Mic just released an exposé on what’s happening behind-the-scenes at Apple. In “Apple employees say their mental health issues came from alleged hostile work environment,” reporter Melanie Ehrenkranz revealed that once mentally healthy employees found themselves contemplating and even attempting suicide due to the environment at Apple. “It feels like the Catholic church scandal,” one employee said.
The culture at Apple
What Ehrenkranz describes in her article is workplace bullying: “In each instance, the Apple employee raised these concerns to human resources or their manager. In each instance, their complaints were met with silence — or retaliation,” she explains. One employee even committed suicide right on the Apple campus.
Employees reported feeling brushed aside when they made complaints to HR. The complaints weren’t anonymous, leading to retaliation. There was also zero followup, so targets had no idea what was done, if anything, to resolve the issue. Due to promotions and demotions, ethical workers would feel as though their careers were compromised. In one situation, a male HR rep simply told a female employee about her male colleague giving her one-overs and making her uncomfortable “you just need to play the game or else maybe you do not belong here.”
One employee went so far as to leave Apple to become homeless to control the depression caused by the toxic work culture. He never felt depressed or suicidal prior to working at Apple. Another employee had to get on anxiety medication to cope with the work culture.
One employee told Mic there’s a running joke at Apple: Taiwanese Apple supplier Foxconn had “notoriously poor working conditions so severe that the company had to install suicide nets to catch workers attempting to jump to their death.” Some Apple employees would say that Foxconn “has nothing on Apple.” Said one employee “Apple tries very hard to hold an iron curtain around the news that happens on its campus because it does not look good for their image to let the public know about the suicides, suicide attempts, and mental breakdowns that occur on a daily basis.” Another added that he heard management joking that if an employee needs to leave for a mental health break, he’s not fit for the job and promotions. Turnover rates due to stress were the norm, he added.
In a manifesto left for many employees on his last day, one employee made these points:
- “Injustice in the workplace should be seen as a threat to unjust business practice and seen as a threat to a safe workplace.”
- “Should an employee need to change their seating arrangement due to personal conflicts, the employee moving should be given choices other than being swept under the rug.”
- “There should be no superior race, age, or gender in the workplace and thus statements made that may engender this feeling should be dealt with visibly.”
- “The culture in [this department] should be one of inclusion in which all individuals are valued.”
- “A person’s gender should not affect how they are spoken to in the workplace. No one should leave a business-related conversation and believe that the way they were spoken was directly related to [their] gender. Toleration of this behavior drags all of the [this department] down.”
- “Apple should not retaliate against any employee for filing a complaint or participating in the investigation of any such complaint and will not tolerate retaliation by management, employees or coworkers; Giving a job to an employee, letting the aftermath of certain jokes hit the fan and then taking that same job away sure felt like retaliation. This place needs to be cleaned up and I no longer want to be a part of it.”
Managers dismissed the document as simply the ramblings of a disgruntled employee. An Apple spokesperson even told Mic that “our culture brings out the best in people, and treating one another with dignity and respect is at the core…. This work environment and culture are among the reasons we have such low turnover.”
The common workplace misconception
“Though these problems aren’t endemic to Apple, a pattern of employees alleging discrimination and frustration suggests a work culture that both views mental health issues as a weakness and treats the reporting of the factors that contribute to the issues as a punishable offense. Instead of clear, decisive responses to these employees’ formal complaints, they allege Apple responded with retaliation or demotion. Whereas smaller Silicon Valley startups may excuse their dearth of mental health resources as the result of insufficient funds or other resources, Apple, which last quarter posted revenue of $42.4 billion, cannot use that excuse without raising more than a few eyebrows,” explained Ehrenkranz. “After the 2012 revelations of worker abuse at Foxconn, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded with some strong words about the Apple supplier. Cook said in an email to employees his company would not ‘stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word.’ A sentiment, arguably, that many Apple employees want to see applied to their own workplaces.”