Getting Human Resources Right

The news out of Uber last weekend was horrifying. A woman engineer was unable to get human resources to deal quickly and appropriately with a sexual harassment claim. I don’t know anything more than what I learned in her blog post. Uber is investigating and the full story will likely emerge in due course. I am not interested in piling on Uber right now. Plenty of people doing that.

But it does raise a great question which is how to get human resources right in a fast growing tech company. Growing from 50 to 500 to 5,000 to tens of thousands of employees is hard. Operating systems and processes that work in a 500 person company don’t work in a 5,000 company. The same is true of every growth spurt. Systems break down and stuff gets messed up.

A well designed and implemented human resources organization can help. A messed up human resources organization will hurt. As Uber has found out.

So what have I seen work and what do I recommend?

Here are some things you can do to increase the chances that your human resources organization will be a force for good in your company:

  1. Hire a human resources (HR) leader EARLY in the development of your company and “level up” your HR leader as needed as your company grows. The right HR leader in a company of 50 is not likely the right HR in a company of 5,000. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in general you will need more experience in the HR leadership function as your company grows.
  2. Have your HR leader report directly to the CEO. Do not tuck the HR leader underneath your COO, VP Ops, CFO, GC, or VP Admin. The CEO has a hard enough time figuring out what is going on in her company as it is. Putting someone between them and their cultural leader/thermostat is a bad idea. Plus the optics are terrible. Your management hierarchy says a lot about what you value and what you do not. Actions speak louder than words, always.
  3. Do not make your HR function a recruiting function. Of course HR needs to help the company hire. And it certainly needs to help transition out people who have to leave the organization. But HR orgs that function mostly as an I/O pipe are bad HR orgs.
  4. Do make your HR organization about culture and leadership first and foremost. I have heard many HR leaders called “our culture carrier.” That’s good. And HR orgs should be making sure everyone is getting feedback on their performance and development goals, including the CEO. Organizations that share feedback top to bottom with dignity and professionalism are great places to work and perform better.
  5. Always have a company handbook that lays out the rules of behavior in the workforce. You can’t do this too early. You set the tone early and it propagates. It is great if you can start with your values, clearly laid out for everyone, and then lay out the rules and what happens if they are not followed.
  6. Build a great employee onboarding process. I believe that the companies that take the time to properly onboard new employees are better places to work and perform better. Onboarding should be more than “here’s your laptop, here’s your desk, here’s your boss.” It should be at least a few weeks of getting ingrained in the values, culture, systems, processes, and rules. It should be learning about every part of the organization, the current operating plan, strategic priorities, management team, and more. Doing it right is hard but it pays off bigtime.
  7. One CEO that I have worked with for more than fifteen years once told me his HR leader was his most important senior executive. He said she was his “business partner.” That’s a great place to get to if you can get there. What is more important than your team, after all?

I hope those suggestions are helpful. They are based on what I’ve seen work and not work over the years.

In the Uber situation we also saw a failure in the “whistleblower process.” This is a particularly hard process to get right. First of all most teams, whatever kind of team, don’t really want “snitches.” It is human nature to try to come together and support each other. And blowing the whistle is the exact opposite of that. So here are some things you can do to get this right:

  • Train your organization about the situations that are particularly tricky; sexual harassment, drug and alcohol issues, fraud, etc. Teach everyone how to recognize them and what to do about them. Make it clear that they are EXPECTED to report these issues to management and that failure to do so is complicit behavior.
  • Have some sort of whistleblower hotline. Often times the company General Counsel will manage this hotline. Make sure everyone knows about it.
  • Enable anonymous feedback throughout the organization and explain when it is appropriate and when it is not. Obviously anonymous feedback has great potential for abuse. But it is often the only way you are going to get the most important feedback that nobody will share otherwise.
  • Talk about this stuff in your all hands, regularly. I am sure this is a big topic this week but it should not get talked about only when something bad happens somewhere. This is something that should be discussed at least a couple times a year. Companies that scale rapidly can double in size in less than a year. So you have to talk about this stuff frequently to make sure everyone understands it. And make sure to clearly cover it in the onboarding process.

If you don’t have this stuff worked out in your company, now is a great time to do that. Your employees are watching you.


Comments (Archived):

  1. someone

    I’m shocked, shocked! That this could happen at a company the founder sometimes referred to as “Boober”

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. Culture is destiny as a friend of mine says.

