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A High Cost to a Bad Reputation: Lessons from Uber on a personal brand

by Sophie Higgins October 05, 2018
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The news that has divided the city of London recently is TFL’s controversial decision not to renew Uber’s licence. While both sides clearly have strong opinions on the topic, and a lot to say about it, there is one comment that stands out; Uber’s newly appointed CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, sent an email out to employees in reaction to the London ruling reminding everyone that-

“The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation”.

This summer has seen Uber’s various counts of negligence broadcast across the media worldwide, which ultimately saw former CEO, Travis Kalanick, forced into resignation. The news stirred conversation about the underbelly of Uber, below its ‘cool, disruptive tech company’ surface. One of the reasons Uber lost its licence in London was due to passenger safety concerns. However, according to an FOI response, of 154 sexual assault claims made against London taxi drivers in a one year period, only 32 involved Uber drivers. While this number is still 32 cases too high, Uber clearly is not necessarily any less safe than other taxi services. What this highlights is that the bad press and media storm around Uber in other areas across the globe has tarnished their reputation in London. 

So what lessons can we learn from Uber?

Each person has their own personal brand, and protecting its reputation is vital for your career, whether you work in a large company or small, permanently or freelance. People’s opinions of you will influence how you are perceived within a business, how productively you work with others, and ultimately how far you can progress. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with the way you’ve been branded, or you think it’s unfair, the onus is on you to change other people’s minds. In the same way that Uber won’t get their licence back simply by denying they are doing anything wrong and will need to agree to make changes, people’s opinion of you won’t shift by you disagreeing with them; your actions need to prove them wrong. Khosrowshahi recognises this, stating “it’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do… building trust through our actions and our behaviour”.

Being conscious and careful about how all your interactions in the workplace may appear to others will make a big impact on your overall reputation. Always being punctual, greeting people pleasantly, properly preparing for meetings (all things that should be done anyway) are examples of the little things that will be used to shape an opinion of you. The work you actually produce may be of the highest standard, but you can’t rely on your work to speak for itself to get a good reputation at work. More often that not your colleagues won’t work directly with you, they may only know you by your manner around the office and what others have to say, so keeping up appearances is just as important for your reputation as well as the work you do.

As Khosrowshahi meets with TFL Commissioner Mike Brown this week, his main task will be attempting to distance himself from the tarnished legacy left behind by Kalanick and prove that Uber deserves to keep its place in London. Trying to get a clean slate when it comes to reputation is certainly no easy feat and Uber will certainly be making a lot of changes if they are to be allowed to stay. 

When it comes to our own reputation, it is much better to make sure we take care of it, simply by remembering the little things, and avoiding getting to where Uber is now. 

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