Corporate culture is based on the behaviors, characteristics, and values of an organization as a whole. Company culture starts from the top of the corporate ladder and works its way down. In essence, it has a trickle down effect that has impacts each and every employee in the organization. A good corporate culture typically leads to happy employees who are productive and loyal to the organization. However, a bad corporate culture usually leads to unhappy employees who will only put up with the negativity for so long and are constantly on the lookout for a better job opportunity.
Of course, negative corporate culture is bad for business. Eventually, something drastic must happen in order for positive change to take place in order for the business to survive let alone thrive. Even genius founders with great ideas can be forced out of the company due to bad corporate culture when the crap hits the fan. Travis Kalanick, the cofounder and former CEO of Uber is the perfect example of this. When the directors of Uber fired Kalanick, in June 2017, the action was actually long overdue.
For months Kalanick and Uber had suffered a string of scandals to the point that any one of them would have undone a typical chief executive. For example, a female engineer had posted a long public account of rampant sexual harassment and the company's "bro culture," to which Uber's HR department had turned a blind eye. She was one of a long list of female employees who had similar issues. In addition, the company was caught ordering and canceling rides from its competitor Lyft, stealing Lyft's drivers, and using software in order to track its own customers even if they closed the Uber app.
During years of battling with local taxi authorities over the legality of its car service, Uber had been discovered using a tool called Greyball that disguised the location of its cars and showed a fake version of the app to city officials. Kalanick was even captured on video bullying an Uber driver who complained to him about reduced driver payouts. Even though Kalanick had the insight to form an entirely new industry and basically change the world for the better, his leadership of a toxic corporate culture eventually did him in.
Another example of a brilliant founder with an incredible idea who succumbed to bad corporate culture is WeWork founder and former CEO Adam Neumann.
First and foremost, the company's business model had been known to be incredibly expensive and have little path to profitability. In addition, WeWork's company strategy and corporate culture were completely aligned with Neumannn and his family and their often bizarre ideas. In fact, WeWork utilized Neumann's strange behavior as part of their sales pitch to investors from the very start of the company. Drug use and partying in the corporate environment was also a significant piece of this equation. In fact, alcohol was always an integral part of the office culture.
According to a former employee, every Monday, workers were forced to stay late in order to participate in an after-hours team-building exercise called "Thank God It's Monday." It typically ran late into the night. Neumann would speak, and then employees often walked around handing out shots of tequila. Another former employee stated that during her job interview with Neumann, the co-founder offered her tequila, which was apparently his favorite alcoholic drink of choice.
That certainly does not bode well for a positive company image let alone a good corporate culture. It's no wonder why Neumann was forced out of the company that he created.
In addition to being visionaries that put themselves and their own personal views of the world ahead of their companies and their employees, Travis Kalanick and Adam Neumann have something else in common. The stories of their rise and fall have been turned into popular television shows. Super Pumped, The Battle for Uber stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis Kalanick. The drama currently airs on Showtime. WeCrashed:The Rise and Fall of WeWork stars Jared Leto as Adam Neumann. The drama currently airs on Apple TV.
Neither of these television shows portray the founders in a good manner. However, there are many lessons that can be learned from both men. First and foremost, a positive corporate culture is important for the ultimate success of any business. On the other hand, a negative or toxic corporate culture can bring down even the most brilliant people. If you fail to treat your employees with the dignity and respect that they deserve, it doesn't matter how good your concepts, products and services are.