24 November 2014

It’s all fun until someone acts like a jerk

It is, perhaps, the fundamental issue of ethics and morality: To what extent do I support a company or service whose moral conduct is only slightly north of reprehensible? If I save money or gain convenience, does that excuse making marketplace choices that ignore the company’s management practices and leadership behaviours? Do I therefore become an enabler of behaviours that I would otherwise not tolerate amongst my own employees, friends, or family members?

This is the dilemma now encroaching on the collective consciences of many who use and support the (supposedly) ride-sharing (but in reality, alternate taxi service), Uber. The New York Times has a piece that deals with this question of personal morality. The behaviour of Uber’s leadership “signals a winner-takes-all culture that justifies any behavior so long as everyone is getting rich.” As I wrote about the other day, hyper-competitive cultures often lead to systemic dysfunctions among an organization’s members as those lower down in the status hierarchy emulate their superiors – who, problematically do indeed consider themselves to be superior to just about everyone else. The NYT article quotes Lisa Abeyta, founder of a tech start-up in Albuquerque as noting, “There is a difference between being competitive and being dirty. It is bad-boy, jerk culture. And I can’t celebrate that.” And then she deleted the app from her mobile.

Ms. Abeyta’s decision is one we all have to consider: Do we, collectively, act as enablers of “bad-boy, jerk cultures” by supporting misbehaving leaders though our purchases? Or, is it the right thing to do in our ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate world to stand together in saying to such leaders, “your behaviour is unacceptable in today’s world.” Uber is but one example. Amazon is clearly another (and I, personally, have stopped ordering through Amazon because of their horrendous labour practices).

Toronto’s mayor-elect, John Tory, claims Uber is here to stay. Perhaps. He, of all people, having just ousted bad-boy, jerk leadership from city hall, might want to reconsider lending his support and endorsement to analogous behaviours in other corporate leaders.

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