I love me some Uber. With a push of a button on my smartphone, I can summon a car to my exact location. No need to stand on a corner trying to flag down a taxi, while competing against a dozen other busy executives trying to do the same. No need to worry about cash, because my credit card is already on file.
If it’s raining, I stay dry. If it’s snowing, I stay warm. If it’s hot, I’m guaranteed air conditioning—and all at the push of a button. But as much as I love Uber, I really hate some things about their business: their arrogant tone of voice, their attitude toward women, their inability not to be self-obsessed Silicon Valley jerks.
All this became amplified recently, when Uber senior executives joked at a party that they might take out a million-dollar bounty to quiet some of the journalists who had written about their “frat boy” culture and unsavory business tactics.
Let’s be candid: They might spend a million dollars on opposition research and dig up dirt on anyone who ever called them “ugly.” Frankly, I can see it from both sides. If you feel as if you’re being bullied, then you might go to extreme lengths to protect yourself.
My problem isn’t with their strategy. It’s with their apology—or lack thereof. One of the traits common among businesses that end up failing (and the leaders who bring them down) is an inability to apologize quickly. Winners understand that a candid, quick apology is the best remedy to quiet your critics and win over your enemies—an apology and prompt corrective action. Anytime you see a company refusing to make a direct apology, you know you’re witnessing the beginning of the end of that company.
Before this drama, Uber had fewer critics. Those of us who were critical of some of their strategies held our tongues, because we felt the positive aspects of the company outweighed the negative behaviors they were exhibiting.
But the longer you have to wait for an apology, the angrier you become and the less willing you are to forgive and forget. You’re going to start looking at everything else the company has said over the past few years that didn’t sit right with you. And that’s exactly what’s happened to Uber.
What’s the lesson? Losers apologize slowly. You practically have to pry it out of them. When it comes, it’s too late to be useful, believable or appropriate.
We all screw up. The best policy is a human policy. Humans apologize when they do something wrong. They master two simple words: “I’m sorry.” That’s all you have to say. It shows your character. And it shows you’re serious about improving.
Learn how to be human. Embrace your flaws.
And say “I’m sorry” when you need to.
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Dan Waldschmidt is an international business strategist, speaker and author. He is author of the soon-to-be-released Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success. For more information, go to danwaldschmidt.com.