The last few weeks have been rough for Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick. He resigned from Donald Trump's economic advisory council after a trending Twitter hashtag, #DeleteUber, lead to over 200,000 people to delete the app from their phones. Kalanick then went on record saying his contribution was not intended to be an endorsement of President Trump's policies.
A couple weeks later, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, posted a blog which made allegations of widespread sexual harassment at Uber. The company subsequently promised a thorough investigation with Kalanick saying such practices were, "abhorrent & against everything we believe in."
The above video was published on 28 March 2017 (although allegedly occurring on Super Bowl Sunday). In it, Kalanick argues with one of his own drivers. At about 3:45, Kalanick fellow passengers exit the vehicle - then CEO begins speaking with his driver, Fawzi Kamel, which escalates into a heated exchange.
Mr. Kamel gave Kalanick a one-star rating - and later giving the dash-cam video Bloomberg.
Kalanick issued the following statement:
"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 term, "leadership help", is code for anger-management.
What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of the above video.
4:51 - Mr. Kamel gestures with loose, palm-up illustrator at the beginning of the conversation. Palm-up gestures are wise, for they engender listening, build rapport and are de-escalating.
5:10 - Travis Kalanick points in Mr. Kamel's direction, but not quite directly at his face/torso as Kalanick's voice begins to elevate in volume
5:17 - Mr. Kamel, points with index finger - but not at Mr. Kaanick
5:26 - Now Mr. Kamel points at Mr. Kalanick with his index finger as he tells his CEO, "I lost $97,000 because of you. I bankrupt because of you."
5:35 - At this statement, Kalanick is taken aback for a moment. His "Chin in Hand" configuration, is de-escalating, however it is very short-lived
5:37 - Mr. Kalanick, points with another finger-point-jabbing illustrator as he says, "Hold on a second. What have I changed about 'Black'?"
5:40 - This chin/neck rub, while contemplative and can be de-escalating (depending on the other nonverbal signs with which it is clustered), it's also indicative of heightening anxiety
5:45- another finger-point jab by Kalanick, as he says (his first), "Bullshit"
5:56 - Kalanick point-jabs again as he says, "They blame everything in their life on somebody else..."
5:59 - Kamel finger-points while Kalanick flicks the bottom of a chin as he shouts a sarcastic, "Good Luck!" The CEO's gesture is common in some parts of Europe and the Mediterranean region for "I couldn't care less", "I don't give a damn" and/or "Get Lost"
The simple act of using palm-up gestures rather than palm-down gestures is de-escalatory. Using palm-down illustrators - and particularly pointing - as well as the even more extreme pointing-jabbing or even fists gestures are considerably escalatory. Not only do these body language signals up-regulate or down-regulate the other person's emotional tone, but they just as importantly have the same effect on one's own emotions.
Self-awareness and self-regulation are essential to emotional intelligence. So, if you're Mr. Kalanick or possess a similar lack of impulse control, be aware of what your hands are doing. Relaxing your hands will relax your facial muscles - and in turn, dial-down your temper. Hand tension (palm-down gestures, pointing, pointing-jabbing, pointing-chopping, fist-clenching, etc.) will make your facial expressions angrier and your emotions more volatile.
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