The Biggest Workplace Stories of 2017

by Derek Loosvelt | December 11, 2017

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These are the year's work-related stories that most consumed us and changed us, confused us and angered us. Here are the top workplace stories of 2017.

5. The distracting onslaught of political news lowers worker productivity.

Hours after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, the onslaught began. Remember Sean Spicer? Alternative facts? How about crowd size, Steve Bannon, the immigration ban, and the Paris accord? This year, beginning in late January, American workers' email and social media accounts often lit up like Fourth of July firework displays. The onslaught was heavy during the winter and spring, though slowed somewhat during the summer and fall. Still, there were several long stretches during 2017 where offices across the country nearly came to a standstill, as workers were blindsided, distracted, upset, up in arms, or perhaps pleased over the #NotNormal news continually arriving in their inboxes and accounts.

4. The lines blur between Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

During the three years leading up to 2017, Wall Street had been battling Silicon Valley for talent (and mostly losing). But 2017 marked the point at which Wall Street may have turned a corner in that battle. Or, at least, said, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' That is, Wall Street is now so reliant on technology and technology workers in order to butter its bread that what Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said back in August of 2015 ("We are a technology company") that most people rolled their eyes at has come to fruition. At last count, one third of Goldman's staff work in technology, and the bank jumped headfirst into the FinTech game in 2017, rolling out the online personal loan business Marcus. Meanwhile, some 30 other big U.S. banks, including bulge bracket firms JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and Morgan Stanley, got together this year to create Zelle, a person-to-person payment platform that goes head to head with Venmo, the giant in the P2P payment industry.

3. The fear of deportation and unemployment is put into tens of thousands of international students and work-visa holders.

At the end of January, not long after taking office, Donald Trump signed an extremely controversial and confusing executive order on immigration. The order, which banned citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria from entering the U.S., came as quite to a shock to many of the country's most prestigious employers, many of which employ many immigrants from these and other countries (it was commonly thought that the order could turn into other orders affecting other countries). Immediately after the order was issued, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Box, Dropbox, Ford, Foursquare, Goldman Sachs, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Starbucks, and countless other firms spoke out against it, with many noting how many of their employees could be affected and how many of their employees (in some cases, their founders) were immigrants. In addition, many U.S. universities, whose student bodies include thousands of international students that could have been affected by the order, spoke out against it. Although the future of the order is still unclear (in early December, the Supreme Court decided the order should be at least temporarily upheld), what is clear is that international students and holders of work visas such as the H1-B now have a lot more to fear with regard to their futures, with many looking elsewhere to begin and build their careers.

2. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's life in the fast lane crashes and burns.

Back in January, king unicorn Uber got itself into trouble when the company sent an insensitive tweet in the wake of the aforementioned executive order on immigration. What ensued was a massive #DeleteUber campaign that, overnight, sent 200,000 users heading for the hills (in this case, the hills = Lyft). Then, in February, Uber employee Susan Fowler's claimed that Uber's HR department tossed aside her harassment allegations because the person she alleges was harassing her was considered a "very productive employee." There was also the case of Amit Sing, an Uber exec reportedly previously canned by Google over sexual harassment allegations (allegations not caught or not thought to be a big deal before Uber hired him). Not long after that, there was Kalanick's wild and crazy backseat ride in one of his own Ubers, a ride that got a lot of press due to Kalanick's shimmying alongside his two female passengers as well as for the argument he started with the driver (one of his employees/contractors) over Uber fares. In addition, Kalanick referring to his firm as "Boober" (because, he said, it got him a lot of dates) resurfaced, and Fowler's claim led to more scrutiny about the firm's hard charging bro culture. All of which was not good for Uber, not good for Kalanick (its leader), and which ultimately led to Kalanick's forced resignation in June.

1. #MeToo becomes a movement.

Bill O'Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, John Conyers, Al Franken, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Oreskes, Mark Halperin, John Hockenberry, James Toback, Mario Batali, and Roy Moore. These prominent men, among scores of others, were accused of sexual harassment in 2017. Many of these men lost their jobs as a result, some resigned, but still others have been able to stay employed, despite several harassment claims against them. It seems like no coincidence that one of the largest events of the year, the Women's March on Washington, and the largest workplace story of the year, the #MeToo movement, bookended 2017. To be sure, 2017 was a giant step forward for women (despite the outcome of the presidential election in 2016). This year will go down in history for many things, including the long overdue time when men began to be held accountable for their offensive, and sometimes illegal, sexual behavior in the workplace.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Tags: goldman sachs | immigration ban | metoo | sexual harassment | uber

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