If allegations by a former Uber engineer are true — and they ring that way — the ride-sharing company has a problem for tolerating sexual harassment.
The response by Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick was strong, and hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the allegations was a smart move.
But the real attention getter here — again — is the power of one person on social media.
As The New York Times reported, “The engineer, Susan Fowler, [right] said that she was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor during her time at Uber and that after she reported those claims to the human resources department, they were ignored. She gave her account in a lengthy post on her personal blog on Sunday.”
What’s this actually saying?
That when she worked at Uber, Fowler went to her HR department and complained about her supervisor. She received no relief. But now, as an ex-Uber employee, she wrote a blog post about her experiences and the world sat up and noticed. Kalanick responded fast and furious.
And Fowler patched in to national angst and anger about sexual harassment in the workplace, especially in Silicon Valley, where male-dominated engineering companies abound.
The greater lesson here is that one employee, going public on social media, can bring a company to its knees — whether the social posts are true or not.
Companies and organizations that fail to grasp that reality play games with their future and stock price. What Fowler could not achieve as an employee — ridiculous as it is to contemplate in retrospect — she turned into a groundswell of action as a blogger.
Think about that.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Senior Vice President/Managing Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.