When he took over the company in August of last year, Dara Khosrowshahi was tasked with rehabilitating the fratboy image of Uber—a company where harassment was rampant, and internal memos had to advise employees how not to have sex with their coworkers. But based on a leaked memo, less than a year into the new CEO’s tenure, Khosrowshahi has been giving “the D” to staffers in meetings.
Fortunately we’re not talking about any sort of sexual impropriety (to the best of our knowledge). The memo, obtained by Business Insider, outlines a method to avoid bureaucratic bloat, where Khosrowshahi writes:
You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here’. This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same.
You know—the D. As in, “you can stay and observe if you want to, but for the duration of this organizational planning meeting, I’m giving Brad the D.”
Your first thought while reading Dara’s excerpt probably wasn’t oh yes, the well-known management technique ‘the D’ and was instead he’s talking about dick. Thankfully, his glorious cock-up does not appear to be invented out of whole cloth, but instead seems based on a single Harvard Business Review article from January of 2006 titled, “Who Has the D?: How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance.” Here are some quotes from that turgid, 4,500-word piece that was certainly helpful to a businessperson somewhere:
- “they must [...] elevate the issue to the person with the D.”
- “the person with the D needs good business judgment”
- “The buyers were given the D”
- “there may be good reasons to locate the D”
- “the D resided with headquarters”
- “who is responsible for providing valuable input and who has the D”
- “The theme here is a lack of clarity about who has the D”
Urban Dictionary cites “the D” as a synonym for penis—and by synecdoche, a form of sex—going back to 2004. Uber’s worst days may be behind it, but perhaps this is a sign the company is entering a golden age of public gaffes that are fun instead of deeply upsetting.
We’ve reached out to Uber to learn who within the company has or previously had “the D” given to them by Khosrowshahi and will update when we hear back.