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Arianna Huffington’s speech to Uber staff: A ‘new Uber’ will emerge from crisis

The director at the car-hailing company also renamed its infamous War Room to the Peace Room.

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Arianna Huffington has something to say to Uber staff.
Drew Angerer / Getty

Uber board member Arianna Huffington addressed employees at the company today in an all-hands meeting in which it was also announced that CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick would take a leave of absence. (That came after a last-minute scramble.)

Here is the full text of her remarks, which are in their entirety below, and worth considering.

Among her statements:

We talked to a lot of people about this mess: “They reviewed more than 3 million documents, conducted more than 200 interviews and received information from hundreds more employees through the anonymous hotline and online focus groups. And their investigation spanned not just Uber’s HQ here in San Francisco but also the company’s global operations. “

More banning of brilliant jerks: “Even one instance of harassment — sexual or otherwise — is one too many, and that will be reflected in these changes. And as I’ve said again and again, no brilliant jerks will be allowed, and no one will be protected because they are top performers.”

Company values used as weapons of mass destruction: “As all of us who were involved in the listening sessions heard from so many of you, many of Uber’s 14 cultural values, while well-intended, had been allowed to be weaponized. That was a word we heard a lot.”

Take a nap, darling: “Because the data also tell us that being ‘always on’ and always available means being unfocused, distracted, reactive, and always stressed and burnt out, and as a result, often acting out. We need to change that — you don’t need to be available all the time. The Uber app always responds, but the humans that build and manage it shouldn’t.”

In addition, the cafeteria will hereafter be called the Oasis of Love (only platonic!): “And another important symbol of change, the War Room has been renamed the Peace Room. Because as everybody knows, peace is a lot more productive and sustainable than war.”

First, you cry: “And I profoundly believe that because real change rarely happens without a catalyst and a crisis, from the crucible of the last few months, a new Uber will emerge fueled by empathy, collaboration and putting people first.”

Here is the whole thing to read and consider:

Three and a half months ago, I stood here at the first all hands after the Susan Fowler blog had been posted and we announced an investigation to be led by Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, not just into what had happened to Susan but into every aspect of the company and its culture. The process was longer than we thought and more painful than we thought, but this chapter comes to an end today. And our task now is to learn, rebuild and move forward together to write Uber’s next chapter. So let me tell you a little about the process.

The board created a special committee, which I chaired with David Bonderman and Bill Gurley. The Holder-Albarran team reported to us weekly and often in between. We gave them all the time and resources requested, and access to whatever documents they needed. And they truly left no stone unturned. They reviewed more than 3 million documents, conducted more than 200 interviews and received information from hundreds more employees through the anonymous hotline and online focus groups. And their investigation spanned not just Uber’s HQ here in San Francisco but also the company’s global operations. So I want to thank Eric and Tammy and the entire team for their rigor and thoroughness. And I want to thank my fellow special committee members Bill and David for being such great partners.

As you will see, the recommendations are thorough, extensive, specific and detailed. They were unanimously adopted in their entirety by the special committee, which passed them on to the full board, where they were also unanimously adopted during a board meeting on Sunday morning.

They will be posted momentarily on the Uber newsite for all of you to read and so you can hold both management and the board accountable in implementing them. And of course, there might even be some interest from the media, if they could be convinced to ever cover Uber.

The recommendations fall into four categories.

First, there are recommendations about governance and oversight to make sure the board is structured to exercise independent oversight of Uber’s management, hold leadership accountable for implementing the changes as described, and put into place internal controls and improved record keeping to prevent and properly handle compliance and harassment issues going forward.