      1. Girish Mehta

        “Character is Destiny”. – Heraclitus

        1. JaredMermey

          “Worry more about your character than your reputation. Character is what you are, reputation merely what others think you are.”- John Wooden

          1. pointsnfigures

            Man, I wish that I could have played for John Wooden…or Coach K..(or been good enough) Every HR dept ought to have John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success on the wall.

          2. Salt Shaker

            I have a framed, autographed copy of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. Never played for the man either (ha), but I did have the pleasure of hosting a luncheon for Coach, along w/ a group of UCLA b-ball alum–Kareem, Marques Johnson, Jamal Wilkes, Lucious Allen, etc.–about a year before he died. A special day, to say the least.

        2. Amar

          +100 for an Heraclitus reference!

      2. Twain Twain

        Thanks, one of my favorite posts of yours.Ben Horowitz gave an amazing talk on Culture and how to start successful revolutions at Startup Grind on Tues. My blog post of that talk should get posted on SG today or tomorrow.He shared the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who overcame 40 years as a slave in Haiti and ended slavery there by changing the culture of the nation — so much so that, in Feb 1799, President John Adams signed an agreement to end the trade embargoes to Haiti and its economy grew to having MORE export income than the US!One of the best half hours I’ve spent, listening to Ben Horowitz on Culture.

    2. jason wright


      1. someone


  2. JimHirshfield

    The clue about getting human resources right is the first word in human resources. Just be a decent human being.

    1. Emil Sotirov

      May I add – don’t treat humans as resources.And, in fact – “people” would be better than “human”.How about “People Dept.”… and “Chief People Officer” … ?

      1. fredwilson

        that’s a great point

      2. jason wright

        for that i blame Karl Marx and not rampant capitalists, which may be considered ironic by some.Yes, i really like the “CPO” title.

      3. Emil Sotirov

        Although… the “PD” abbreviation might quickly turn into a joke about the “Police Dept.” of the company… πŸ™‚

      4. mikenolan99

        I personally dislike “Human Capital Management” – the title of my HR class during my Australian MBA.

      5. JohnLaGrou

        Or emulate Bill Gore (GoreTex), who resisted job titles altogether. I remember a story of a Gore employee asked to speak to some org. The org asked her for her job title. She didn’t have one. They insisted. So Bill had business cards made for her with the title “Supreme Commander.”

    2. Anne Libby

      It’s important, but being a good human being is also important in every management role. There’s specialized expertise and knowledge that you have to use those good human qualities to deploy…

      1. LE

        Well in all honesty and with apology to Jim it’s trite advice. What is good to one person is bad to another person. While some things are universally bad [1] the problem isn’t those things it’s the things that lead up to those things and are in gray areas. Remember Google’s ‘don’t be evil’?.People are not good or bad black and white they vary along a continuum of behavior. Everybody generally thinks that the way they are is the right way and other people are either ‘to honest’ or ‘cheating’ or ‘assholes’. As a minor example you might go 65mph in a 45 zone and feels it’s ok to break the speed limit but the guy going 80 is ‘really dangerous and reckless’. People tend to see things relative to where they are at.Saw the other day on hacker news how some people didn’t feel that the new Apple campus should have any reference to Steve Jobs because he belittled people. By many he would not be considered a ‘decent human being’ with how he treated some employees. Doesn’t bother me one bit I would have loved to work for Steve Jobs and he could say whatever he wanted to me and I would have thanked him for the opportunity.[1]

        1. Anne Libby

          That’s why leaders must do more than simply talk about organizational value/ethics. It’s important to identify the behaviors that exemplify the values.Exhortations like “don’t be evil” are catchy, and not so useful without a common understanding of what “evil” is.

          1. LE

            Companies could quite easily develop different tests (and I don’t mean tests that you question and answer but other less obvious tests) to determine how someone behaves and what their negative potential is. But I don’t think they want to do that. Further there is little question in my mind that people that have invested in Uber have seen Travis’s desire for red meat and that was actually a positive to them, not a negative. Because they knew, for lack of a better way to put it, he had ‘balls’ and would push things to the limit. You see that a great deal with testosterone driven men.I know of someone that was recently hired by a company and was told a few months later that he would be let go. The reason? After hearing the details it seemed obvious to me that it was because he was (get this) ‘to honest’. That’s right. He was so honest that the company felt constrained in terms of being able to make money the way they had previously. [1] I also should point out that what they had done before hiring this person was not illegal and also that I knew the person who was let go was upstanding to a fault.I also know of Physicians who were let go (or frowned upon) because they cared to much about patients and spent to much time with them and it impacted the profitability of the medical practice.[1] Of course they didn’t tell him that was the reason they were letting him go but after hearing more details of his experience there it was pretty clear to me that is what happened.

