Former Apple employee blasts ‘iCult,’ reveals ‘toxic culture’ at Cupertino headquarters

“Apple has been accused by a former employee of going against Steve Jobs’ core values through a ‘soul-limiting entrenched dogma’ that operates on a “toxic culture of manipulation, intimidation, threats and politics,” Anthony Cuthbertson reports for International Business Times.

“The criticism of the Cupertino company comes from ex-employee Ben Farrell in a blogpost detailing his experiences working as a customer service manager for the past two years,” Cuthbertson reports. “‘I am no longer part of the collective iCult machine whose dirty, worn-out, greasy and naive internal mechanisms of bullying, harassment and mind-games push out shiny and polished iPhones every year. It is ironic that one of the world’s largest companies and one that prides itself on innovation, creativity and ‘breaking the mould,’ operates on such soul-limiting entrenched dogma,’ Farrell wrote.”

“Farrell accused the company of manipulating and intimidating employees through a culture of passive aggression and sarcasm, lamenting that: ‘Sickness, family emergencies, and even weddings are given no respect at Apple,'” Cuthbertson reports. “Team spirit is described as non existent, while meetings at Apple are described as filled with ‘toxic agendas designed to deliberately trip people up, make fools of the less respected and call people out.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Now there’s a balanced report. Sheesh. How about hearing from some (or at least one) other Apple employees beyond one obviously disgruntled former worker?

35 Comments

    1. I’ve been this way. I still am. I give little credence to personal issues. I feel people should be 80% committed to the job and whatever is left should be committed to the job. If I’m expecting a project to come to fruition in 6 months, aspects of your your personal life won’t be on the Gantt chart. I use passive aggressive tactics to get what I want out of coworkers, and so on. I avoid working with “married with children types.” I don’t care to hear about sick kids, school meetings, etc. etc.

      The average person doesn’t like working under those conditions and I’ve been called on it more than once but it’s worked for me in the past and I will continue to do it if the need arises.

      Some people get it. They thrive in it. They understand working 7AM to 7PM and eating lunch at your desk. Like me, they relish the opportunity to concentrate on one thing for a while.

      Others are more your normal “I expect weekends off” types. I think it’s ok to come in at 9 on the weekends.

      I’m not building products to change the world either. It can be as simple as a database spread across multiple geographical locations, accessible via wifi to shop floor personnel on iPads and iPhones and maybe someday Apple Watches, but it’s “my iPhone.” You build the best damn system you can.

      Good projects are few and far between so relish the opportunity.

      Working for a company like Apple is a privilege. Getting paid for it makes it a treasure. So IMHO, STFU and get to work.

        1. “In the end, any job is a privilege, particularly in an individual capitalist society.”

          Baloney! Unless the people can afford the products and services that companies offer, every one of those companies will sink like a stone.

      1. Not every company agrees with this. Not all employees are paid salary, and employers aren’t always willing to pay overtime. Some companies prefer to abide by labor laws. Working through your lunch not only violates labor laws, but also puts you and your employer at risk of legal issues. You can get a lot more work done after a good night’s sleep than you can draining yourself at your desk all night.

  1. I read this last night. Man, what an idiot. Bashing your former employer in a public forum like this is not the way to get a better job. What would have looked like a good thing on his resume (a lengthy stint at Apple) will now look like a serious negative to anyone who googles his name. Who’s going to want to hire a guy who they fully expect will do something like this again?

    What he describes is a high-pressure high-expectation culture that Apple has been known for since the 1980s. (Remember Apple’s “70 Hours/Week and Loving It” t-shirts?)

    I’m sure it’s not for everyone, and NO WAY would I be able to handle working there, but for the kind of people who can survive and thrive in that type of environment, it seems to work out pretty well considering the quality of products they are able to turn out, and how big they have been able to grow their company.

    1. “Man, what an idiot. Bashing your former employer in a public forum like this is not the way to get a better job. ”

      Agree; the guy has proven his mental deficiency by the very fact of this post’s existence and undermined his credibility in terms of being able to understand how Apple works, let alone in terms of how truthful his account of what has happened in general.

  2. I’m willing to hear him out. But it’s clear that there is a personality clash going on here.

    What he’s describing within the Apple work culture is childish behavior born out of insecurity. I’ve witnessed Google pull the same nonsense.

    A work culture that is creative can make use of both collaboration (my personality) and competition (the more typical personalities). I very much believe in the ‘Angst Theory’ where stirring the pot generates higher creativity.

    But as soon as behavior drops into the abyss of expressing personal insecurities to the point of overcompensating by deliberately making other people MISERABLE, that is entirely dysfunctional and wrong. I’ve experienced this myself from both simple liars and outright psychopathic thinkers within Eastman Kodak during the decline era. It can be deadly.

