Five Workplace Lessons from the Uber Harassment Case

After seeing countless online headlines about the “Uber Harassment Scandal” I finally decided to read the articles – and then I couldn’t stop reading.  I traced the articles back to the original source which was a blog post by IT Engineer Susan Fowler.  The lack of leadership acumen, respect, and just plain common sense detailed in the post is mind-boggling.  Many employment law firms will get rich (or richer) from the “brilliant jerks” remaining in Silicon Valley.  I am waiting with baited breath for the response from Uber.   If the “investigation” does not result in a house cleaning then I, and many others, will be extremely disappointed.  Here are five lessons I think we can all take from the Uber situation:

  1. Stand Your Ground. Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute seems to reveal that most people deal with workplace bullies by leaving the company.  This is great assuming there are no bullies, harassers, and jerks at your new company.  Fowler left Uber, but she did not go quietly, and now Uber must answer to the world.  She consistently pressed her case until it was apparent that harassment was tacitly encouraged at Uber.  The power in passive-aggressive behavior is the ability to hide.  Take the cover off the harasser or bully.  You may not always win but you will keep your self-respect.
  2. Take the High Road. Ms. Fowler continued to work and produce at a high level. She enjoyed her work and colleagues and realized there was life after Uber.  My goal as a harasser/bully is to wear you out or wear you down.  Don’t give them the satisfaction.
  3. Report. Report. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen. Enough said.  You can’t control what happens after you report it to your boss, HR, etc. but imagine if Ms. Fowler hadn’t reported all the incidents at Uber.  The current “investigation” would be worthless without her detailed documentation.
  4. Take Decisive Action. Your career and well-being should be under YOUR control. Whether you decide to file an EEOC complaint, change jobs, escalate to senior management, etc., plan and execute it.  When it became apparent that Uber would do nothing about its culture, Ms. Fowler immediately found another job.  She didn’t stay and complain, month after month, year after year.  She left, wrote her blog and knocked Uber for a loop.  While I don’t possess her talent, and could never find a job in a week like she did (okay, it would take me many, many weeks) – many of you do have her talent and energy.
  5. Keep your Mental and Physical Health. I know we have heard it a million times that nothing is worth your health – but it’s true.  Don’t give anyone the satisfaction, or power, to drive you to illness.  While it’s exciting work in an exciting new industry – it’s still just a cab ride.  Is it worth years of abuse and stress?  You will be shocked to realize that all the abuse in Ms. Fowler’s blog occurred in one short year.  Are the widgets you produce worth your self-respect and well-being? 

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