Uber Technologies, who happens to be notoriously bad at creating a female-friendly work environment, has resorted to a psychological trick to get its drivers spend more time at work: male managers pretend to be women.
The taxi-app firm knows that male drivers respond better to a female manager’s request as they perceive her less aggressive and more helpful than a male manager. Ironically, more and more real women at Uber are quitting their jobs because the ride-hailing giant has so far failed to end harassment and other abusive behaviors directed at them.
The New York Times found that the company uses mind games not incentives to get its contractors work longer hours. One of the most successful strategies is the gamifying of the app, which now offers badges after accomplishing arbitrary goals and other in-app virtual goodies. The strategy is very effective as drivers spend more time on the road when they were supposed to sign off.
Another strategy, which is by far the weirdest, is male managers pretending to be females. These managers email, text, and send notifications to the company’s contractors in areas with an overwhelmingly male population of drivers.
Former Uber manager John P. Parker recalls that he used the name “Laura” to direct Uber drivers in the Dallas area. The company resorted to this trick because men tend to obey female managers more easily but often ignore their male supervisors.
Uber confirmed that it had used “female personas” too boost engagement levels among male contractors. Tech companies often use female digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana – just to name a few – for similar reasons.
Uber is taking advantage of the bias to encourage drivers to work more, but it is extremely troublesome that a publicly-owned for profit corporation to resort to such schemes instead of incentivizing its workers.