Second, there are recommendations regarding human resources, structures, and procedures, which I’m delighted to say Liane has already started putting in place. The goal is to enforce a zero tolerance policy toward any kind of abusive behavior — whether it’s sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, or any kind of unprofessional behavior. And if this kind of behavior does occur, there will be processes in place to ferret it out and deal with it immediately and unequivocally. Even one instance of harassment — sexual or otherwise — is one too many, and that will be reflected in these changes. And as I’ve said again and again, no brilliant jerks will be allowed, and no one will be protected because they are top performers. As the actions of the past few weeks show, these are not just words, but a real fundamental change in the way this company will be run.

Third, there are proposals specifically around diversity and inclusion, which Liane will describe in more detail.

And the last category of changes is about culture. As all of us who were involved in the listening sessions heard from so many of you, many of Uber’s 14 cultural values, while well-intended, had been allowed to be weaponized. That was a word we heard a lot. And that’s completely unacceptable — any cultural value or principle, however well-intended, that is used as a weapon needs to be changed, clarified, or supplemented.

As you’ll see, the report has recommended a wholesale review of the cultural values and how they’re being used in practice. And Liane has already begun this review. In the meantime, we’re going to start by changing a few right away — they are both symbolic and significant, because they reflect the changes that need to be made.

First is the one about “working longer, harder and smarter.” Working smarter is great, but Uber is a company that respects data – and what we know from the science and the data is that working longer isn’t the way to work smarter. So working longer will be gone from the cultural values.

Another one that’s gone is being “always on.” Because the data also tell us that being “always on” and always available means being unfocused, distracted, reactive, and always stressed and burnt out, and as a result, often acting out. We need to change that — you don’t need to be available all the time. The Uber app always responds, but the humans that build and manage it shouldn’t.

We’ve also changed the cultural value of “toe-stepping,” which is one that many had mentioned was weaponized. You can decide what takes its place, but whatever it is, it will reflect a work environment in which everybody feels comfortable offering up their ideas, and also one in which nobody feels afraid to speak out about any conduct they feel is disrespectful.

And another important symbol of change, the War Room has been renamed the Peace Room. Because as everybody knows, peace is a lot more productive and sustainable than war.

I now want to end on a personal note. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several weeks meeting with hundreds of you, listening to you, getting to know you on a deeper level, and also being held accountable by you. And I want to say how incredibly moving and inspiring it’s been seeing your passion, your dedication, and your resilience.

And I’ve both heard from you and seen with my own eyes what a toll these last three months have taken on you. I know it hasn’t been easy giving work everything you’ve got, and then seeing demoralizing stories about Uber that you have to go home and explain to your family and friends. And yet you come to work the next day to give it your all again. Seeing your strength and your grace has been humbling. And I’m filled with admiration and respect for you, and that’s what I’m going to take away with me forever.

And finally, when I stood here in February, one of my goals, unstated at the time, was to add some more diversity to the board. Right now, in Fortune 1000 companies, women hold only 19 percent of board seats. It’s going up, but very slowly. And one of the factors that make it more likely a company will add more women is the presence of a woman already on the board. That’s why, as I wrote to you last night, I’m so honored that Wan Ling Martello will be joining the board. She’s the Head of Nestle’s Asia Zone, was previously CFO of Nestle and before that CFO for Walmart's international unit. And, most importantly, she’s an incredible leader. She’s also on the board of Alibaba -- in fact, I met her at Davos at a Jack Ma dinner, and was immediately drawn to her. The global perspective she’ll bring to the board will be enormously valuable as Uber continues its global growth. She’s in Switzerland at the moment, but I know you’ll love getting to know her in the months and years to come.

And as the second woman on what is now an eight-person board, that means our percentage of women increases from 14 percent to 25 percent, all in one day. Still not enough, but progress.

So today is both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of three and a half months of rigorous investigation, and it’s the beginning of building on the Holder recommendations and moving forward together, condemning what happened in the past, but judging ourselves and expecting others to judge us on what we’re doing right now — the actions we’re taking, and the new policies we’re implementing.

This is the beginning of our journey to being a company that always puts you, our driver partners, and our riders first, that honors your talents, your dedication and your ambition to change the world for the better. A


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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