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Opinion Editorials

Web crucifies Uber CEO for harsh words to driver, but he wasn’t fully wrong

(EDITORIAL) Uber CEO Kalanick gives driver his two-cents after driver confronts him about fares and the world isn’t very happy with the response.

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Smile! You’re on camera

Dashcam video of Uber co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick arguing with an employee over fares went viral Tuesday drawing some pretty harsh criticism from the media.

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This comes amid all sorts of controversy including the recent Trump fiasco, which sparked a 200k user boycott of the app, and allegations of trade secret theft on behalf of competitor Waymo. All of this is leaving a fairly bad taste in the mouths of lots of people across several sectors. But come on, is it really for all that?

Rocky beginning

To be fair, the video gets off to a fairly bad start. Kalanick is seen sandwiched between two undulating young women in the back seat of an Uber driver’s car.

Not necessarily damning, but not a good look.

The women are dropped off and the driver, Fawzi Kamel, takes this opportunity to bring up the “$97,000” he lost due to Kalanick’s decision to lower fare rates.

Mind your manners, or nah

“I lost $97,000 because of you,” Kamel says to Kalanick. “I’m bankrupt because of you.” The conversation had been tense but polite up until this point, but here Kalanick, visibly distressed in the video, responds with a statement that could be perceived as less than cordial.

“You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own [problems],” responds Kalanick. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”

Beside manner not his strong suit

Now, I’m sure there are nicer ways to suggest someone take responsibility for their own circumstances, but what I found more pertinent than Kalanick’s response was the fact that he actually gave the driver an audience.

He could have easily referred Kamel to some internal department or obscure email to express his gripe, and that would have been the end of this story.

No quotes, no headline, the end. But Kalanick chose to engage the driver and give him a sincere and thoughtful answer. Commendable, I thought.

Kalanick’s shared sentiments

Also, there are a good number of successful businessmen and women who share the sentiment echoed in Kalanick’s brief and in my opinion, mild, rant.

If there is something in your life that you wish to change, change it.

Some people, not anyone in particular, have it in their heads that the entire world is their enemy and that it is usually someone else’s fault that they have not achieved their life goals. Whether this is true or not, and I believe in most cases it tends not to be, the outlook is not helpful. That little pearl of wisdom handed to the driver by one of the world’s foremost tech entrepreneurs from the backseat of that sedan, if taken to heart, could have been a turning point for Kamel.

A learning opportunity

I think in many cases we forget that employment in this country is always a voluntary exchange that is meant to be mutually beneficial.

If at any point it ceases to be beneficial to either party to the arrangement, it is incumbent upon that party to end the relationship or seek to change it.

Call me a bastard, but if change is what was sought by Kamel in bringing up his bankruptcy to the CEO, maybe this experience could be a lesson in chain of command and may encourage him to, in the future, seek change through other channels.

Another boycott?

Since Tuesday the video has been getting a lot of play around the web, which is par for the course in the world of tech business news. You will formulate your own conclusions, but I would like to leave you with some questions.

What have things come to when business leaders are forced to ask themselves in no joking terms “does this make me suck?” before showing a bit of candor?Click To Tweet

And, do we want to fulfill the nasty stereotype of the generation of free food and beanbags? I would sincerely hope not.

#UberIssues

Staff Writer, AJ Jimenez is a science fiction writer, first responder, entrepreneur, and home schooling dad living in the Monterey Bay area. He enjoys old timey artifacts, tide pools, and adventure travel.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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