Uber Narcissists at Work, Continued

Uber narcissists‘ (yes, double entendre, if you will) most unfortunate workplace adventures continue, as they are wont to do.

A female engineer employed by Tesla, run by a notorious narcissist Elon Musk, accused the company of:

(…) ignoring her complaints of “pervasive harassment”, paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns.

Again, this is typical for organizations run by character disordered — narcissistic and psychopathic — leaders. The workplace culture is shaped by the boss, and reflects his or her values and behavior.

Also this just happened:

(…) Bloomberg News published dashcam video of [Uber] CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with his own Uber driver over the company’s treatment of drivers, prompting a mea culpa from him on Tuesday night.

The video, reportedly taken 5 February, shows Kalanick riding in the back seat, wedged between two female friends, shimmying his shoulders to the strains of Maroon 5.

When the ride ended, driver Fawzi Kamel took the opportunity to share a common driver complaint: “You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices.”

The pair discussed the state of the ride-hail market for a few moments before Kamel drove his point home. “People are not trusting you any more,” he said. “I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you … You keep changing every day.”

Kalanick denied that the prices for Uber’s high-end service, Uber Black, have fallen that much, saying, “Bullshit.”

Then he got personal with Kamel.

“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit,” he said. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” Then he slammed the door.

After the video went public, Kalanick issued a note of not just an apology, but a profound apology — to his employees — saying that:

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.


The apology is instructive in the workings of narcissism, of course, as it takes place only after the narcissist’s offense has been made public. Without that video, we wouldn’t necessarily be the wiser about Travis’s interactions with other people — although it’s easy to guess — especially those underneath him on the social ladder, and those are the ones that matter most.

It is also notable for its over-the-top-ness* and drama, both narcissistic giveaways suggestive of disingenuousness.

Travis does not need “leadership” help, but humanness help, first and foremost, and it remains to be seen whether he will get it as he promises. Depending on the extent of his narcissism, such help — if he finds it** — may or may not be effective. Proof, as always, will be in the pudding, i.e., the man’s changed character as manifested in his daily interactions with others, especially the powerless ones, his subordinates and/or his critics.

Meanwhile, PBS Newshour had a segment about Kalanick’s recent woes, titled, Why Snapchat and Uber are under intense scrutiny over values, reminding everyone that in the American society values matter only if they can be monetized — i.e., to the extent they affect profits.

Part of the exchange with an invited expert went as follows:

HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is also a company that is not public yet, but when it goes, if it goes, the valuations are staggering — $70 billion is currently where it’s at.

Does this call into question perhaps the temperament of this individual and whether he is the right person to run such a big global company?

MIKE ISAAC: Yes, I think that’s right.

I suppose we will have to wait just a bit longer for the PBS Newshour pundits to ask this question about the person running the most powerful (so far) nation on Earth. But, as no immediate monetary losses for the ruling class are involved — on the contrary — there is no need to rush.

Though maybe we shouldn’t wait too long, because, as Kalanick so presciently warned us, with the kind of spot-on projection that narcissists excel in,

Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!

Yeah, we’re gonna need that.


*Anything in human interactions that falls in the over-the-top, bigger-than-life, too-good-to-be-true (duh) category is strongly suggestive of narcissism.

**It is likely he’ll seek “help” from other narcissistic business gurus and similar types, which will result in further entrenching his narcissism and just learning to manage his image better. This is what such “interventions” among the powerful narcissists amount to, ensuring that the systems they run remain essentially unchanged, save some cosmetic “improvements” on the margins. Image over substance is the motto of narcissists everywhere.



Uber Narcissists at Work

[image source]

Susan J. Fowler, a former Uber engineer, wrote a blog post that’s making a news splash for its description of sexual harassment she and other women were subjected to at the company — a problem that, in a classically abusive fashion, was repeatedly minimized, ignored, and eventually blamed on her.

Her story is notable not just (ha) for the sexual harassment she endured on the job, but also for a depiction of what is or should be already recognized as a toxic workplace culture that develops in any organizations — families, businesses, countries — run by character defective individuals: narcissists, psychopaths, and malignant narcissists (narcissistic psychopaths).

Here’s what Susan writes about working at Uber, aside from its coddling of sexual predators:

In the background, there was a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job. No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: they boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like. I remember countless meetings with my managers and skip-levels where I would sit there, not saying anything, and the manager would be boasting about finding favor with their skip-level and that I should expect them to have their manager’s job within a quarter or two. I also remember a very disturbing team meeting in which one of the directors boasted to our team that he had withheld business-critical information from one of the executives so that he could curry favor with one of the other executives (and, he told us with a smile on his face, it worked!).

The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right, OKRs were changed multiple times each quarter, nobody knew what our organizational priorities would be one day to the next, and very little ever got done. We all lived under fear that our teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on yet another new project with an impossible deadline. It was an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos. 

This is a spot-on description of what goes on in any human enterprise led by narcissists and psychopaths, and that includes our disorganized and inept White House — or as the King of Chaos puts it, “a fine-tuned machine.”

As we  know by now — and see proven daily on a national and international stage — narcissistic psychopaths are inherently destructive — they cannot help it as their character defect makes it impossible for them to recognize and create anything of value. Driven by compulsion to meet their own primitive goals — power, greed, sex, and adulation, in varying order of importance depending on circumstances — and unencumbered by empathy, guilt and shame that would give rise to inhibitions and scruples, they use other people as objects of their need- and wish-fulfillment.

Normal people cannot function within such organizations for long, and their attempts to fit in will lead to a host of negative mental and physical problems like poor job satisfaction, bad work behaviors, high levels of stress, demoralization, depression and even suicidality. Their attempts to address the organization’s toxic culture will be met with hostility and revenge, since hell has no fury like a narcissist scorned.

In a recently published study, Abigail Phillips and her colleagues from Alliance Manchester Business School, found out that

as the levels of psychopathy and narcissism increased among leaders, so too did the prevalence of workplace bullying, counterproductive work behaviour, job dissatisfaction, psychological distress and depression among subordinate employees.

Interestingly, they also discovered that the toxicity of the character defective bosses infected the whole workplace by normalizing bullying among employees. Compare this again with the effect that our Narcissistic Psychopath-in-Chief has not only on his staff but the entire country.

It goes without saying, of course, that any organizations run by narcissistic psychopaths and their ilk will be permeated with misogyny, which is a “natural” feature of this character defect. Sexual harassment is nearly guaranteed.

Ian Hughes of Disordered World has more on narcissistic bosses.