Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, 40, is going to "grow up."
The executive issued a de rigueur apology — excuse me, "profound" apology — after a video released yesterday depicted him arguing with an Uber Black car driver, Fawzi Kamel, in early February. Driving the CEO, when Kamel voiced concerns and complaints about the company's changing standards and rates, Kalanick responded, but couldn't stand to be "blamed" for Kamel's woes. "Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit," he said, abruptly leaving the car.
Now it's Kalanick who is "taking responsibility," with the following note to all Uber employees, sent out Tuesday evening.
By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.
It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.
I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.
Kalanick is checking in to leadership rehab, or bro therapy, or whatever, and the apology is just the latest in a series of them. Last week, for instance, Kalanick was busy saying sorry about the account by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler of harassment at the company. A few weeks earlier, he was washing his hands of an association with Donald Trump, stepping down from the President's advisory council under pressure to do so.
This chain of events, as the public experiences a moment of intense Uber schadenfreude, might illustrate the effect it's possible to have on Uber. Recall that Uber lost more than 200,00 customers in a campaign to #deleteuber, and Kalanick is likely to apologize as profusely as is required to prevent that hashtag from trending again.
Of course, the CEO's note addresses none of the concerns of Kamel or fellow drivers — Uber's ever-shifting demands or its low rates for customers and poor cuts of those for drivers. NBC got ahold of Kamel to see how Kalanick's apology went over, and it sounds like it was a one-star.
"Uber kept dropping prices every season to gain more ridership to satisfy their growth, and it didn't matter to Uber if the driver is not even making minimum wage," he told them. "And the worst part is, they call us partners," [but] they make the rules, set the price and they even choose the cars you can use."