of the company hangs in the balance.”

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