Uber: The right kind of apology
As if Uber doesn’t have enough problems, TPG partner and Uber board member David Bonderman’s sexist jibe about over-active women talkers during an all-staff meeting to discuss law firm’s Covington & Burling’s report on harassment and discrimination could hardly have come at a worse time.
To reiterate: Bonderman responded to a comment by fellow Uber board member Ariana Huffington that one woman on a board tends to attract others, by saying ‘Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking’.
Cue a swarm of angry employees and a smoking gun in the form of a leaked audio file.
To which Bonderman responded publicly:
“Today at Uber’s all-hands meeting, I directed a comment to my colleague and friend Arianna Huffington that was careless, inappropriate, and inexcusable.
“The comment came across in a way that was the opposite of what I intended, but I understand the destructive effect it had, and I take full responsibility for that.
I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud. I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt. Therefore, I have decided to resign from Uber’s board of directors, effective tomorrow morning.”
He also apologised direct to Huffington and emailed Uber employees:
“I want to apologize to my fellow board member for a disrespectful comment that was directed at her during today’s discussion. It was inappropriate. I also want to apologize to all Uber employees who were offended by the remark. I deeply regret it.”
Recode’s Kara Swisher lambasted Bonderman’s apology and refused to ‘include it [in her coverage] because he does not deserve it in any way’.
I beg to disagree.
Too often, apologies fail to hit the mark as they are seen as naked attempts to dampen down criticism by blaming others’ interpretation of your actions or words, or some other well-trodden form of non-apology apology (of which there are several).
Bonderman deserved the opprobrium. At a minimum, his words were insensitive and showed poor judgement. Yet he saw the error of his ways, relinquished his position on Uber’s Board and apologised quickly, directly and sincerely.
It is a mea culpa that deserves to go a long way towards healing the wounds.