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Travis Kalanick quits Uber: We asked a behavioural expert why

Travis Kalanick quits Uber. The news that the Uber’s CEO has resigned is all over the internet this morning. 

Some might have seen it coming, but what is really going on inside Kalanick’s head?

We asked a top behavioural expert

Dr Michael Koch, lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Kent, told us: “Travis Kalanick’s resignation as CEO of Uber does not come as a surprise. He had already taken an indefinite leave of absence recently, which indicated that he would not return.”

In recent months, Uber has made headlines due to allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic working environment at the firm.

The publicity these events attracted was very severe. Then the company tasked a law firm to review Uber’s company culture and provide some recommendations on improvements.

Travis Kalanick quits Uber: But why?

“As founder and CEO, Kalanick exemplifies the company’s culture,” Dr Koch told us. “An abrasive, aggressive leadership style is what Kalanick was know for. He also had a leadership team who exhibited very similar characteristics. This is one of the reasons, I believe, why poor workplace practices were so widespread at Uber.”

Travis Kalanick quits Uber - Compelo

What did toxic leadership styles not raised concerns within Uber earlier?

As one of Silicon Valley’s flagship companies, Uber is under huge public scrutiny and all management will now be under a microscope.

Discrimination and harassment are not only Uber’s problems, but appear to be a problem in many Silicon Valley high-tech start-ups. There is now an increasing discontent with these issues, and the public as well as investors show less tolerance for poor workplace practices and toxic leadership.

“Poor or toxic leadership is not necessarily seen as a chief influence on CEO dismissal”, explains Dr Koch. “Some of Uber’s most important investors drove Kalanick’s ouster. The specific reasons for why these venture capital firms demanded his resignation are a subject of speculation. Uber’s investors want to protect their investments. They decided that a new CEO, who was respected and free from scandal, would develop the company more successfully.

“Investors, such as the venture capital firms that demanded Kalanick’s resignation, are typically accepting of poor people management. However this is only as long as performance is satisfactory. This was not the case for Uber and Kalanick.”

Uber’s investors likely perceived Kalanick as a risk. Perhaps they deemed his leadership style no longer appropriate. After many scandals and top execs leaving the company, is it time Uber developed a new corporate culture?

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