    3. Lawrence Brass

      I would extend “be decent” to general company behavior too. Uber is particularly agressive in foreign countries where their inclination is to break every law they can to penetrate markets. They have been banned from some cities for a reason.I wonder if an agressive commercial stance in a company may permeate, contaminating other divisions of the company, as HR.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        It’s amazing that after all the stuff Uber has done, like pay drivers less than minimum wage, and ignore local laws as it sees fit, a lady programmer being asked out by her manager is what has aroused everyone’s ire.

        1. Mark Essel

          Did I read a different post? This wasn’t “hey wanna get lunch”.It begins with misconduct, and spins into a mishandled mess by HR protecting repeated bad behavior, and resulting in a hostile work environment that punishes the wrong employees.…I thought Uber was called out for the other issues you mentioned (wages/rules).

          1. Dave Pinsen

            He asked her out, right? And then she ran to HR. He didn’t threaten her with any repercussions if she said no, did he? HR speculated about the reviews, but that didn’t come from the manager did it?

          2. Donna Brewington White

            As I recall there were threatened repercussions from at least one of her bosses.

          3. Mark Essel

            Just saw this reply (pardon the sloooooow pickup!)This was her first day in the new department”On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with”At any reasonable workplace a manager is fired for that kind of behavior on day one. “Welcome to the team, hi I’m your boss, will you have sex with me?”Later on we find out this was not this managers’ only issue as several others complained of similar workplace behavior.Also the internal culture was toxic for any kind of collaborative work:”In the background, there was a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job.””The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right, OKRs were changed multiple times each quarter, nobody knew what our organizational priorities would be one day to the next, and very little ever got done. We all lived under fear that our teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on yet another new project with an impossible deadline. It was an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos. “This is all one person’s perspective, but it was rationally organized and written.

        2. Lawrence Brass

          A pattern of bad behavior sometimes sets the tone, then a drop overflows the cup.Maybe.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          Oh dear. Much more than an isolated act.

      2. Girish Mehta

        Good to see you in the bar Lawrence, its been a while.Wilful Blindness is what allows the culture to corrode in an organisation.None so blind as those with eyes and will not see.p.s. Mitch and Freada Kapor just published an open letter to the Uber board and investors. Think it demonstrates moral courage. Well worth a read.

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Thanks Girish, good to see you too. I miss the daily visit and friends.I have been busy dealing with my alt-realities and trying to break Marissa Meyer’s 130 hour workweek record. But will always come back, this is the finest place downtown.Growing too fast, growing too big, a lot of things can creep in or distort.Liked the Kapors post. Thanks.

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Reflecting on your question while also trying to avoid over-generalizing I would say that there is often a strong correlation between how a CEO approaches HR and Customer Service. A lot more I could say about that.Also, searching for a company’s HR leader (I am a recruiter) is very revealing of the true values and priorities of an organization.

    4. TeddyBeingTeddy

      I wonder if that gymnastics trainer from MSU will be an Uber driver now…

    5. PhilipSugar

      Use the word Talent and Culture.

  3. kidmercury

    a teacher of mine used to say morale isn’t built up, it’s filtered down. this type of a culture can only emerge if the folks at the top, through their action, create an environment that allows it to occur.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Pete Griffiths

      Couldn’t agree more. It has to come directly from the CEO. If culture isn’t managed by the CEO, and this includes gender, then culture just happens to you. If people don’t completely believe the CEO takes this seriously then it doesn’t matter how good your HR dept is.Here’s the absolutely classic confrontation. The company’s top salesman is a sexist asshole who harasses women. HR call him out on it. The CEO doesn’t act on it because he ‘can’t afford’ to lose the sales this guy really does bring in. Game over. No well written policy statement will get around that odor that will waft around the company from that.The Chinese have an expression that is particularly pertinent. “The fish stinks from the head first.”

