Thursday, June 15, 2017

Watch it: the wrong joke could cost your your job

A joke deemed sexist has cost a board member of Uber his place on the board, FT reports. Board member David Bonderman, had to quit after he interrupted Ms Arian Huffington, fellow member on the board, with a remark that was considered inappropriate:
As Ms Huffington was telling staff that research showed boards with one female director were more likely to appoint a second, Mr Bonderman interjected: “Actually what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”
Ms Huffington laughed awkwardly and said it would be his turn to talk soon. After the meeting, Mr Bonderman emailed Uber employees to apologise — and later announced he was resigning from the board. 

The problem, of course, is that the remark could not have been made at a worse time. The board of Uber is dealing with serious cultural issues, including issues of harassment, highlighted by a report commissioned by the board. The report has led to the exit of several senior executives and the founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, has proceeded on indefinite leave, although it appears he will still be involved in strategic decisions and key leadership appointments.

The refreshing takeaway from the turmoil at Uber is that the world is no longer going to accept a firm just because it has a great valuation. Culture matters. Which means how you create value is also important. It's hard to beat a quote the FT carries on the subject:
“The spoiled brats of Silicon Valley don’t know the basics,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at the Rock Center of Corporate Governance and author. “It is a revelation for Silicon Valley: ‘duh, you have to have HR people, you can’t sleep with each other . . . you have to be respectful’.”

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