Workplace Ethics (when don’t they matter?)


No doubt many readers would be aware that ride-sharing behemoth, Uber has recently been in the firing line for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the company supposedly harbours a culture of gender and sexual discrimination against women.  Susan Fowler made public the allegations, after which the company has kicked off a number of initiatives to (a) investigate the allegations and (b) remove any trace of this negative culture.

Reading the various media pieces on this topic, have helped to highlight and potential gap in cultural development and internal planning by Uber – and no doubt plenty of other companies as well.

As a start-up, presumably the focus is so heavily on funding, bringing a product to market and carving out a niche, that with limited time, resources and advice, there are plenty of facets of what should be a robust business which are either overlooked or swept under the rug.

At what point in time does a startup look to bring on senior management with a focus on HR or Compliance/Risk or kickoff various staff support programmes?

A quick search of jobs via two well known websites used by startups ( and for roles related to HR or Compliance results in proportionally fewer results than roles which are likely perceived as key to being a successful start-up.  Role titles related to business development, sales and software development are a dime-a-dozen.

This appears to provide a logical link that assists to confirm that generally amongst start-ups, revenue generating roles are a higher priority.  It’s not until a more secure market niche has been carved out, that internally facing support functions are thought about.

Surely, good business leaders need to be mindful that their focus needs to be appropriately split both internally and externally.

The answer to the topic question, “when don’t workplace ethics matter?” is a clear and resounding NEVER!

Right from the inception of the initial business idea, to receiving initial funding from an angel investor to listing on a stock exchange, workplace ethics and ensuring equal treatment of all employees irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation etc should be high on the list of priorities.  Senior management representation of human resources and compliance/risk functions should be appointed at the board level as early as possible.

Building an appropriate framework based on a long term strategic vision and short term tactical goals, should be formulated to provide necessary guidance and scalability to ensure that the necessary human-centered focus and support mechanisms exist. Whether this be in a start-up of 10 people or a multinational with a footprint across continents and employing thousands of people, the unwavering focus on ethics and accountability should remain front-and-centre.


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