      1. PhilipSugar

        Great comment. Let’s pretend for a second (just one second) you didn’t care about the morality of the issue. You are going to alienate half of the workforce and potential workforce for the issues of one person? Wow that is so dumb it should get you fired.Everyone is going to know, and it is demoralizing.I had a woman come to be once and say another woman was being harassed. I called the harassed woman into my office and asked if there was a problem. She said she was uncomfortable talking about it.I hired her, her own attorney (that is how you should handle) She has attorney client privilege. The attorney said you have a problem and we fixed it.The woman who first reported it came into my office and said: “I want to tell you on behalf of every woman in this office thank you”Everybody knows. It’s like salary. You have to assume everyone knows

        1. Pete Griffiths


    3. cavepainting

      While it is true that the fish stinks from the head down, we have also diminished the value of HR in companies by making it an administrative function vs. the keeper of the culture that can act as a true partner to the CEO.First, HR needs to be a honest broker between employees and leadership, and not a stooge of the management.Second, It is not good enough for HR to work directly for the CEO. It is important for the head of HR to have a direct line to the board if need be, just like we expect the CFO to be an independent custodian of the integrity of the financial statements. From time to time, Boards need to invite HR heads to board meetings and start developing relationships with them. Preserving and strengthening the moral fabric of a company is the most important job there is.Third, All this means that HR cannot be an order taking function and needs to be headed by a leader with strong sense of good and bad, right and wrong, and a real passion for nurturing culture with intention and care.How many companies can truly claim that?

      1. karen_e

        Great line of thinking

      2. Donna Brewington White

        The implied comparison between the CFO and Head of People as stewards of something extremely vital is meaningful.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      It’s great that the leaders at Uber are investigating this, but the fact that it could happen in the first place is an indictment against those leaders.Sure, in a company this large, events and mistakes happen that don’t reflect the leadership team, but this is more of a systemic type of occurrence.

      1. PhilipSugar

        That is right. If you have people working for you shit is going to happen, and I mean bad shit. It just does, so don’t judge me on that. Judge me on what happens when I found out it happened.Someday I’ll write a book. There are always two sides to a story. But if Uber can’t respond and say we here is what we did and instead has to hire an outside investigator, that is an indictment.It’s especially sad considering their incident with Sarah Lacy. So you are going to look into her history of rides but not look into this?? Kidding??If somebody is hitting on a direct report and they don’t know that that is so wrong that they should get fired……they need to get fired.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I have four people reporting to me. I can’t take the blame for every mistake they make — even less so when my team grows and covers more geographic areas (which I am working on).But, there are isolated events and then there are ongoing, recurring events, situations perpetuated over time. Those are on my head.

  4. Ronnie Rendel

    While this post is focused on HR, the same can be said for every business functions when processes break down going from 500-5000, etc. What’s unique about HR is that unlike Sales, Customer Success, or Accounting, HR deals with the resources producing value (and liabilities) for the organization.At its core, the case at Uber sounds like a problem of a potential “threat” not being contained in time, eventually blowing up and causing damage to the company. This type of problem is not unique to HR and can happen come up in any department, particularly during growth spurts.Besides processes, I envision CEOs of the near future seeing an aggregate situational map of threats and opportunities granular to a single resource and rolled up to corporate divisions. You still need VP People, CFO, etc, but these potential threats that slipped through the cracks of the process, should rise immediately to the top.You can easily implement a business rule where the enterprise email engine (with some AI help) can create strategic threat for every HR request containing “sexual harassment” and was not followed up on in X days. The CEO doesn’t need to know the details all the time, but she does see a red dot on her strategic map, and if she clicks on it she will see this issue and kindly nudge HR to follow up. Same for issues in customer success, sales, accounting, compensation, partnerships, marketing, vendor relationships, and even IT.

  5. JaredMermey

    What companies are doing this right?

