Uber CEO caught on camera disrespecting driver

Ah, the hallowed tech CEO. From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, they’ve worked hard to cultivate a sense of altruism in the community. The hallmark of being a Silicon Valley boss, other than a rampantly unimaginative wardrobe, is benevolence. Not so for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was filmed abrasively telling one of his company’s drivers to take responsibility for his own problems.

Bloomberg received the footage from Uber driver of six years, 37-year-old Fawzi Kamel, who bore the brunt of Kalanick’s wrath after questioning him about Uber’s falling prices. “You could have the prices you want, but you choose to buy everybody a ride,” the struggling driver told his CEO. Kalanick responded that they’d go out of business if their fares increased substantially, to which his driver’s impassioned response was: “But people are not trusting you anymore […] I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.”

It was a downward spiral from there on out, with each of the men levying accusations about Uber’s changing prices. “We started with $20. How much is the mile now, $2.75?” asks an outraged Kamel. The short-tempered CEO responded heatedly, “You know what […] Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” Kamel duly awarded his passenger a one star rating.

It was a nasty display of disrespect from Kalanick, particularly in an industry that prides itself on providing its employees with a markedly high quality of life. But then again, Uber drivers aren’t technically employees, despite the service they provide being the $69 billion company’s raison d’être. To keep costs down, the drivers are deemed ‘independent contractors’. Forget slides and snack rooms, Uber drivers aren’t even entitled to basic health care.

Kalanick sent out a staff email on Tuesday, apologising for the unseemly spat: “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement,” he wrote. “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.”

Whatever “leadership help” might be, it seems Kalanick could do with some. Despite taking pains to improve his empathy skills, particularly after the company incurred allegations of systematic sexism, he’s got a reputation as a harsh taskmaster, with belligerence to boot. None of these, of course, hold a candle to the time he dubbed the company he leads ‘Boob-er’ in a cringeworthy allusion to his improved dating prospects. #DeleteUber? More like delete that squirm-inducing quip from your memory.

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