Uber has had a rough couple months.
There was the first #DeleteUber backlash, Uber’s CEO resigning from President Trump’s Economic Council, the accusations of systemic sexual harassment within the company, the second wave of #DeleteUber, firing the Senior Vice President of Engineering for not disclosing his own sexual harassment charges at Google, and then the Waymo lawsuit that claims Uber stole a whole bunch of autonomous car technology.
And those are only the issues worthy enough to grab major headlines.
There was one more issue worthy of making headlines. Like a rotten cherry on top of a melted sundae, a driver released a video of his less-than-pleasant interaction with Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick.
The driver confronts Kalanick about Uber’s current rates.
Both the driver and Kalanick say silly things in the spat, which tends to happen in any heated conversation. At one point, the driver accuses the CEO of making him bankrupt. (He didn’t.) At another point, Kalanick said that the driver’s accusation of lowering fare rates was not true. (It’s true.)
But neither of those statements have drawn as much attention as the last thing that Kalanick says as he’s leaving the car.
You know what, some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.
The flack against Kalanick.
If you’re like me, then you don’t mind wasting time reading people’s comments. That’s where the real humans are!
Many of the comments under the video tend to be about that last statement Kalanick made as he exited the car. They see it as being arrogant, aggressive, and inconsiderate at best.
It’s not hard to listen to his terse comment and hear echoes of “be lucky that you have anything at all, peasant.”
I don’t disagree, especially within the context of that heated discussion. What he said probably didn’t represent what he meant, and what he meant was probably something much more scathing and mean.
That’s why he’s since come out and apologized, which was the right thing to do.
While Kalanick was definitely out of line, I don’t think he was wrong.
Kalanick is 100% correct, and he’s also a hypocrite.
The debate about what is owed to workers is as old as work itself. I’ll leave the debate about whether an Uber driver is a contractor or an employee up to the courts. Instead, let’s think together about entitlement and responsibilities.
One of the worst qualities is entitlement.
When we think we’re entitled to something, we start to lose our sense of responsibility. We abdicate responsibility, and we place it on others. When we place responsibilities on others, we lose control of our own situation. And when we lose control, placing blame on someone else for their misfortune becomes our first course of action.
In most cases, that’s the wrong reaction.
Entrepreneurs tend to share Kalanick’s view of responsibility. I know I do. We think of it as ownership. Admittedly, we’re biased and think we’re right. We tend to be headstrong folks, sometimes to the point of ignorance.
And that’s why Kalanick deserves every bit of flack that he’s getting for saying what he said.
By accusing the driver of not taking responsibility for his life Kalanick was also abdicating his responsibility to the driver. Sure, nobody’s holding the driver hostage and forcing him to drive for Uber. In theory, the driver has choices and he could choose not to drive for Uber. But context matters.
If Kalanick were to say the exact same thing to his fellow executives in a boardroom, then there’d be nothing more appropriate to say.
But Kalanick is the CEO, and the driver is not an executive.
If there’s one thing that Kalanick owes to his driver, it’s this: a massive amount of respect.
And that’s something he didn’t give.
Photo: Flickr/Ted Eytan