Uber's CEO Wrote A Sex Guide For Employees And It's As Bad As You'd Think

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Here’s a line you’ve heard before: It hasn’t been a good week for Uber. And now Recode’s got a hold of an internal 2013 email penned by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, in which he advised employees on how to have sex with colleagues. Guidance for this sort of thing can be good, as our friends have demonstrated wonderfully before, but Kalanick’s memo is as terrible as you’d expect.

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Recode says it’s internally referred to as the “Miami letter,” which is really how you want to refer to things that are not infamous at all, and it was written ahead of a company party in Florida. Here’s more:

Titled: “URGENT, URGENT - READ THIS NOW OR ELSE!!!!!,” he also noted at the top: “You better read this or I’ll kick your ass.”

The event, which came after Uber rolled out its 50th global city, used a Chinese symbol for the number nine. “It is a symbol that has internal meaning at Uber but is something we do not discuss externally,” wrote Kalanick.

Let us translate for you from the original bro language: It means a goal to reach a billion-dollar run rate, of 10 to the 9th, which Uber did that year just before the party.

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If someone at Uber’s HR team had translated Kalanick’s meandering memo into something intelligible and appropriate, this wouldn’t be completely baffling for a CEO to send along to staff. Something like 10 to 20 percent of people even meet their eventual spouses at work, according to some accounts, including some of our own esteemed colleagues. It’s not an unusual event, and it’s easy to deliver a straightforward set of rules.

If you want to bang a co-worker, just listen to our friends at Deadspin, and have fun:

There’s only one rule, by the way, and that is that the number of coworkers you are allowed to bone is one (1) per place of employment. Yes, this is a different number than the number of coworkers you would bone if the opportunity came knocking. If you change jobs and work with a new group of coworkers, your counter resets.

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Easy peasy. And yet in rambling on for several hundred words, Kalanick found a way to make it weird. Here’s one example—the rest are available here—how:

Wrote Kalanick: “Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic ‘YES! I will have sex with you’ AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip. #CEOLife #FML.”

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Fuck my life, Kalanick demurs, in what may or may not be a joke about how lousy it feels that he can’t have sex with his subordinates.

I highly doubt any employee didn’t complete this joyful read.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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DISCUSSION

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Actually that seems reasonable to me. Limiting sex to just one person in the office and that it can’t be someone you report to or who reports to you is actually very logical and reasonable.

North Americans really need to stop acting like perpetual teenagers, stop pretending to be puritans and need to grow up when it comes to sex.

And I can understand the whole thing about demanding an emphatic YES... because there are some idiots who initially give consent but then want to change their minds or give mixed signals... and then use the bullshit mixed signals as the basis for a harassment complaint.

The Gian Ghomeshi case here in Toronto was dismissed due to evidence that showed exactly this. The “victim” was shown to be contradicting herself through actual emails she sent... and what she wrote was the complete opposite to what she said on the stand... which was one of the things that destroyed her credibility.

And I’m guessing that the Uber CEO ended up having to deal with a situation similar to that and was probably thinking “I don’t have time for this bullshit”.

And more often than not, it is total bullshit. I’ve seen this type of bullshit play out in workplaces more than once and have seen harassment polices misused/abused.