  6. Fernando Gutierrez

    The problem with HR is that most people think it is all common sense and they believe that anyone can do it. It is not. There are many things that a good HR person can bring to the table. Even for smaller orgs, you can hire someone part time or as a consultant. It is not the same as someone in your company, but still can bring a lot of value to the organization.I’m involved with the development of a cryptocurrency called Dash and our blockchain has recently hired certain well known professional who frequents this comments section so she can help us manage the growth of the team. As expected from her, the project is looking great πŸ™‚

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Ha! So glad I scrolled down.But now I am wondering if you still feel this way about “certain well known professional who frequents this comments section.” πŸ˜‰

      1. Fernando Gutierrez


  7. Sada Kshirsagar

    What often happens is that HR ends up protecting/tolerating the bad behaviour of ‘executive/leader’ in order to not harm the business. (which is what happened here, and in doing so really harm the business really). HR needs to cultivate/protect the culture of the company and in process it will sustain the business. Also needs to have a strong moral/ethical compass and voice in the company. Maybe sometime larger than the CEO!

  8. jason wright

    i’m a heterosexual male and i was once subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace by a gay man in a position of power. a disgraceful abuse of position, aided by weak management and ‘social alliances’.sexual harassment in all forms is very unpleasant behaviour and perpetrators should, in my opinion, be suspended immediately and then sacked if allegations are proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

    1. LE

      The closest I had to something like that was a long long time ago when I was leaving my business one day and a guy stopped his car next to me and asked me if I wanted to ‘check out’. I had no clue what he meant so I said “what?”. And he says ‘you know have sex’? When something like that happens you don’t even know what to say. [1] But it got me thinking that the reason people act this way (as I have said before) is because they have either been a) intermittently reinforced with compliance or they b) have heard stories where it has worked for someone else.and perpetrators should, in my opinion, be suspended and then sacked immediately if allegations are proved beyond reasonable doubt.I believe in due process and unfortunately it is all to easy for someone to make a claim in order to harm someone else. I once dated a girl whose mother claimed that the girls ex husband had made advances to her. If you saw this woman (who had mental problems and looked like hell) most people would probably think the story needed further vetting. Honestly though that standard needs to be applied in cases where it’s no so obvious.[1] I can think of many funny things to say here but I won’t.

      1. jason wright

        yes, it’s probably a behavioural conditioning process ingrained over many years – the “what did i do that was so wrong?” defensive retort. they just don’t get it. serial offenders never do.i believe in due process too, but it’s taxing on the principle when one knows it to be true.

  9. Ali

    I like 4 the most.

  10. Nina

    Thank you for this post! HR is an extremely important topic especially for early stage start-ups. The biggest mistake small businesses make is having distrust in their employees and using their HR lead as a spy (for lack of a better word) for the executive board. It is a huge red flag when you feel there is no one enforcing your protection in a workplace.

  11. Laura Yecies

    The title of this post is “Getting HR Right” and I agree that that is important and the specific suggestions are great. It seems likely that at Uber HR was far from the main problem which is a culture and goals set from the top. HR is unlikely to alter that.

  12. Anne Libby

    Lol, I was making notes to write a similar post today, and took a break to check in here. Instead of my blog post, let me make a couple of observations here. (Thanks, Fred.)Like Finance or other key functions, an HR pro has very specialized experience and expertise. They need to understand enough about the law, benefits, compensation, recruiting, payroll, people management (and more — I’m not an HR pro!) to know where their own knowledge ends, and where and when to set boundaries and put in process. (And when to call in outside expertise, most particularly important in legal matters.)Early on you can have a great HR lead who rises up from another function. Get them some training! Enable them to grow their teams with people who have expertise that they lack. It’s hard to homegrow a person in this function as you scale. (Not impossible.)A solid HR pro is going to align the broader employee needs with “corporate needs.” This seems to have been a big fail at Uber.

    1. LE

      Check this out. The former head of Uber HR, Renee Atwood, left and now is at twitter:…And note the sub headline:Renee Atwood is either the least self interested person in Silicon Valley or she knows something about Uber the rest of us don’t.The new head of HR at Uber (Nov 2016) is Liane Hornsey:http://www.businessinsider….So the question is did the former head know something and wasn’t able to take steps to correct (because of upper management), or was she part of the problem? Time to speculate!With her last name truth is stranger than fiction.

      1. Anne Libby

        Yeah, it’s so hard to tell about this stuff from news stories and Twitter rage.The thing that’s interesting to me, from the outside in — merely as an informed reader — is that we’ve seen this story before. Recently, in tech. I’m glad that someone is (finally) believeable enough to have raised an immediate response from a company.Every woman has experienced stuff like this, though maybe not all in one year at one company. Men, you’ve seen it happen even though most of you aren’t perpetrating it. What can we do to stop this?

