One of Uber's biggest assets is about to face a stress test that will expose the extent of the damage the company has suffered after being shaken by a string of scandals.
Uber will distribute annual bonuses to employees next week — a ritual that many people inside and outside the company think could trigger an exodus of employees.
According to sources close to the company, numerous Uber employees have been biding their time in the wake of sexual harassment and other scandals, waiting to collect their bonus before jumping ship.
Despite the scandals, Uber has said that it hasn't seen attrition above normal so far. That could change on bonus day. While it's normal for companies to see some employees depart after bonus time, this year's payout season is being especially closely watched given all that's happened.
"When I was there, I was very proud to work there," says one former Uber employee who remains in contact with colleagues at the company. "No one feels that way now."
Uber declined to comment.
The potential talent drain comes after a blistering few weeks of bad press. In January, over 200,000 customers deleted Uber in one weekend as part of the #DeleteUber movement. Since then, the company has had to launch an internal investigation into its workplace culture after a former engineer published a tell-all blog post about the gender bias and sexual harassment she allegedly endured at the company.
Uber has also been sued by its investor, Google, for allegedly using stolen technology and had details of a program designed to deceive government authorities published in the last two weeks.
CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick, who has helped Uber become the world's most valuable startup, has also become a magnet for criticism because of the win-at-all-costs culture that many observers say he is responsible for. Earlier this week, Kalanick said he needed leadership help and the company recently retained an executive recruiting firm to find a chief operating officer to work alongside Kalanick.
Whether that will enough to quell the internal discontent remains to be seen. But retaining employees and regaining their trust will be critical if Uber hopes to get past this challenging phase.
The Financial Times first reported that there's been an uptick in résumés sent from Uber employees to recruiters — including one recruiter receiving more résumés in a week from Uber insiders than this person normally receives in a month. But Uber said at the time that it hasn't been a problem and the company "has not seen attrition rates above normal."
Uber reigns as the most valuable tech startup in the world, with a $69 billion valuation in the private markets and highly-anticipated IPO somewhere down the road, but a stint at Uber is quickly losing its luster among Silicon Valley techies.
The company recently wrapped up its performance reviews of employees. Now, as Uber prepares to reward its stars, it will be the employees who grade the company by staying loyal or moving on.
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