- Uber fired 400 marketing employees this week as the company seeks to trim the fat from bloated departments.
- Affected employees were told of the changes in an email early Monday from Jill Hazelbaker, the company’s head of communications. That was followed by an online meeting for those in satellite offices, workers told Business Insider.
- For workers in offices around the world, many of whom were not at work when the email went out, the process felt impersonal, they said.
- Morale had been low on the marketing team for months, other former employees say, leaving few surprised by the shakeup.
- Read the full email CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to Uber employees this week below.
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On Monday morning, around 8 am California time, hundreds of Uber employees around the world received an ominous email from Jill Hazelbaker, the ride-hailing company’s head of marketing, communications, and public policy.
The company is restructuring its marketing efforts, the senior vice president said, according to now-former employees who received the email. Her message continued to say that affected workers would be receiving an invitation to a Zoom video conference, and should contact their local human resources executive for more information.
All told, 400 workers were fired, equating to about one-third of the company’s entire marketing team.
At Uber’s San Francisco headquarters on Market Street, affected employees were invited to a small conference room where Hazelbaker spoke only for about 30 seconds, one of the roughly twenty attendees said. A human resources employees spoke next, and the meeting ended just a few minutes later.
“She didn’t say thank you, she just kind of left,” the attendee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by Uber, said of Hazelbaker’s remarks. “A lot of people felt like it was a bloodbath. You didn’t get a personalized message from your manager or HR partner or anybody.”
Many of the laid-off employees were not even at the office yet when the email announcement and subsequent meeting occurred, another former employee said. Others tried to access the livestream link only to find it had already ended.
Affected workers weren’t lead out by human resources or operations staff, as in some mass layoffs at large companies. Instead, laid-off employees were told they had until the end of the day.
While the layoffs were not limited to one area of the firm’s massive marketing team, brand marketing was hit the hardest, a third former employee said. Outside of Silicon Valley, the hammer hit offices in New York City, as well as in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
For some employees in international offices, the process felt robotic and out-of-touch.
“It’s never easy to fire people, but I do believe things could have been handled in a more human way,” said one former marketing employee in a Latin American office, who asked not to be identified. In that particular location, only about four employees remain of the previously 12-person marketing team, the source said.
To be sure, all fired employees had individual meetings with human resources representatives, the sources said.
Read more: Uber lost 2 board members, including Arianna Huffington, an ally of ousted founder Travis Kalanick
In an email to all Uber employees on Monday, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the moves were an effort to trim teams that had become too big.
“I also want to be clear that we are not making these changes because Marketing has become less important to Uber,” he said. “The exact opposite is true: we are making these changes because presenting a powerful, unified, and dynamic vision to the world has never been more important. Under Jill’s leadership, Marketing will soon be operating at full strength.
“Many of our teams are too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners and can lead to mediocre results,” he continued. “As a company, we can do more to keep the bar high, and expect more of ourselves and each other. So, put simply, we need to get our edge back.”
Going forward, the marketing team will report to two senior leaders, a company spokesperson said. One will handle performance marketing, CRM, and analytics, while the other yet-to-be-named manager will handle product marketing, brand, Eats, and more.
Last week, Uber also parted ways with two board members: early investor Matt Cohler and Ariana Huffington, an ally of ousted founder Travis Kalanick.
Those departures, as well as the droves of layoffs this week, could help Uber shore up its balance sheet and slow its massive losses, revealed during its IPO earlier this year. Investors will get their next insight into the company’s financial situation on August 8, when the company reports its second-quarter earnings.
“Because there have been so many changes recently, morale on the marketing team was very low,” the former San Francisco-based employee said. “A lot of people were just like ‘here it is, Uber is screwing us over again.'”
“People were surprised at how big the layoff was, but not to be treated this way by their company,” they said.
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Here’s Khosrowshahi’s full email, sent Monday:
This morning, Jill announced important changes we’re making to the Marketing organization, which you can see below. Since I asked her to take on Marketing last month, Jill has worked around the clock to ensure we have the right structure in place to build a consistent brand narrative across audiences, products and regions.
I also want to be clear that we are not making these changes because Marketing has become less important to Uber. The exact opposite is true: we are making these changes because presenting a powerful, unified, and dynamic vision to the world has never been more important. Under Jill’s leadership, Marketing will soon be operating at full strength.
These changes are incredibly difficult to make because they have a huge impact on people’s lives. But a big part of our job as leaders is to make tough calls based on what is best for Uber and our long-term future, and to be honest with you about why we’re making them.
It’s also critical that we look at the big picture, admit when we aren’t where we need to be as a company, and, most importantly, get back on track. Today, there’s a general sense that while we’ve grown fast, we’ve slowed down. You can see it in Pulse Survey feedback and All Hands questions, and you can feel it in much of our day-to-day work. This happens naturally as companies get bigger, but it is something we need to address, and quickly.
Much of Jill’s note captures the symptoms of a broader problem: many of our teams are too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners, and can lead to mediocre results. As a company, we can do more to keep the bar high, and expect more of ourselves and each other.
So, put simply, we need to get our edge back. Being fast wins; coupling that with strong alignment and exceptional talent makes magic—and we need magic to deliver on our world-changing mission.
This topic has been a consistent one for the ELT over the last few months. We are all committed to ensuring we build the best organization that can execute with the highest standards to win in this enormous and enormously competitive market.
Good simply isn’t good enough—we are going for great. But greatness doesn’t come easy. This is one tough and totally necessary step that we have taken. I’m here to win a race that really, really matters. And I’m psyched to be in it with you.
I’ll share more tomorrow at the All Hands—see you there.
SEE ALSO: There are 2 areas where Uber’s competitors could leave the ride-hailing giant in the dust
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