        1. LE

          Men, you’ve seen it happen even though most of you aren’t perpetrating it. What can we do to stop this?Honestly I am wondering why they aren’t teaching (brainwashing) this into kids in elementary and middle schools. I think it starts there.

          1. Anne Libby

            A good sign, I’ve been spending a lot of time with some elementary school boys in my life, and they don’t understand why stuff like this even happens:…And the fact that Grammy had to step in when I was told that I should never come back to school in the super-cute pantsuit I had gotten for Christmas. Girls had to wear dresses. (#thanksmom) They couldn’t even comprehend it!

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Would still be interested in your post. πŸ™‚

      1. Anne Libby

        Aww, thanks. I only blog a few times a year, and now that Fred said most of what I thought needed saying, my work on this one is done…lol.

  13. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:A question….Is one of the many reasons the HR leader reporting to other than the CEO because:1. This is the way most Big noteworthy organizations have structured it?2. CEO has a list of other responsibilities?3. CEO being relieved of the I didn’t know excuse?Thanks for the post Fred. Very useful.

  14. Brian Lund

    It’s hard to overemphasize how important point #6 is. A little bit of “front loading” a new employee on the ideals, expectations, and values of a company can go a long way. It’s shocking how many companies totally skip this process.Another important point is that the employee handbook should be a living, breathing document, that is added to, revised, and expanded on a regular basis as relevant HR related events occur.

  15. David A. Frankel

    Great post Fred. Look at the fallout from HR debacles at places like Zenefits and now Uber. HR and culture have evolved into playing a crucial role in not just attracting and hiring talent (which is coming increasingly from the Millennial pool), but overall customer experience and customer retention. It is amazing how quickly #DeleteUber got traction. That can happen to ANY business.So while I agree that investing in a good Chief People Officer is important, I would also submit it is a tactical solution. Companies need to start investing more time on a top down strategy for CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE — once they have a vision for that, then things like culture, hiring, marketing, customer success and product can become aligned as part of the framework.

  16. George

    It always amazes me: everybody agrees that successful startups rely primarily on great people yet HR function is overlooked most of the time and not treated as strategic.

  17. pointsnfigures

    I blogged about Ms. Fowler’s post. I really appreciated the way she laid it all out. It wasn’t from a frame of reference where she was a victim. It’s as if she walked into an alternative universe and couldn’t believe what was going on. She accurately described the Game of Thrones political culture and how she was a pawn in it-not to mention the over sexism that went on.One thing to bear in mind when you are in the minority. If you blow a whistle, there will always be people looking to undermine you. Women that left Uber quietly may have done so because they were afraid that if they said something they would not be hired at another tech firm. As if they carried a Scarlett Letter.I support Ms. Fowler and have no reason to doubt her assertions.HR is tough. It’s one of the most critical things in building a company. Setting good culture up is hard. So many cultures go wrong and when they do it’s almost impossible to change them.

  18. LE

    But I asked him to think carefully about Values & CultureThat implies though that everything about the company and everyone who works there participates in this behavior and that is clearly not the case. Why punish them? No due process. And that accepting a job there somehow supports a bad situation. If that is the case a) what about use of the product? and b) what is any persons obligation to insure that other companies that they patronize (business or personally) don’t have objectionable behavior (and this is always a degree). What’s the vetting process? Reading blog posts by a single employee and then saying ‘stay away’. You know I hate that shit. Not a uber user either.And as far as the pando link sure where there is smoke there is often fire. But not very democratic or fair. Easy to write things to get page views, harder to prove.My god with products even the ‘good housekeeping seal’ was caught with it’s hands in the cookie jar (this was news to me):

    1. Twain Twain

      I use Lyft. I prefer their values as a user so they get my $$$.The only time I used Uber was because they had a discount code I could use in Las Vegas.I know two other engineers at Uber who work in the Data Science-Machine Learning teams.Of course there are lots of good people at Uber who are working well with their colleagues and considerate towards each other — Susan Fowler gives credit to other folks who were not like her absurd manager.Still, the blog post speaks to Silicon Valley’s challenges wrt fostering culture that can attract and retain female talent:…It’s not just a HR problem for Uber. Enabling and retaining diverse talent affects how representative, innovative and useful tech is for everyone.

