Uber

  • Uber chief operating officer Barney Harford says he is “embarrassed” by allegations he made insensitive comments about race to colleagues.
  • Some of those comments were seen as insensitive toward women and people of color, The New York Times reported on Friday night.
  • Harford apologized in a memo obtain by Business Insider and said he would stay with the company while working to confront his cultural “blind spots.”

Uber chief operating officer Barney Harford says he is “embarrassed” by allegations that he made insensitive comments about race and gender to his colleagues, The New York Times reported on Friday night.

Some of those comments were seen as insensitive toward women and people of color, according to The Times’ sources. Harford joined Uber last year, following the turbulent tenure of the ride-hailing company’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick.

The Times outlines several incidents involving Harford, in which he allegedly made comments about culturally sensitive issues that left some employees feeling uncomfortable, the newspaper reports. According to five people interviewed by The Times, Harford at one point made a critical assessment about an Uber ad that featured a mixed-race couple, five people familiar with the conference call said in a New York Times report Friday. 

During the call, Harford allegedly expressed doubt that Uber’s target audience would be able to relate to an interracial couple, The Times reported. 

Harford said he regretted the behavior in an emailed statement to Business Insider on Friday.

“In the course of conversations with some of you, I have been embarrassed to learn that at times I made comments that made people feel uncomfortable, isolated, or unwelcome,” Harford said in a statement obtained by Business Insider. “Certainly that was not my intent, but I make no excuses for my behavior. To those of you who I hurt with careless words, I’m sorry.”

Harford also indicated he would stay with the company while working to confront his cultural “blind spots.”

“I will seek out opportunities to build the best, highest performing, and most diverse business leadership team,” Harford said.

Although Harford reportedly told colleagues that he regretted his comments, people on the call noted it was a pattern of behavior when it came to talking about women or minorities.

Ever since the incident, other employees filed complaints to the human resources department. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was reportedly also notified of his remarks and directly spoke to Harford.

Read the full text of Harford’s email to staff here:

“Team —

“In a few minutes, the New York Times is going to publish a painful story to cap a painful week.

“In the course of conversations with some of you, I have been embarrassed to learn that at times I made comments that made people feel uncomfortable, isolated, or unwelcome. Certainly that was not my intent, but I make no excuses for my behavior. To those of you who I hurt with careless words, I’m sorry.

“While getting feedback like this is undoubtedly hard, it’s the only way to really understand how we are perceived and how our actions affect others. The truth is I think of myself as ethical and objective; a good decision-maker and leader. So while reflecting on your feedback, I was especially struck by a Harvard University study that said, in reality, most of us fall far short of our self-perception — including, it turns out, me.

“You have my commitment that I will do everything necessary to create a truly inclusive environment. I will be working directly with Dara, Bo, Pranesh and others to ensure that I have a plan that will enable me to become a better leader to all of our colleagues. I am committed to working with a coach who will challenge me to confront my blind spots. And, most importantly, I will seek out opportunities to build the best, highest performing, and most diverse business leadership team.”

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