In less than eight years, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick transformed a small startup into a firm with a valuation just under $70bn that is disrupting the global taxi and limousine businesses. Now Kalanick is engaged in a dispute with some of his major investors about the future of the firm. This dispute has an important psychological dimension. To explain the psychology, we will first describe Uber’s recent dispute history and then place that history into a psychological context.

2017 has been an eventful year for Uber. At the beginning of September, Uber hired a new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who will be addressing how his new firm deals with disputes, both between Uber and other firms as well as within Uber itself.

Khosrowshahi replaced Kalanick as chief executive after a series of well-publicised disputes. One vivid dispute, which was posted as a Bloomberg video, shows Kalanick in a heated discussion with an Uber driver who complained to Kalanick about Uber’s history of reducing earnings for drivers. Kalanick did not handle the exchange with finesse and subsequently apologised for his behaviour, noting that he needed to make fundamental changes to his leadership style.

Oct-Dec 2017 Issue

Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University