    But let’s get some other perspectives on this situation before we get worried. One perspective, especially from a disgruntled former employee, does not a realistic representation or believable insight make. I know A LOT of people around here have perspectives on such situations.

      1. Yup. Or there could have been one single instigator among the people he worked with who played passive-aggressive games on Ben for gawd-knows-what reasons. Better people than I comprehend why people treat each other this way.

        1. Derek, you always make too much sense.

          I had a passive aggressive business partner for many years. It is hard to describe to others how life draining and stressful someone like that can be. Things generally looked smooth and my business partner seemed reasonable to others who didn’t have to work closely with him.

          After getting out of a situation like that people tend to emotionally pop as chronic stress is released. Who knows what situation this guy was in.

        2. Or, he was just not any good at his job… Reads more like his opinion of his competence was no where near the reality of his incompetence. He didn’t measure up and felt isolated and “pressured” to perform better; he just wasn’t able too… all I read in that blog translates to “Apple eats employees with more ego than ability”. Good.

  3. Two disclaimers: 1) When I worked “at” Apple (in Tier 1 tech support) was a bit over 16 years ago. 2) I didn’t work “for” Apple, but a temp agency onsite at said tech support for Apple. With that said, I worked for Apple for all intents and purposes.

    It was great working for Apple. We had weekly team building meetings, which pushed you to do your job, but so long as you actually did your job, it was good to get together and discuss what was going on and how you had performed for the week/month. (It was through this tracking of stats that they guy who would answer a phone call, put them on hold, and go to the restroom or out for a smoke break was fired, as he should have been.)

    Maybe Austin was just that much more laid back than Cupertino, but I doubt it. Our managers were full blown Apple managers, and they rocked!

  4. I worked for Apple in engineering management for more than five years, in different several product groups. I never experienced anything like this. I had my share of frustrations, mostly due to the infuriating culture of secrecy, but everybody was professional.

    But I never had to deal with anybody in Customer Service. I didn’t even know we had a Customer Service department. 🙂 I thought we farmed that out to independent people working around the world from their homes.

    That could just be part of the silo-style secrecy, but it could also be that this guy was just in a dysfunctional team. Or he might have been a jerk that nobody liked. From the way he bashes everybody, I’m leaning toward that.

    1. Apple has said that besides main campus for 2500 workers it rents/owns nearly 100 buildings in Cupertino — so depending in which building you have worked (if your job was in Cupertino at all), you might have never stumble upon Customer Service guys.

  5. I think Ben should be deleting “customer service” and “technology company” from his Monster.com searches.

    Want to talk about toxic? He just took a long, leisurely piss into his potential job pool.

  6. I have no doubt that his individual experience is true. I went back and read his full blog post, and I can relate to some of the pressures he felt, as I have worked at corporations in which individual departments have a strange culture that might not mesh with the rest of the corporation. In his case he was in the “customer service” department, which we all know is a challenging department in any corporation. In the comments section of his blog, an Apple engineer named “Alexa” says that she believes his post, but that in her own experience in the engineering department at Apple she has NOT had similar experiences . . . My takeaway is that Apple has many of the same issues that other large corporations have—there are people who have a great experience there, and there are others who do not. My hope for any individual in that situation is that they find the right company or freelance work that is right for them . . . I have no problem with what he said in his blog, but I don’t think that his individual experience represents the nature of all departments at Apple.

  7. 17 year Apple veteran, now retired and that is the complete antithesis of what I experienced. No Apple isnʻt for everyone, but I looked forward to going to work every day and counted my co-workers as friends.

    1. I have noticed a deterioration in customer service and support since Cook took over. And I’m not the only person complaining about soldered in RAM, lobotomized Mac minis and the lack of a single model with expansion slots. Both iOS and OS X have become uglier and buggier since Jony Ive got control over interface design.

      Things don’t “just work” the way they used to.

      1. Yes, but those are separate issues. Apple has been charging forward at a much faster rate (not individual product releases, but overall product line advances and growth of customer base), that sometimes things just don’t go as the rest of us hope. Did many of us hate Yosemite’s new look when it first came out? Yes. Are we now adapted to it and happily using our Macs? Yes. Is it significantly better than Mavericks, etc as Apple would want us to believe? No, just different. I use Apple’s feedback from extensively to let them know about problems that I encounter. I sure wish I would get responses to that, but every now and then I’ll be pleasantly surprised because the issues that I’ve reported are fixed. 10.10.3 fixed some Safari issues that have bugged me for months! So I’m a happy camper again. Give some, lose some… what matters is that the strive for a high quality experience is always there, and Apple still has that.

        1. I got used to the aesthetics of iOS and Yosemite but that doesn’t make them less ugly. I still swear when I use iTunes 12 and 6 months in and Mail still isn’t working properly, so I don’t see them striving for a high quality experience.

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