  19. Yoojin Levelle

    I really appreciate this post, particularly the process-driven thoughts on *how* to build and scale HR well within fast-growing orgs. It’s such a critical part of a company’s long-term success.Separately, I would like to point out potential unconscious bias in this particular sentence, “A woman engineer was unable to get human resources to deal quickly and appropriately with a sexual harassment claim.” (In first paragraph.)Fred – I think your sentence structure here unintentionally pins the fault-verb to the woman engineer. Perhaps it would be more appropriate as, “Uber’s human resources was unable to deal quickly and appropriately with a sexual harassment claim from their female engineer”?

  20. Gregory Magarshak

    I am wondering whether organizations in the future won’t have these problems by virtue of not having employees in the traditional sense. The future of work might involve people from anywhere in the world contributing to open source / patentleft projects. Not to say those won’t have their own problems, but at least people will be more free than they are with full time employment.With increasing automation making the labor market more efficient (Uber ironically is an example), relationships are becoming gigs, and an increasing number of people are going to be contractors one way or another. We need to start embracing this new reality.I think if we had single payer systems for everyone (basic level of healthcare, food, etc.) then people would be suddenly freed up to have real choice in jobs. And this “power of choice” among the labor force will put great pressure on employers to clean up their act to get their projects done. Right now people are increasingly desperate for a job because our means tested safety nets are really crappy and outdated.Just my 2c. Uber culture is one thing, but this is about the bigger issue of dissipating the feudalism in today’s employment.

  21. Salt Shaker

    Not sure creating an environment of objectivity is totally possible given the hierarchy and reporting structure of most HR dept.’s today. Too often individual biz performance–either the accused and/or the accuser’s–can influence, mitigate and/or fully undermine a claim of untoward behavior by one colleague against another.While the Uber/Susan Fowler story seems quite extreme, and hopefully that’s the case, I conversely know firsthand of stories where employees have been erroneously charged and careers seriously damaged based on personal and unsubstantiated vendettas spewed by one disgruntled colleague against another, particularly with respect to harassment, where sometimes innocuous and innocent comments, looks, etc., can so easily be presented as fact and beyond reproach. Guilt can often be easily applied w/ out the benefit of reasonable doubt. (A very close friend of mine and C-level executive of a publicly traded company was recently terminated under such conditions.)Creating a system where there’s an option for independent arbitration and mediation would seem to have some merit, as the HR reporting hierarchy in many companies today undoubtably can inhibit and influence objectivity.

  22. Joseph K Antony

    This is something much bigger than HR. It’s about core values. Uber provides excellent service but my concern is whether this type of mercenary attitude towards its own employees, is reflective of a core degenerate ethos, which eventually begins to tell on some of Uber’s key strategic choices. My hunch is Uber if it is truly lacking on that aspect, then, sooner than later, those major mistakes will happen. I doubt It. Yet…if it exists,it starts to feed into itself when investors start to react and a negative downward spiral starts. Culture trumps(sic) everything.

  23. Martin Alvemo

    Regarding #3. Do you mean that HR shouldn’t be leading the recruitment process or do you mean that they should have other responsabilities apart from that? If they shouldn’t lead it. Who should in your experience?

  24. chuckf75

    I certainly agree with Fred’s post about the importance of HR and overall how culture is set from the top executives and not just HR. However, I want to point out we are roasting Uber over a post from a disgruntled employee that was not proven. There are always three sides to every story: his side, her side and the truth.

  25. Alexandra T. Greenhill

    Great points! Also – an open door policy for the CEO is a must – one of the things I tell every hire (and repeat often) is that anything that my priority as a leader is to make my team effective and happy, so they can bring me anything that makes them uncomfortable or unhappy and they weren’t sure who to share it with. Alex (CEO myBestHelper)

  26. Kim

    Finally got a chance to read this, and…Thanks, Fred. It’s great to hear this from USV, as an HR leader who wholeheartedly agrees with you and works for one of your companies πŸ™‚ Hear hear!

  27. dan hynes

    β€œlevel up” your HR leader – could not agree with you more

  28. J_Frank_Parnell

    Teams don’t want “snitches”? Yes, if you mean someone who maliciously reports someone for behaviour that hurts nothing and nobody. Reporting unethical or harmful behaviour to an immediate superior is not being a snitch, it’s the expected and responsible action.