UberChina staff left shocked by Didi Chuxing merger: How to tell your team about major changes

Ride sharing

Source: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Earlier this week, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick announced to the world the ride-sharing company would be surrendering in China and entering a merger with rival Didi Chuxing.

The $35 billion deal took the world by storm, but reports are emerging that Uber’s own staff were the last to know about the deal.

According to The Information, many of UberChina’s 800 employees discovered the merger after coming into work and realising they could no longer access their Uber email accounts.

The Information claims engineers and data scientists at Uber headquarters in San Francisco were told not to speak to their China-based colleagues about work anymore as they now belong to Didi.

People management expert and coach Pollyanna Lenkic says the alleged handling of this change is shocking.

“It’s appalling to have your team find out that a major decision has been made in the company and the world found out before you,” Lenkic told SmartCompany.

“It’s a little bit tabloid press, it’s very unprofessional and it’s very uncaring.”

Failing to communicate and empathise with your own employees can undermine the company’s core values and brand, Lenkic says.

In Uber’s case, she says it puts into question its promises of “putting people first”.

At any organisation, Lenkic says it’s important for leaders to be open and honest with staff about changes, big and small.

And there’s no silver bullet approach for it. Instead she says it’s about being human and putting yourself in their shoes.

“It’s really important to understand when people go through change they respond and react to it differently,” she says.

“How would you feel?”

Some may feel anger and shock while others will see opportunity, and Lenkic says the onus is on leaders in the business to take an empathetic approach so staff feel respected and considered.

A great example she says is the way LinkedIn’s chief Jeff Weiner announced its Microsoft acquisition to staff.

“Essentially, the good thing he did was he had empathy, he delivered the message and said as a leadership team they’ve had months to get across this and you’re hearing it for the first time,” she says.

“It acknowledged that and gave space for people to [process] the news.”

So next time you need to tell your team about a major change, Lenkic recommends being respectful and communicating shifts as early as possible.

“Change is complex,” she says.

Lenkic says it’s essential to consider the impact of the change as it will be different for everyone.

One business leader she worked with said a major change affected their team because they would be moving away from a local café they loved so they had to get together to find another place to bond.

“Be respectful about the moment,” Lenkic says.

“Be as honest as you can.”

It’s also important to be present, she adds, and focus on the people standing in front of you.

“Think about how that person will be thinking and feeling,” she says.

“Communicate respectfully from where the other person is coming from rather than where you are.”

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