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The Uber Scandal and Rebounding From a Bad Boy Reputation

Source | LinkedIn : By Lesley Gold

I was never one of those women who fell for “bad boys.” I didn’t like them then and I definitely don’t like them now. But bad boys are a part of the media and tech landscape, and the challenge for many of us is: how do we deal with them?

June has been the month of high-profile mess-ups, from Bill Maher’s dropping of the n-bomb on live TV to Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick’s multi-layered missteps. Both are examples of PR disasters, costing their brands their reputations and millions of dollars. But the real question here is: are some people/brands irredeemable? Is there a point where you have so damaged your reputation that there is no path to recovery? When does the redemption narrative work, and when does it not?

This week, Uber announced Kalanick’s leave of absence, which also coincided with several, high-profile, company-wide Uber scandals. There was the video of Kalanick yelling at an Uber driver, the bombshell blogpost by former software engineer Susan. S. Flower alleging that her sexual harassment complaints were ignored by the company, and then the unsavory findings of Eric Holder’s investigation of the company, recommending the dismissal of 20 employees effective immediately.

Bad behavior can give you an entirely new branding dilemma, one that often overshadows your business: that of a bad boy image. In the ‘90s and early ‘00s, that image was considered edgy and desirable. People like Aaron Levie, Mark Zuckerberg, and Shane Smith profited off the idea of being rebellious, lone-wolves disrupting their industry. Now, in 2017, being a bad boy is more of a liability than an asset. With calls for inclusion, firings at FOX News for sexual harassment, and the noted problems facing women in tech, consumers and investors are distancing themselves from brands that can’t or won’t adapt to the times.

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