How a 26-year-old caused IBM to abolish its ban on Uber

Like an anxious elderly grandfather, IBM didn’t want its employees to use ride-sharing app Uber over concerns that ride-sharing was unsafe.

And like a rambunctious grandchild, a 26-year-employee used an online petition and the company’s own social media sites to change the HR’s mind, and get the ban lifted within 24 hours, reports Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Pressman.

When IBM banned employees from submitting Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services on their expense reports it explained that such services might not have proper insurance, or conduct background checks on drivers and could even be illegal in some places. The ban had apparently come from an incident an employee had with a ride-sharing service in Europe, Pressman reports.

But the ban didn’t sit well with 26-year-old IBM employee Max Black, who works for IBM’s Watson consulting unit in New York and often uses Uber. He had been submitting Uber rides on his expense report for about a year.

IBM CEO Ginni RomettyFortune ConferencesIBM CEO Ginni Rometty

So Black wrote a petition explaining why the ban should be lifted and posted it the company-wide social network called IBM Connections.

One of his points: IBM was being “hypocritical … IBM is in the business of preaching mobility transformation to its clients, but we are effectively outlawing for our employees one of the best examples of mobile innovation out there.”

Within hours the post went viral. It came to the attention of IBM’s HR in a most IBM-like way, too. The company uses a big data tool to monitor IBM Connections to tell HR about employee issues.

To its credit, the very next day, HR agreed with Black and reversed the ban.

This “eat-your-own-dogfood” story offers some insight on how IBM, with 400,000 employees of all ages, is trying to transform itself.

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