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The Uber-Important Lessons Employers Can Learn From Travis Kalanick

Up-and-coming companies obviously want to succeed, and many look to super-successful companies like Uber for advice. However, in the case of Uber, the company has made a number of missteps over the past few years that serve as lessons to other employers. While Uber itself has certainly changed the employment landscape and provided opportunities for many, other employers should look at the lessons from those other issues and adjust how they (the employers, not the issues) do business accordingly.

Be Up-Front About Classifications


One of the major disputes that Uber has been involved in nationwide is whether its drivers are employees or contractors. Court cases have shown that different states have different takes. Uber itself claims the drivers are contractors, but the California Labor Commission said that drivers qualified as employees -- and were thus entitled to reimbursements and other protections offered to regular employees. The Commission found that Uber monitored the drivers as if they were employees, provided phone equipment, and had as an overall business the same tasks that the drivers were involved in.

The dispute goes on, but one lesson employers can take away from this is to be up-front about worker classification when workers come on board, and to definitely test the position according to the same standards that the California Labor Commission used.


Don't Berate Your Workers


In February 2017, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on video, arguing with an Uber driver about fares and how badly the driver's colleagues were doing financially due to falling fares. Kalanick's responses were along the lines of telling the driver to toughen up and take responsibility. The internet wasn't having any of it, and Kalanick later issued an apology. Anyone who has ever been in a low-paying job will know how hollow the take-responsibility argument can be; being responsible for your situation goes only so far when cost of living outpaces pay.

Don't berate your workers for speaking up. Do not assume you know exactly why they are in the situation they are in. And most of all, be very aware of how your changes to the company can affect everyone else working there.


Address Complaints Immediately and Thoroughly


Uber has been hit with many accusations of misconduct, leading the company to fire several people and hire consultants to work on reforming the work culture at the company. The big issue here is not that there was misconduct but that it took so long to start addressing the problems.

If your workers have complaints, listen to them. Sometimes, yes, those complaints will simply be whining -- but more often than not, the complaints will be very valid. Give workers a voice and take them seriously. See what you can do to remedy whatever situation they are complaining about.

You can make your company a success in many ways, but it's always better to have a good relationship with your workers and to remember they are people too. With good communication and swift action, you can prevent your company from heading down the same rocky path that Uber has often stepped on. 

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