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Crisis Case Study: UBER and the importance of putting pride aside

By Michelle Wang and James Fitzpatrick


In September 2017, the UK Government stopped Uber’s license to operate in and around the London city area. Upon hearing the news, Uber’s newly appointed CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressed Uber employees.

Instead of taking the opportunity to scream that the situation was unjust, Dara chose to take a moment to discuss self-reflection. In excerpts of the email sent to employees, he details the potential cost of a bad reputation.

“Irrespective of whether we did everything we did that is being said about us in London today (and to be clear, I don’t think we did), it really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.” - originally published by inc.com on 23 September 2017

Khosrowshahi’s response is an important reminder that regardless of whether you think you’re in the right - what matters is what your stakeholders think.

So often we see company executives respond to public criticism by refusing to publicly apologise or admit any failure – adamant that they did nothing wrong. While they’re often technically or legally correct, if their stakeholders are clearly disgruntled, then somewhere along the line, they’ve failed.

Khosrowshahi was able to put his (and Uber’s) pride to one side and put himself in the stakeholder’s shoes. He tweeted an appeal to Londoners to “work with us” in solving the issue and wrote an open letter apologising for Uber’s missteps, acknowledging that the company needs to change. Khosrowshahi even flew to London to meet the city’s transport commissioner and apologise for past corporate behaviour.

His efforts in changing Uber’s corporate culture and cleaning up the company’s reputation were commended in the decision to grant Uber a 15-month licence in June 2018 – albeit with a list of conditions it will have to meet. The fact that Uber sought a new licence for 18 months (rather than the full five years it was expecting in September) shows that the company accepts that it is still on probation and has work to do to repair its reputation.

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