In the latest crisis to hammer the giant ride-sharing service, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says he need “leadership help” in the wake of a confrontation with one of the company’s drivers.
Uber has seen a wave of customer defections in recent weeks, as a result of a series of issues, including sexual harassment claims. Kalanick, who has often feuded with critics, touched off a new storm this week as a dashboard video surfaced showing him engaged in a heated argument with an Uber driver who had complained about a cut in the fees he was receiving.
“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own (problems),” Kalanick says in the video, which was published by the Bloomberg news service. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” he shouted as he slammed the vehicle’s door.
After the video went public, Kalanick published a personal memo on the Uber website, declaring that, “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”
“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,” the memo said, adding that “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
Uber has had meteoric growth in recent years. Along with competitors like Lyft the ride-sharing service is expected to dramatically impact the transportation world in the coming years. But Uber has found itself in an unwanted spotlight in recent months after a series of gaffes and questionable actions.
(Uber hires former U.S. Attorney General to investigate harassment claims. Click Here for the story.)
In December, the ride-sharing service launched an autonomous vehicle test program in San Francisco but refused to apply for the necessary state permit. It subsequently pulled out of the pilot project when the California Department of Motor Vehicles threatened to have the effort shut down, Uber moving the self-driving Volvo XC90s to Arizona.
Then, in January, it came under fire by those who opposed CEO Kalanick’s decision to join President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council. That flare-up intensified when Uber was accused of taking steps to profit from a New York City cab boycott called in response to Trump’s immigration ban.
Uber subsequently issued a statement opposing the so-called “Muslim Ban,” and Kalanick quit the advisory board, but not before thousands of customers reportedly quit the service.
The company found itself back in the news when former engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti posted a blog entry describing “an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos.” She said she quit Uber after a year of ongoing harassment, including propositions from her original boss. She also insisted that efforts to address her concerns with Uber’s human resources department were rebuffed. Rigetti noted that the share of women in the company’s engineering department fell from 25% to 6% during her tenure.
Uber responded by ordering an investigation into the charges. Among those assigned to the effort, it said, would be Arianna Huffington, an Uber board member, as well as former U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder.
But despite the move, investors, analysts and customers have remained skeptical. The #DeleteUber campaign has geared up again. And, in another embarrassing move, it was revealed that the company sent e-mail responses to some customers quitting the service telling them it was “hurting.”
Even as the investigation got underway, things got more messy for Uber, the company on Tuesday revealing it had asked its new engineering chief, Amit Singhal, to leave. Singhal reportedly failed to reveal that he had left his prior position at Uber due to a sexual harassment charge – something he denied in his own Twitter post.
(For more on that setback to Uber, Click Here.)
Critics contend Uber needs to get past what has been described as a “baller culture,” a term used to describe an environment in which pampered former athletes behave in an overly macho way. That driven behavior may have helped Uber grow rapidly to become the country’s largest ride-sharing service, but it is now threatening to bring the company down, critics have warned.
“Now the company’s horrific culture has been exposed in terms that may cause an acceleration in the #DeleteUber campaign,” Roger McNamee, founding partner at venture capital firm Elevation Partners, warned this week.
(Tesla “on edge,” running short on cash in race to bring Model 3 to market. Click Here for the latest.)
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